‘Evil monsters’ - How I fell victim to shameful £63k romance fraud on dating website
PUBLISHED: 11:01 09 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:14 09 October 2020
She thought she had met the love of her life on a dating website – only to discover he was an “evil” fraudster, taking advantage of her affection so he could swindle her out of £63,000. And now, this Suffolk woman is speaking out about how she became victim to a “manipulative” con – as Suffolk police revealed £907,800 had been lost in romance scams in the county during the past 13 months.
Lisa, who has asked us not to use her surname, said she felt “complete shame and huge embarrassment” at being tricked out of the vast sum of money bit by bit, as her supposed partner preyed on her vulnerability.
The 55-year-old had joined the prominent dating site, paying extra for its premium services, because she “wanted to have a relationship” after separating from her husband six months earlier.
She soon started messaging who she thought was a Royal Navy serviceman deployed to the Middle East, who claimed he had been widowed after his wife had died in a car crash.
After they agreed to continue their conversation over email – the man claimed not to be allowed a mobile phone while on duty – things soon escalated and the pair were in “constant communication”.
“He declared his love for me immediately,” said Lisa.
“He said he wanted to marry me.
“Things progressed very quickly – because he was supposedly in the Middle East, I would wake up to a poem he had written for me every morning.
“It was all part of him reeling me in. I was in a vulnerable position, and I completely and utterly fell for it.”
‘I was led to believe we had a future together’
The conman then started to ask for money, first asking Lisa to buy his daughter a present for her birthday before then claiming he needed £1,500 because his bank account had been frozen.
He then ramped it up further still, claiming his daughter was ill and needed vast sums for an operation to save her life.
Lisa went along with the requests for payment, even though it left her struggling to pay her own bills, because: “I was being led to believe that we were about to have a future together.
“We were even choosing crockery and furniture together.”
The man told Lisa “not to tell anyone” about the payments, with Lisa adding: “I didn’t want to tell anyone because I knew they wouldn’t understand or approve.”
Having paid out £63,000 and a promised inheritance from the man’s wife - which he said he would use to pay her back - never materialising, police eventually became involved.
However, Lisa said: “I still wanted to believe that this person was real.”
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The realisation that she had been duped only dawned on her when a detective from Suffolk police revealed that the fraudster had ripped off a genuine social media profile to create a plausible fake identity.
“I felt complete shame and huge embarrassment,” she said, adding that she asked herself: “How on earth could I have fallen for it?
“It scarred me and my trust levels.”
However, she believes the real person or people behind the façade tricked her with “emotional blackmail” - just as they did 79 others in Suffolk over the past 13 months.
She added: “They are just monsters. They are evil, manipulative monsters. They don’t give a toss about what they do to other people.”
‘Stop and think’
Temp Det Ch Insp Nicola Wallace, from Suffolk police, said romance fraud “exploits people both emotionally and financially to exploit and defraud them”.
Launching a week-long campaign to alert people to the dangers of the crime, she said: “While the majority of people you interact with are genuine, criminals can target any online platforms where there is a messaging function to strike up a conversation and build a friendship or romantic relationship with you.
“They will spend hours researching you for their scams, especially when committing romance fraud.
“Stop and think. It could protect you and your money.
“It’s important to be aware that not everyone is who they say they are. If in doubt, talk to someone you trust.”
Despite her scarring experience, Lisa said she has since had more positive relationships with people on online dating websites since the fraud, including with her current partner.
She urged people “not to part with any money under any circumstances” - and said: “One thing I’d say to everyone online dating is make sure you FaceTime them.
“That’s not necessarily going to tell you whether they’re a nice person, but at least you can see who you’re talking to.”
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore added: “So-called romance fraud is a particularly cruel crime, as victims are targeted both financially and emotionally. It affects people of all ages, in all walks of life.
“These heartless fraudsters prey on those looking for love and the victims are often exploited out of significant amounts of money, in some cases hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“It may not seem like a very romantic start to a relationship but it makes sense to follow the ‘Date Safe’ advice on the Action Fraud website before getting too involved and remember no one you meet online should ever ask you for money.”
Anyone who has been a victim of a scam should contact their bank and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online.
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