A FATHER says his marriage has broken down after his wife transferred £20,000 to a fraudster pretending to be a US war hero.
Steve Roberts, 50, and his wife are among hundreds of Brits to have lost a combined total of millions of pounds amid a recent rise in so-called romance scams.
He says his wife was conned after a man in Nigeria claiming to be a war veteran in need of money contacted her using social media.
The scammer said he needed funds to pay for medical care for an ill child, but that the money had to be sent to Nigeria.
Roberts’s wife confessed to sending the money after he discovered a secret mobile phone stashed under their bed.
“She might have been the one who fell victim to the scammer, but my life has fallen apart too,” he told the Mirror.
“I can’t even begin to describe the stress this has caused.”
Roberts later searched online and found that the profile picture being used by the man his wife had been talking to had been used by numerous other online scammers.
“She still believed what she’d had with this man was real,” he said.
“It took weeks to convince her he wasn’t who he said he was.”
Roberts and his wife separated in April after more than 20 years together, and are now in the process of a divorce.
ROMANCE SCAMS ON THE RISE
In romance scams, a victim is convinced to send money to a person with whom they believe themselves to be in a genuine romantic relationship.
Fraudsters will often spend a long period talking to victims so as to build up trust before claiming to be experiencing a problem and to be in need of money.
Data released by industry body UK Finance shows that in the first half of 2019, 935 people lost a combined total of £7.9 million to romance scams, up from £5.3 million lost by 571 people in the same period last year.
Of the money lost so far this year, only £500,000 has been recovered.
That victims are often too embarrassed to report having been scammed means these figures almost certainly underestimate the scale of the problem.
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On the impact the scam has had, Roberts said: “There had been no sign anything was wrong in the marriage.
“Now our boys’ lives have been shattered and we can’t even begin to explain to them why that is.”
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