Broward resident Susan Rizzo is heartbroken but is seeking her money back after she was scammed by a phony military officer. She is also looking to prevent other women from experiencing the pain she’s going through.
“However, for somebody else to get taken like this emotionally and financially—it’s embarrassing. It’s hurtful,” Rizzo exclusively told NBC 6.
Normally, there’s not much to go on when these kinds of scams happen, but this time, Rizzo has lots of information, and where that information took NBC 6 wasn’t to Afghanistan, or the Middle East — but to Atlanta, Georgia.
Rizzo said she sent $25,000 to who she thought was a handsome man who had posted his picture online. NBC 6 can’t determine the authenticity of the photo or the classy name he used: Nicholas Shawn Wells Edwards.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
“I sent the first amount of money feeling it was right based on where we were at,” Rizzo said.
The $25,000 was for his trip back to South Florida. He had claimed he was with the Army in Afghanistan.
“He had gone to Falluja, Mosul, and was going to end up in Khandahar,” Rizzo said. “Yes — and he told me on different missions he had lost men from his group and he was considered the military anthropologist so he was in a relatively safe position.”
The man said he had spent all his money getting from Afghanistan to Israel, and that's where she thought he was when she deposited the money to him.
NBC 6 took a close look at the instructions the so-called Mr. Edwards sent Rizzo. The address on the instructions is for a townhouse in Atlanta. Georgia records show the name for the company on the instructions comes back to the same residence. The bank is just about ten minutes from the townhouse.
Also in the instructions, they used "beneficial" not "beneficiary" for the recipient, and "routine number" not "routing number" for the bank details.
“Unfortunately, conditions in the world right now are prime for these types of scams," said Michael D'Angelo, who runs Secure Direction Consulting. "With the whole pandemic, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, it's just perfect time to appeal to people’s empathy so we are seeing a lot of these online scams popping up all over the place."
On Facebook, NBC 6 found the person listed as the registered agent for the company on the instructions and sent them a message, but we haven’t heard back from them.
When did Susan decide it wasn’t real?
“What he asked for even more, an additional $300,000,” she said. Fortunately, she thought the better of it and didn’t send the package.
Susan has been in touch with the FBI and she was looking to speak with Fort Lauderdale Police. D’Angelo said that once the ball starts rolling in this investigation, police should certainly send a detective to that home in Atlanta.