A LONELY heart who was conned out of nearly £20,000 by a fake American servicewoman wants his story to serve as a warning to others about being tricked online.
The victim spent everything he had on what he thought were medical and other urgent bills for a member of the US military he had met on a dating website.
He continued sending cash up to the moment he thought the woman was about to fly to the UK.
The case study is being used by the Midlands Fraud Forum as part of a video campaign where victims ask “what if?” they had taken simple precautions.
Speaking anonymously, the victim said: “She was a bit of a looker, we kept emailing frequently and then she told me about some cashflow problems that she had. She wanted to come over to the UK and I really wanted to meet her so I decided to send her some money.
“Her parents had died recently and I had a bit put away so I sent her a thousand pounds and then didn’t hear off her for a while. I thought fair enough, she’d probably gone off me or whatever. “
But the singleton’s ‘match’ then got back in touch out of the blue, telling him she had cash flow problems because she had recently divorced and was selling her house.
He arranged for her to fly into the UK but she then told him that she had suffered an accident on the way to the airport and needed to pay medical bills.
“The next thing I know I’ve given nearly twenty thousand pounds to her,” the man said.
“I felt a bit of a fool and I began to get calls which were quite nasty really saying if you don’t send the money over I can’t have any medical treatment and I’ll end up dying.
“In the end I reported it to the police and they confirmed that this probably wasn’t the woman of my dreams that I’d been sending money to. It’s all a bit embarrassing really, I’ve lost all my money, I was really gullible. If only I’d Skyped her, checked her identity, just been a bit more careful.”
The story is one of 13 fraud prevention videos produced by the Midlands Fraud Forum, a region-wide partnership of agencies and organisations, and the Insolvency Service.
Each of the films gives an “if only” message that the victim has learnt the hard way.
Detective Inspector Neil Postins, of West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, used the case study to illustrate how victims of cyber-crime don’t always fit typical profiles.
Speaking at a fraud forum event at the force’s Birmingham headquarters on Tuesday, he said: “You can be vulnerable to fraud irrespective of your age, gender or standing in society.
“People can become vulnerable at any point in life and when they use online dating it may be because a relationship has ended or a partner has passed away.
“The victims go online for genuine reasons but end up being drawn in by someone who is in an internet cafe in a different part of the world. It’s education, awareness and training that stand people in good stead to not being a victim.”