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Nottingham woman's warning after losing £8,500 in romance fraud scam

October 18, 2020
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A Nottinghamshire woman has spoken of her heartbreak after being conned out of £8,500 in a romance fraud.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has told her story to help warn others not to be put in the same position as part of the nationwide online dating scam awareness campaign Operation Tonic.

The 58-year-old had been on an online dating site and started talking to a 52-year-old man named Adam who posed as an Electrical Engineer from Keyworth, who was working in Africa.

They had been speaking for over a year, talking about family, nights out, trips away and their dream of jetting off on holiday to Venice together. She believed she was in a relationship with him and very much in love.

The pair messaged each other every day via the website Our Time and then the app Viber, sharing pictures, talking up dreams for the future and how they would meet for the first time at Christmas 2019.

She said: “I joined the dating website as I was lonely. I wanted friendship, companionship and the chance to feel loved.

“I had gone through a messy break-up with my husband after finding out he was sleeping with someone I worked with, so I was heartbroken, and I never really felt I would love again.

“A few years passed and then I finally plucked up enough courage to take the plunge and give online dating a go. I was lonely and like many people these days I thought I’d give it a go.

“I started to speak to Adam in 2019 after liking one of his pictures and reading through his profile. His messages he sent were so special. He made me feel amazing.

 “I’d already been through so much I genuinely thought this was my second chance of love. I truly believe he was my soul mate. I was so open to him, I spilled my heart out to him.

"He asked me to speak to him on a separate app and we exchanged messages and photos.

“His profile looked lovely. He’d also been married and I felt great for the first time in years.

“I felt like he was looking after me. He had an amazing backstory of his upbringing in Monaco and we got to know each other’s families, sharing stories and dreams.

“He said he was working in Africa, in a country called Benin and he would return at Christmas back to the East Midlands and we would meet.

“I knew everything about him, from his son’s life studying at the University in Monaco to all the pictures he sent of him. He looked great and he appeared to live in a modern studio home. A real dream scenario really. It was too good to be true and ultimately it was.

“Weeks passed and we were getting on great. For someone brought up in Monaco, he had great English, but he told me had family all over Europe.

“His backstory was so believable. There was no stone unturned. There was nothing that led me to believe it was false and we would spend the rest of our years together.

“I couldn’t wait for him to come home to Keyworth at Christmas. And that’s when sadly, now I look back today, it started to go wrong.”

The experienced Nottinghamshire psychologist was besotted with Adam and started to send money to him to try and get him home for the festive period.

Adam struggled to get booked on flights back to Nottinghamshire and it appeared the pair’s dream of meeting for Christmas wouldn’t come true.

But it was too late, at that stage of their relationship she had already sent thousands of pounds to Adam via bank transfers online.

The emotional fraud victim added: “I was so desperate to see him, but he kept using excuses and said he couldn’t get on any flights. I would send him money so he could book a ticket home.

“The requests then kept coming and my bank balance took a real hit.

“I setup a £2,000 overdraft with my bank to send to him. I also sent £2,200 in bitcoin and a separate £2,900 via a bank transfer.

“I then spent £500 on iTunes vouchers and sent a £1,250 MacBook to him that I purchased and sent to Africa, which cost a further £150 to ship.

“In total I spent more than £8,500 on him, on my dream, but ultimately he didn’t come home and we never met.”

The Nottinghamshire woman remembers when it all started to go downhill and how it made her feel. Thoughts crept into her mind that maybe this wasn’t going to be the fairy-tale ending to her life as she hoped.

One night she decided to confront him via another message.

She said: “It all came to a point around two months ago when I confronted him. All he kept replying with was ‘I’m desperate to see you’.

“Nothing really stacked up, why wasn’t he coming home and seeing me like we’d talked about for months.

“I eventually came to that conclusion on my own that this wasn't going to be a fairytale ending and I didn't want to be taken as a fool anymore.

“I was devastated when I came to realise that he wasn’t who he said he was. It was all a fantasy.

"I tried to find out who the man pictured was, who Adam really was, but no luck. I’ve spent time searching for the addresses he gave me, in Keyworth, Monaco, Africa – none of it all stacked up.

“I now realise these images weren't him and were probably just taken off the internet or something.

"It's all left me in a real difficult position financially and I'm now struggling to pay back the interest on the overdraft.

"I'm now in conversation with my bank having explained my predicament. I've now deleted and blocked the apps I was using.”

The woman urged people to be vigilant and advised people to seek support if they find themselves in the same situation.

She added: "Thankfully I have a really strong support network. My friends and family who I have told have been supporting me so much. I’m lucky to be loved and cared for so much.

“I’m not stupid. I’ve had a very successful career, helping people as a psychologist for years, but I was so naïve. I’ve got qualities like we all have, but technology isn’t my strong points. I have no idea if the videos and pictures I saw were heavily edited or what.

“I just kept giving him more chances to take advantage of me. I only gave up hope of not seeing him two months ago.

“I felt that I left myself down. I've helped so many people down the years, but I never thought I would be fooled like this. The whole incident makes me feel so disappointed.

"Thankfully the police have been brilliant supporting me. I've been honest and upfront about what happened to me and they've given some great advice about how I can protect myself in the future against fraud and cyber crime.

“I didn’t want to live this life anymore. I spoke to officers and they’ve been superb. They helped me gather all the transaction details and I’m trying my best to get money back.

“I've now accepted that I'm not going to meet him. I've accepted that. That was a hard thing to do. This was only second time in my life I was in love.

“What I really want to pursue is to get my money back. I'm speaking to my bank and it's a working progress. I'm trying to remain optimistic, but the reality is that these people are clever. They are manipulative and sneaky.

“I won’t be trying online dating again. I’ve decided I’m happy to be single and I don’t want to put myself through this again. Ultimately, I don’t think I will ever trust a man ever again. I often ask myself why did I do it?

“I feel embarrassed and ashamed and how I even got myself into this amount of trouble. It’s ruined my life. Every night I lose sleep thinking about it all.

“I do hope that now I’ve spoken out about my ordeal that it can help even one person, then it was worth sharing. I hope no one loses thousands of pounds and has their heart broken like me.”

 Operation Tonic

Nottinghamshire Police is backing Operation Tonic, a nationwide campaign that raises awareness of online dating scams.

Detective Inspector Ed Cook said: "Romance fraud is a devastating crime that targets the most vulnerable in society.

"Victims will be targeted by fraudsters online via social media, online games and dating sites.

"Romance fraud is predominantly an online fraud that seeks to fraudulently obtain money from victims, through the impersonation of another person and the presence of a personal relationship.

"Many victims feel embarrassed and fear judgement from friends and family, so often isolate themselves from those they are closest to.

"This particular case was really sad. The victim was looking for love and companionship during a very difficult year for us all. Sadly her decisions meant she lost out on a lot of money.

"We would urge anyone going through a similar scenario to contact the police. Don't be embarrassed to tell us what you are going through. We can help and support you if you are going through a rough time.

"Please do take time to read how you can protect yourself online through our website."

It can be embarrassing to feel tricked into thinking you’ve formed a relationship online, but if you tell the police, we can take a report in confidence.

Call 0300 123 2040 or visit the Action Fraud website: www.actionfraud.police.uk/

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