LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – A woman who 10/11 NOW is calling Tammy, to protect her family’s identity, said in an interview she hasn’t slept soundly for months.
Instead, she worries about her mom, who lives in Nebraska.
“It’s just horrible,” Tammy said. “It’s heart breaking.”
Tammy believes her mom is the victim of a romance scam. She tells 10/11 her mom insists she’s in a relationship with retired four star general Michael X. Garrett. She said the relationship between the two sparked after Tammy’s dad died of COVID-19 after 45 years of marriage.
“She found this Michael guy,” she said. “He kept persisting. Said how much he loved her and couldn’t live without her, that he’s got a lot of money, he’s going to take her away and live by a beach somewhere.”
Tammy said her mom believes her relationship is real and she isn’t being scammed.
In our investigation, 10/11 found multiple red flags that the man isn’t who he says he is.
First, a reverse image search of a photo sent to Tammy by her mom leads to an official military Facebook page as well as a post showing photos of the actual Michael X Garrett, whose name and images are routinely used by scammers.
Second, Michael X Garrett’s official verified Facebook and Twitter pages also show frequent posts where he shows and talks about his wife, including a post from September, 2022.
Finally, an internet search of “Michael X Garrett scam” turns up multiple websites showing examples of Garrett’s names being used in a scam, with the U.S. Army Forces Command also replied in a tweet to someone else who said Garrett was chatting with them on messenger, telling them it’s scam.
Reporters reached out to Garrett and the U.S. Army Forces Command multiple times, but didn’t hear back.
Tammy’s mother also didn’t return requests for comment.
But Tammy said no matter what her mom is told, she doesn’t believe it’s a scam and her children believe the apparent scammer has convinced their mom to send them thousands of dollars.
“I’m thinking close to $80,000,” Tammy said. “That’s a lot of money and now she has her house on the market to be sold.”
Tammy said her mom also sold her rental property and they’ve found evidence they believe shows she’s sent of checks and gift cards to random addresses and names. They said she also received what bankers told them was a fake check for $1.5 million dollars written out to Garrett.
“When you tell her he isn’t real she yells at you and hangs up,” Tammy said.
10/11 NOW spoke to two of Tammy’s siblings who reported the same stories about this situation.
FBI Special Agent in Charge, Eugene Kowel, with the Omaha Field Office said unfortunately, romance scams are common.
“A perpetrator deceives a victim into believing they’re in a trusting, romantic, loving relationship,” Kowel said. “But really the entire time the perpetrator is doing this for some ulterior motive and usually it’s financial.”
The Federal Trade Commission said $1.3 billion dollars has been lost to romance scams since 2017, with the frequency of scams skyrocketing in the last year or so.
Kowel said investigators see a common pattern with these scams.
“It starts innocuously enough and progresses very quickly,” he said.
Kowel said it can happen to anybody at any age and there are red flags to watch out for.
‘Be very careful when the person tries to pull you away from your friends or family, when they make plans to visit you but there’s always some emergency reason they can’t meet,” Kowel said. “When there are requests for money that are usually urgent.”
He’d encourage anyone who is taken advantage of to report it to law enforcement as soon as possible.
“You’re not the only one,” Kowel said. “You most very likely did nothing wrong and you should not be embarrassed about it. The sooner you can report in to law enforcement, we can either help you move on, help hold the person who did this to you accountable and often, in some situations, can help you even retrieve some of the money which has been stolen from you.”
Tammy said they’ve tried to report her mom’s situation to law enforcement but no investigation can be done until the mom herself reports the apparent scam. But Tammy does have a message for others out there and her mom.
“I hope that this somehow helps other people who are lonely,” Tammy said. “It’s understandable she’s lonely. There’s no crime in wanting to be with somebody…we want her to have somebody. Somebody who is real.”
ROMANCE SCAM RESOURCES:
From the Military: https://www.cid.army.mil/romancescam.html
From the Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/17012-bbb-tip-romance-scams
From the FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/safety-resources/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/romance-scams
Report Fraud at the Nebraska Attorney General’s Consumer Protection website: https://protectthegoodlife.nebraska.gov/imposter-scams
To submit a consumer or scam story to 10/11, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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