A BUSINESSWOMAN has told how she was “conditioned” into handing over more than £300,000 after dabbling in internet dating for the first time.
The North Yorkshire mother, who wants to remain anonymous, said she had decided to reveal how she lost all everything she owned since being contacted by a man in July last year to raise awareness of such scams and abusive online relationships.
The woman said she received the first request for money six weeks after being swept off her feet on match.com by a “very attractive-looking” man, who went by the name Marcello. The man claimed his son needed 3,750 euros for urgent medical treatment.
She said: “I was really uncomfortable about a request for money… I sent the money because I couldn’t think of a child in distress and we seemed to be getting on really well.
“Really quickly there was another request for money. I was being bombarded by this person from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep.
“The pressure was horrendous and it got to the point where all the money had gone, all the profit from my house has gone, I have taken out loans, I have lost my business, just anything I had has gone and more than. I have got no house and huge debts.”
The woman, who has relaunched her business, said she got into a situation where she didn’t have time to consider what was happening and was told not to mention the lending to anyone as “nobody would understand”.
“For a long time I felt really stupid. I was in the situation for 14 months and I didn’t tell a sole. I found it really difficult to walk away”, she said. “For me it is important for people to understand that this is abuse. I was conditioned to it.”
North Yorkshire Police Detective Inspector Jonathan Hodgeon said an initial probe had revealed the money had gone to Turkey, but with no links to counterparts in Turkey recovering the money would be difficult.
He said the force was continuing to support the fraud victim, who he described as “incredibly strong”, with a range of services.
Det Insp Hodgeon added such scams were increasingly common and there were often warning signs before requests for money, such as limited photos on a website profile.
He said: “We will do everything we can to investigate these scams, but sometimes it is beyond our powers.”