A single mother was scammed out of £5,000 by a fraudster posing as a hunky American soldier, who she had spent a year chatting to online.
Julie Price, from Portsmouth, was tricked into sending iTunes and Amazon gift cards to the man, who claimed he needed them to access to internet and talk to her from his base in Afghanistan.
Julie, 35, explained she was ‘vulnerable’ because she was grieving the death of her father and had just come out of a long term relationship when the fraudster targeted her.
The unknown fraudster had been using US soldier Jonathan Ramos’ Instagram pictures, and even used the soldier’s first name to target Julie over WhatsApp.
Single mother Julie Price, 35, from Portsmouth, (above) was scammed out of £5,000 by a fraudster posing as a hunky American soldier, who she had spent a year chatting to online
The unknown fraudster had been using US soldier Jonathan Ramos’ Instagram pictures (above) and even used the soldier’s first name to target Julie over WhatsApp
The mother-of-two spoke to ‘Jonathan’ for a year and sold her car, her TV and her nan’s engagement ring to pay for her lover’s flights, before learning that the man of her dreams wasn’t real.
Julie explained: ‘I’m ashamed of it now but I was completely in love with a stranger.
‘I thought he was the person in the photos who was a soldier and was fighting for his country.
‘Looking back on it I feel stupid. But I had just come out of a long term relationship and my dad had died just five months before he first messaged me.
‘He knew I was vulnerable and that’s how he got me.’
Julie, who is a full-time single mum to her children, aged 11 and four, said she was first introduced to the fraudster online on New Year’s Eve 2018.
She quickly opened up to him about the impact her father’s recent death had on her, which led to her previous relationship crumbling.
Julie explained that he told her that he ‘loved’ her and she was ‘so desperate’ to keep in touch with him that she ‘sent the money without thinking’.
Julie Price, from Portsmouth, was tricked into sending iTunes and Amazon gift cards to the man, who said he needed them to access to internet from his base in Afghanistan
She continued: ‘He eventually started telling me he loved me.
‘I began to feel the same and soon he was asking for £50 gift cards so he could access the internet and keep talking to me.
‘I was so desperate to keep in contact so I sent the money without thinking. It became out of control before I even knew it.
‘He began promising me the world and even said he would buy my family a home and he’d treat my little girl like a princess.’
Julie pleaded with her new boyfriend to speak to her over the phone or on a video call, but he refused and claimed his commander would punish him if he was caught.
Blinded by love, Julie accepted the excuse and later agreed to send him £1,000 for his flights to finally meet her in the UK.
She got the money by selling her jewellery, including her nan’s engagement ring for £350, and her 2008 Ford Focus for £400.
The scammer promised he would buy her a new car when he was in the UK, but in June 2019, he left her waiting at the airport for four hours before she went home in tears.
Julie said: ‘He didn’t text until the next day claiming his commander stopped him going at the last minute and he said how sorry he was.
Julie agreed to send the man £1,000, which she got from selling her jewellery and her car, for his flights to finally meet her in the UK – but he instead left her waiting alone at the airport
‘He then said he would need more money to come over and I fell for it.
‘Over the next few months I sent him more money which added up to over £5,000. I really wanted it to be real.’
But Julie finally confided in her mother Mary, 58, back in October 2019, saying she was ‘so scared’ to finally admit what had happened.
Her mother told her immediately that she had been scammed and urged her to change her bank details and block the fraudster.
Julie explained: ‘I was so scared to tell her what had happened. It took me two hours to explain and by the end of it we were both crying.
‘She told me straight away I had been scammed. I was just crying my eyes out and mum told me to change my bank details and to block him.’
Julie was directed to an anti-scam Facebook group and was stunned when a video of the real Jonathan Ramos appeared, who explained that other people had stolen his pictures from his Instagram page, which boasts more than 92,000 followers.
The mother said she was left ‘devastated’ and demanded the fraudster called her, when she realised that he was ‘putting on an American accent’ and he wasn’t who she thought.
She said: ‘I was utterly devastated, I demanded he voice call me so I could see his face and it was pitch black and he had a flashlight on. I could tell he was putting on an American accent and he was African.
‘At one point the flashlight switched to his hands and I noticed he wasn’t white. He kept telling me he was the man in the photos but then I saw his face and it obviously wasn’t him.
‘He just hung up and I never spoke to him again. I never had the chance to get my money back and I went to the police who couldn’t help.’
Julie is now trying to warn other women about the dangers of online romance frauds and hopes to prevent others from going through what she experienced.
She explained that she had spoken to the police about her experience, but that there was nothing they could do to ‘stop these people’.
Julie finally told her mother Mary, 58, what happened in October 2019, with her mother telling her she had been scammed and told Julie to block the man and change her bank details
She said: ‘I want to help women avoid going through what I’ve experienced. People often think it’s just older women who fall for these traps but I’m 35 and I walked straight into it.
‘He made me feel loved and wanted and I was convinced we had something special. I feel like I was used and abused and I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety since.
‘Nobody else should have to feel that way. I am doing OK now but I will never be totally over what happened to me.
‘I will never get that money or time back but if I can stop one woman falling for a romance trap then it will be worth the shame of me speaking out.’
Ruth Grover, of ScamHaters United, said: ‘Julie is a good example of what nobody sees as a victim. She is a young mum and not an older widow or retired.
‘Introduced to her sexy American soldier to make her smile after some personal tragedies she did not at first go into this for romance, but just to “laugh” again.
‘The scammer’s smooth words drew her in and soon she was buying gift cards and sending money. Luckily Julie confided in her mum who realised what this was.
‘Julie is stronger than she looks. She has been hurt a lot and seemed to take this and made her determined to learn from it and let others know too.’