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An elderly Delaware couple have told the agonizing story of how they lost $1.4 million to an elaborate six-month con.

Lana Browne, 82, and her husband Ed were coerced by scammers posing as Homeland Security who claimed to be tracking their movements and forbade them from speaking to family.

The couple were under the illusion their bank accounts were being targeted by international cyber criminals in China, Russia and Bolivia. 

They were convinced to drain their lifesavings and investments which were earmarked to fund possible future hospice care for Ed, 91, who is suffering from tongue cancer. Now they are relying on Social Security payments and a small pension belonging to Ed, a former IT worker, to live.

The astonishing story lays bare the devastating losses incurred by elderly victims to fraud. The FBI estimates senior citizens lose $3 billion to financial scams annually – though the figures can be hard to pin down as many are too embarrassed to admit they have been conned.

Lana and Ed Browne (pictured together) lost $1.4 million to an elaborate six-month con where fraudsters impersonated Homeland Security, claimed to be tracking their movements and forbade them from speaking to family

Lana and Ed Browne (pictured together) lost $1.4 million to an elaborate six-month con where fraudsters impersonated Homeland Security, claimed to be tracking their movements and forbade them from speaking to family

And it comes after three victims came forward to say they have lost life-changing amounts of money to criminals claiming to be from Wells Fargo’s fraud department.

Lana and Ed’s case began in the same way. In May last year, the grandmother was called by criminals purporting to be investigators for Wells Fargo, with whom she had banked since 2005. 

She was informed their account had been attacked and the case involved money laundering, pornography and illegal and disputed transactions. 

The Federal Trade Commission was investigating, Lana was told, and she was transferred to a man who claimed to be a US Marshal.

Lana was given an official-looking ID belonging to the supposed Marshal and seen by this publication. 

One Google of the name brings up a LinkedIn account belonging to a real US Marshal along with a book on Amazon apparently written by him.

However, DailyMail.com understands nobody with that name has worked for the Marshal service in more than ten years. 

Lana, having done her research online, was convinced he was a genuine Marshal. She dutifully followed his instructions. 

The couple were told they were being put in a witness protection program which would keep their money safe and protect them. 

Victim Alice Fries, 59, was contacted by criminals posing as the bank's fraud department who tricked her into handing over her personal information that they then used to gain access to her account

Victim Alice Fries, 59, was contacted by criminals posing as the bank’s fraud department who tricked her into handing over her personal information that they then used to gain access to her account

Judith, pictured, and her family are spreading awareness of her story on social media

Judith, pictured, and her family are spreading awareness of her story on social media 

The fraudsters said they would be imprisoned if they chose to speak to anybody about their ordeal. The couple – who were both been married once before meeting each other – have six children and 14 grandchildren between them.

At the end of May, the ‘Marshal’ had Lana withdraw the majority of her cash savings from her Wells Fargo bank account. She was then instructed to transfer this into Bitcoin.

He then encouraged Lana to drain all of her investment accounts and have the money exchanged into gold to be stored in a vault guarded by the Federal Reserve. She sent the cash via wire transfer to somebody who promised to secure the gold and sent bogus receipts.

Every time she left the house, Lana was told to keep in touch with the ‘Marshal’ at all times. He even appeared to be tracking her movements telling her things like ‘You aren’t home yet’ when she was in the car.

The transactions raised alarm from Wells Fargo who repeatedly contacted Lana to make sure she wasn’t being scammed. However, Lana believes the criminals were listening in to her conversations with the bank.

She was also so deeply under their spell that she was too scared to tell the truth, instead feeding the bank employees lies she had been told by the scammers. 

DailyMail.com has seen multiple wire transfer receipts showing that the Brownes lost $1,466,422. 

‘I had to lie to everybody, including the bank and my family,’ Lana told DailyMail.com.

‘My daughter was so concerned. She rang my best friend to find out what was going on but of course I couldn’t say anything. I apologized for lying afterwards. I was so ashamed.’

It was not until one night in October that Lana woke up with a start as she realized with absolute clarity she had been scammed. 

Communication with the ‘Marshal’ had all but dried up, after she was told he had been hospitalized following his involvement in a shoot-out. 

She and Ed contacted the National Elder Fraud Hotline and now they are working with the real Homeland Security who have made one arrest in connection to the Brownes’ losses. The Department refused to answer multiple queries from DailyMail.com about the case.

Lana said: ‘Our main concern is because of our age. If something happens and I can’t take care of Ed anymore, I needed the money to towards his assistance or whatever needs he would have.’

A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission estimates that Americans lost $10 billion to fraudsters in 2023. It marked a $1 billion increase on the year prior.

Some 22 percent of fraud cases filed were by victims over the age of 80 while 25 percent were aged 70-79. 

In recent months, several cases have come to light whereby Wells Fargo customers were targeted by scammers pretending to be from the bank.

Last week, Alice Fries told DailyMail.com she lost $100,000 to the rouse. Similarly victim Thomas Murrer had his savings drained and credit cards maxed out – to the tune of $30,000. 

California grandmother Judith Anderson went viral on TikTok after sharing her story of losing $150,000 to scammers just a few days before Christmas. She has since received a reimbursement from the bank.

The Brownes have not directly complained to Wells Fargo or asked for a refund. Lana acknowledges that bank employees tried hard to stop her making the transactions – but she insisted, believing she was protecting her safety. 

Wells Fargo declined to comment on the Brownes’ case. 

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This post first appeared on Daily mail

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