Kent romance scam victim advocates for greater support | #datingscams | #lovescams

  • By Shola Lee & Chrissie Reidy
  • BBC News, Kent

Image caption,

Anna Rowe was sexually exploited by a man she met online

A woman has called for greater support for romance fraud victims after her own experience of being conned.

Anna Rowe, from Kent, who was sexually exploited by a man she met online, said romance scams were viewed as “boyfriend trouble” and our understanding needed to change.

She has now set up a support platform to help other victims.

She said: “There’s a lot of coercive control involved in those relationships.

“When you come out of any kind of relationship, it’s hard. But then when you realise the person you’ve been in love with didn’t even exist, it’s like a double trauma.”

Ms Rowe said her romance scam started online: “I met a guy on a dating site, we chatted for three months, and I now know that was the time I was groomed.”

They continued a relationship in person for six months, then moved things back online for five months.

Eventually, Ms Rowe learned that the man she had been with was married and that he was involved with five other women during the time that she was with him.

“He had created a complete fake identity online – full sets of social media, emails and an extra phone that he was using to lead that double life as well.”

Eradicating shame

Ms Rowe has since co-founded LoveSaid with Cecilie Fjellhøy, who featured in the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler.

On 22 November, the pair appeared before the Home Affairs Committee to share their experience and advocate for greater understanding of romance scams and support for victims.

Ms Fjellhøy, who lost £200,000 to her scammer, told the BBC: “A lot of times in our society we are not viewing it as a crime because you have been giving away your money at the point of the crime, you have been giving it willingly.”

“That’s where the shame comes from that’s what we want to eradicate,” she added.

There is no one law against catfishing but certain parts of romance scams are covered by fraud laws.

Ms Rowe added that our language around scams also needed to change: “We say that people fall for romance fraud and it puts the blame back on the victim, rather than on the criminals where it belongs”.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story you can visit BBC Action Line.

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