For the widowed artist searching for her perfect match on a dating website, the handsome silver-haired man staring back at her seemed too good to be true.
He liked to share photos of himself and his dog on social media, and from his messages he seemed like a trustworthy person.
There was just one problem – ‘Martin’ was using photos of Steve Bustin, from Brighton, who just happens to be a happily married gay man.
Mr Bustin, 46, first discovered his photos were being stolen and used on dating websites such as EliteSingles back in July 2016 when a woman called Birgit Hebibi from Berlin contacted him.
A man using his photos and calling himself Sebastian had started talking to her on Facebook, claiming to be a Brit working in Thailand.
She only broke off contact with the charmer after he started asking her for money.
The same thing has happened to Mr Bustin again and again – a scammer uses his photos to woo a woman, she is oblivious to the deceit for a while, then suddenly realises he is a fake before messaging the real Steve.
Mr Bustin, a former BBC News producer who now works as a speaker, told The Sunday Times he was choosing to go public now to ‘devalue’ his photos and hopefully stop the scammer, or scammers, for good.
He said: ‘Someone has been harvesting images of me from all over the web.’
The most recent victim to come forward, a 60-year-old widow from the West Country who wishes to stay anonymous, began talking to ‘Martin’ on Zoosk dating at the end of January.
‘Martin’ had plenty of photos to share but she suspected something was up when he claimed to be beside the pool in Dubai, but his weight and hair colour changed in the photos he sent from his trip.
Mr Bustin has since increased his security settings on social media but as a public speaker his job involves posting regularly +10
Mr Bustin has since increased his security settings on social media but as a public speaker his job involves posting regularly
To keep up his trick he even used an old video of Bustin and superimposed his real voice on to it during a Skype call but she quickly caught on to the deception.
She told the Sunday Times this weekend that her son and niece had warned her to be careful around ‘Martin’ but she ignored their advice.
It was her first attempt at internet dating after her husband died three years ago, and she hoped she could find love again after two of her friends had already found it online.
She said: ‘I thought I’d found my Prince Charming. I was really taken in. He used to seem so kind. He’d send me music and say: “Do you like the song? Do you like dancing?” I feel like a total idiot.’
When one woman contacted EliteSingles to report a trickster using the name ‘Christian Hansen’ with Mr Bustin’s photos, they apologised to her and said: ‘It does appear that this individual was able to slip under the radar.’
Mr Bustin has since increased his security settings on social media but as a public speaker his job involves posting regularly.
EliteSingles and Sussex Police have been contacted for comment.
The earliest known victim contacted Mr Bustin in July 2016 but one woman was contacted by someone using his photos as recently as the end of January
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5459835/Scammers-used-gay-mans-photos-trick-women-dating-websites.html#ixzz58qu5jd4s
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