A mother and daughter have been accused of scamming over $1 million from unsuspecting online daters, Colorado's attorney general announced Tuesday.
Tracy Vasseur, 41, and her mother Karen, 73, of Brighton, Colo., allegedly posed as U.S. military members fighting in Afghanistan who claimed they needed money to cover travel expenses. Investigators believe the pair scammed 374 people in the U.S. and 40 other countries and are charging them on 20 counts, including money laundering and theft, according to the attorney general's statement.
If found guilty on all counts, Tracy could face up to 205 years in prison and Karen could face 172 years, CBS Denver reports.
The scam is being identified as a "Nigerian internet romance scam." The two women allegedly took a "percentage of the stolen money and then wired the remaining money to associates in Nigeria," according to the attorney general's release.
"Nigerian letter" or "419" scams often involve impersonation fraud and advanced fee schemes that solicit victims to send large sums of money overseas, according to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Over $485 million was lost to internet scams in 2011, according to a report by the National White Collar Crime Center. The sum includes losses from online dating scams.
OnGuard Online, a government site dedicated to online dating scams, warns to take precautions against a person that "wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM, claims love in a heartbeat, claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas or plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour."
Wiring money to someone you don't know is also never a good idea.