On August 6, 2019, the FBI issued a warning on the growing sophistication of online criminals who create fake personas to commit romance fraud. This warning was in conjunction with the release of its annual cybercrime report, which found that, between 2017 and 2018, complaints of confidence/romance fraud grew from 15,000 to 18,000. Even more alarmingly, the amount of lost money increased by 70 percent. Criminals are getting increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to commit fraud and recruit money mules, according to the FBI. Nearly $650 million was stolen from people age 60 and over, the report showed this age group to be particularly vulnerable. As a result, the elderly are the preferred prey for scammers.
Loneliness, though, doesn’t just make us vulnerable to high-tech hustlers, especially when faith is involved. On August 14, deputy churchwarden and parish council secretary Ben Field was convicted of murdering 69-year-old Peter Farquhar for his money. Mr. Farquhar was a successful academic and author but had struggled for years to reconcile the inner conflict he experienced between his gay sexual orientation and his Anglican faith. Psychopath and religious conman Ben Field saw someone ripe for exploitation.
While financial gain was his main motive, it appears that the 28-year-old psychopath also got pleasure pretending to love his “fiancé’” while secretly lacing his food and drink with hallucinogenic drugs and sedatives and trying to convince him that he was “going crazy” by moving objects around in the house, erasing Mr. Farquhar’s phone contacts and then denying it, and engaging in other forms of gaslighting. Before he died, Mr. Farquhar told friends he was afraid he was losing his mind.
At the same time that he was declaring his devotion to Mr. Farquhar, Mr. Field was working hard behind his back to convince their mutual acquaintances that his beloved was an alcoholic suffering from dementia. He also relished the role of self-sacrificing caretaker that his deviousness earned him, referring to his lies and deception as a “ruse cruise;” his acting was so good that Mr. Farquhar’s family at first refused to believe that Mr. Field had anything to do with their loved one’s death. In October 2015, Mr. Farquhar was found dead in his living room with a bottle half-full of whiskey beside him. His death was ruled…