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Last year my partner of 15 years told me he had invested a significant amount of money in an internet investment company. He had made an initial investment of £75,000 four years previously and received annual statements showing his investment was doing well. Over the next three years he made more payments.
After four years he wanted to withdraw some money, and he was told a lawyer needed to become involved. He has now paid the investment firm, and the lawyer, a combined £500,000. Then the website disappeared.
Fearing this was a scam, I urged him to contact Action Fraud. He really wasn’t convinced, but ultimately he did make contact and was given a reference number. About three months ago he received a call from “Action Fraud”. He was asked to pay £900 and was told his case was not fraud.
I said all along he was being scammed, but he didn’t want to believe it. He is a very intelligent and proud man who, I think, feels extremely stupid and embarrassed. This situation, especially in recent months, has put a huge strain on our relationship.
My behaviour can be described as nagging, but this winds him up, and he just buries his head further into the sand. Can you offer any advice?
I suggested speaking to your partner on his own, as this might help him speak more freely, and you agreed. Your partner also agreed, and the next day we talked on the phone.
He warned me this was going to be one of the strangest conversations I’d ever had in my life, and he wasn’t far wrong. Straight up, he admitted the internet investment company was a big fat lie he’d invented to avoid telling you what he’d really done with the money.
The truth was that several years ago, after the two of you had an argument over a computer, he set up a Tinder account and went on a date with a much younger woman. He then went on to have a long-standing physical relationship with her.
Although apparently from a wealthy background, this woman was a troubled soul and had fallen by the wayside, eventually resorting to sex work.
The woman became involuntarily involved with a drugs gang, ending up on a witness protection programme, he said. She told him she was desperate to turn her life around and train as a paramedic.
She apparently never asked for any money, but your partner paid for her university course and helped fund her rent and living costs, explaining where some of his money went. There was also apparently an issue with a trust fund this woman was entitled to at age 30, and he also gave her money for legal fees to sort it out.
Then tragedy struck and the woman, who suffered from multiple health issues, died, he said. In the aftermath, her teenage daughter came out of the woodwork to wrap up her affairs.
The daughter’s representative told your partner he was a beneficiary of his dead girlfriend’s trust fund, which was apparently still being controlled by crooked lawyers.
He then became involved with various legal professionals who were apparently recovering the funds. Yet despite him having paid hundreds of thousands in fees, he never received a penny back.
I asked your partner whether he had ever met this woman’s daughter face-to-face, to which he replied he had not. And he did attend his girlfriend’s funeral, I asked? No, he said, he did not.
Alarm bells were ringing, so I asked him to send me all the paperwork he had relating to this woman, her death, and her estate.
First up for analysis was her death certificate. At first glance it looked legitimate, but on closer inspection a doctor’s note saying an autopsy had been performed caught my eye.
Not only would an autopsy be highly unusual for someone who died as a result of a chronic illness in hospital, which she apparently did, but then I compared it to her date of death in another section.
It said the autopsy had been performed a year before she died, which of course, would have been physically impossible.
Your partner wasn’t being honest with you about the true nature of this scam, but I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that he couldn’t see the wood for the trees either. He let out a painful gasp when I told him I was certain the death certificate was fake.
He thought this scam had started with the dodgy law firm, or possibly with his girlfriend’s daughter.
Although the police had warned him back in 2019 that this was all a scam, the fraudsters went to great lengths to convince him that his girlfriend was legitimate, forging her death certificate and various other documents to bring him back on board.
You were waiting for news, but I was in a difficult position. Although you were the one who wrote to me for help finding the truth, your partner had trusted me with deeply personal information, so I couldn’t betray his confidence.
However, while I was busy separating facts from fiction on his behalf, I encouraged him to come clean to you.
It didn’t take me long to confirm that all the letters from the various banks, including his own, Action Fraud and the solicitors were fake, which was enough to stop him handing over anymore “fees”.
He blocked the phone numbers the fictitious lawyers were using to call him on, hoping this would be the end of it.
But then something happened that left both our jaws on the floor: his girlfriend miraculously came back to life. In an email purporting to be from her, she failed to explain why she’d faked her death, but sent a photograph of herself in which she appeared to have aged dramatically.
I suspect the woman, or one of her accomplices, felt this was the only way to get him to engage again.
Several days later I tried to call your partner, but he said he was “in and out of meetings”. He later confessed, to my horror, that he had been on a train to an address the woman claimed to be living at.
He quite understandably wanted answers, but he never got them because she stood him up. I advised him never to make contact with her again and, to my knowledge, he has not.
Your partner waited until after your birthday and then came clean to you about everything.
Although you were deeply upset to learn of his betrayal, you say you’re glad you wrote to me as it has opened your eyes to the truth and made your partner face what he has done. You are no longer lovers, which he is devastated about, but he accepts this is down to his own stupidity.
Since my involvement your partner’s bank, Lloyds, has been investigating the fraud, which spanned over many years and involved a total of around 4000 payments totalling far more than the £500,000 he originally thought he’d lost.
As a result it has refunded £150,000. This is 50pc of the money your partner gave his girlfriend during the phase of the scam where she was still alive, but purporting to need money for the trust fund.
A Lloyds spokesman said: “We have also assessed that we could have done more to intervene during the earlier stages of the scam, given the unusual pattern of payments that had emerged. We have therefore provided a partial refund of those transactions, totalling around £150,000.”
The bank has said it will not refund your partner any money he lost after he was warned by the police in 2019, which I think is fair enough.
Like others reading this, you’ll likely be left wondering how on earth a supposedly intelligent man could have believed this fraudster and her far-fetched tales, even when the police warned they were all lies.
Although I don’t have all the answers, my observation is this: this woman and her accomplices found the perfect recipe for fraud by combining a frighteningly clever knack for inventing elaborate storylines with the age-old knowledge that some men can’t help but think with what’s inside their trousers.