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Scammer impersonates bluegrass artist, steals hundreds of thousands of dollars

Posted at 9:25 AM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 11:25:11-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Scammers are targeting the fans of country music artists in Nashville, persuading a man to give up hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Award-winning bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent says she first learned about someone targeting her fans when the FBI called her husband, who's also her manager.

The FBI special agent asked Vincent if she knew the victim in the case. Though she had met the fan before, she had no idea he was under the impression the two were in a relationship.

"My only thing with that is, if we were having a relationship, wouldn't we at least have dinner," said Vincent.

According to Vincent, the victim even left his wife and came to one of her concerts saying he was there to start a new life with her.

Officials say the scammer had not only convinced the fan of the pair's secret love, but also got him to send thousands of dollars in gift cards and cell phones to an unknown location. They convinced the victim to continue sending money, but would always give an excuse why the pair couldn't meet in person.

"They have pictures of boxes and boxes of gift cards that were sent. If someone is asking you for something like that, just don't believe it," said Vincent.

FBI Special Agent Richard Baer specializes in white collar crime like this. He said scammers have become skilled in creating convincing stories.

"They sit full-time in a lot of different places around the world with information and the interconnection that we all have with social media and the internet. They're targeting people," said Baer.

Baer said gift card transactions or someone asking for money very urgently are all signs that the person on the other end may not be who they say they are. Also, they tend to play on fans or people who seem like they're lonely.

"It can have real negative implications. It might cause strains in personal relationships," he said.

It caused stress for Vincent, who said the victim's ex-wife has contacted her husband repeatedly, asking and accusing Vincent of sending her ex-husband naked photos. She wasn't.

"I am concerned that a wife, a jealous wife that thinks her husband is getting naked photos from me or is leaving her. That concerns me. I think it's getting into a dangerous situation," said Vincent.

Even though Vincent, her husband and the FBI have all told the fan that he had been scammed, he's continuing to talk with the scammer.

She said other fans have also been targeted, a police officer was contacted in a similar manner. A scammer was trying to get the officer's personal information.

"[They] said 'prove what a super fan that you are. We want you to prove it. Send us a check and we'll send you some merchandise. You sell the merchandise and prove to us what a super fan that you are.' He toyed with them for a while and then they kept pushing him for an address, pushing him for an address, and he gave them the address to the police station and they gave up on him after that," she said.

This story was originally published by Kyle Horan at WTVF.