Romance fraud affects hundreds of people every year, resulting in the loss of large sums of money as well as having a huge emotional impact on its victims. Jane shares her personal experience:
Please note: names have been changed to protect the individuals involved.
I met my husband, James, at a jazz night in a local hotel over 55 years ago. I was dancing with someone else that I wasn’t particularly keen on and when I spotted James across the room I struck up a conversation as a clever way to get rid of my dancing partner!
We were married for 50 years until he suddenly became ill and passed away shortly after leaving me absolutely devastated. Eventually I made the decision to try and find someone new so I joined a dating agency. Not much to say about that, other than the ‘matches’ were far from ideal!
The experience had quite put me off until a few months later I decided to give online dating a try and signed up for a website, creating my profile and uploading some photos. I chatted to a few people but no one who particularly stood out to me until I received a message from Fred.
Fred was charming, charismatic and kind. His photos showed a man that I felt was exactly my type and he had a great personality to match. We had instant chemistry and soon began talking almost every single day.
We built a strong friendship and had a real connection that was unlike anything I’d experienced with anyone else I’d talked to online. He sent me beautiful bouquets of flowers and gifts, doing everything in his power to show me how much he cared.
He had to go to Abu Dhabi for work where he was trading in high-end products and whilst he was there he contacted me to say he’d spent too much money and now owed debts to a number of agents in the country. He assured me that if I could help him with the money then he would pay me back as soon as he could and to prove this he had his lawyers send me letters detailing how much he owed me with a promise the debt would be settled.
I was in my local bank one day making a payment to Fred and the bank staff alerted the police under the Banking Protocol because they suspected I might be being scammed. The police explained what they thought might be happening but I had no reason not to trust Fred and I couldn’t understand why he might be trying to take my money.
Fred needed more money to pay for various other items such as certificates of authenticity and packaging materials for the goods he was bringing back from Abu Dhabi, so I continued to help him on the assurance that the debt was all being recorded by his lawyers.
He eventually made it back home to the UK and his lovely house just outside London, though unfortunately his money troubles were not over and he needed funds to trade in bitcoin so that he could make back the debts that he owed me. I found out that he’d set up bitcoin trading accounts in my name and money was regularly being taken from account to add to this fund without my permission. Although I tried to ring the company and get it stopped, I could never get through to anyone.
Fred kept saying he was going to come and pick me up and we’d have a weekend away, I booked and paid for a holiday house but Fred was unable to make it. He told me one of many excuses he’d created as to why he couldn’t get there.
I am an intelligent woman, I’m not stupid and I’m not easily taken in as I’m sure many of you reading this will also be thinking about yourselves.
Unfortunately, when you meet someone and form a close relationship with them, you stop seeing the situation as an objective outsider. You are emotionally involved and by giving Fred money I was simply helping someone that I loved and trusted when they were in need.
Eventually and very painfully, I came to the realisation that he would never be coming to visit me and that it was very unlikely he was even called Fred. Our relationship had spanned more than two years and not for one minute did I suspect he might not be the man he said he was
By this point I had very little money left and from what I am told, I have little hope of ever getting it back.
I struggle not to feel ashamed and as if I’ve done something wrong by falling for a man who made me feel loved and special. It’s such a difficult thing to come to terms with and even more difficult to try and explain.
I am a private person and have rarely shared my story but I am doing so in the hope that it might help at least one other from ending up in this situation.
I don’t want to live life treating everyone I meet or speak to with great suspicion, although that would now be my advice. Don’t take anything or anyone at face value and if someone you have met online starts asking you for money it should raise serious alarm bells.
Posted on in Fraud, News stories
I only wish I had received that same advice all those years ago.