A MUM who was conned into transferring £6,000 to an online lover through Match.com has shared her heartbreak after discovering their relationship was nothing more than a sick scam.
Maria Beckwith, 47, matched with ‘David Mills’ on the site in January, and quickly became attached through their romantic daily text and call exchanges.
But when her elusive sweetheart claimed that he had been involved in a work incident overseas getting him into legal trouble, she feared that they may never be able to meet in person.
Over the course of several weeks, the alleged Canadian citizen, who claimed he lived in London, suggested she take out loans, borrow from friends and transfer any money to help him so they could be together.
Vulnerable and desperate to meet him, Maria obliged, sending a total of £6,000 before she uncovered that she had been the victim of a romance scam, with the Canadian embassy confirming David was not even a real person.
Maria, from Leeds, said: “It started off well, he seemed really genuine but later on it became fishy when he was asking me for money.
“But I didn’t realise then that it was a scam because we had already built a rapport in the beginning.”
The couple would text every day, and could speak for hours when he video called each night before bed, Maria says.
He showed her pictures of him and his daughter and she showed him pictures with her children.
“What I know now is those photos were all fake, they were all photoshopped and he used special equipment to doctor someone else’s face onto his while we were on video calls,” Maria says.
“When I realised I had been scammed it was heartbreaking because I lost the money, I lost friends I borrowed money from and I lost the person I thought I was falling in love with.”
After matching on the site in January, Maria, a mature student studying English, and the scammer began speaking daily and exchanging photos via Skype and WhatsApp.
ALL A LIE
Posing as David, he told Maria he was a Canadian citizen living in London and working as a building contractor.
But Maria says their initial plans to meet in person were foiled when ‘David’ said he had to travel to South Africa for work.
The web of lies continued when he claimed there had been an incident at work which would be blamed on him and he was being kept in Welkom, South Africa, facing legal issues.
She said: “I took pity on him. I asked for his real name and date of birth because I thought the Canadian embassy could help him if he gave me his details, I could go to them on his behalf.”
But when I gave his details to the embassies in Canada or South Africa they told me there was nobody by that name.
“He showed me a pay check for $800,000 and told me that when he had finished this project we could achieve all of our dreams together,” Maria says.
I have lost so much and it has really knocked my confidence
“He told me he would buy us a house in the countryside and that we would pay back everything I had borrowed with interest.”
But the penny still didn’t drop when he told her he wasn’t coming home.
She says: “I called the Canadian embassy and they told me that I had been the victim of a romance scam, they told me that there was nobody with those details and that it was made up.”
Maria is unable to retrieve the money through her bank, as she transferred the funds willingly.
The police put the mum-of-three in touch with Action Fraud UK, an agency which supports victims of romance scams, but they have warned that it is extremely difficult to find the scammers – who use sophisticated technology to take advantage of their victims.
Maria said: “I have lost so much and it has really knocked my confidence and affected my ability to trust people.”
She says: “I just want to warn other women out there to be careful and never to trust someone until you really know them.”