‘It was surreal’ Lonely widow tricked into sending £90,000 to scammers

Rip Off Britain tells story of woman scammed out of £90,000

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This scammer bonded with Ann and built her trust after saying they too had lost their family recently. Romance fraud is sadly on the rise since the Covid pandemic. As a lot of people were lonely, they were more willing to form friendships online with people they did not know.

Earlier this year on BBC’s Rip Off Britain, Ann told her story and warned other Britons who are grieving to watch out.

After Ann’s husband died, she turned to her favourite hobby photography to pass the time. However, it was from this that a person who said he was called Clinton reached out to her, stating he loved her photography and wanted to know more.

Clinton said he was an army doctor with the UN serving in Yemen and he too had suffered a family loss. They quickly built a friendship and bonded over their similar experiences.

She said: “They helped me in the sense I could talk about what I went through, what my husband went through, and all the good times which you want to do when you’ve lost someone.

Eventually, Clinton told Ann he wanted to quit the army to be closer to his son and asked her for some help.

Ann didn’t hesitate and ended up sending Clinton £1,500 for the flight back home, but it didn’t stop there.

Over six months, Ann ended up sending Clinton a staggering £90,000 for different things. This is money she had from her husband’s death in service policy, and Clinton promised to pay her back.

Ann said: “At the time, it was all surreal, and what he was saying was plausible, and believable.

“At that moment in time, it was a lifeline for me.”

Being so consumed with grief, Ann didn’t realise that Clinton was a scammer. The photographs of him had been stolen from the internet and everything he said was a lie.

It wasn’t until Clinton asked Ann to sell her home, and her car that she realised something was not right.

Ann explained that after her husband died, she was “alone” and “vulnerable to the promise of friendship”.

She said: “I look back and think how stupid can you be, how did you not know that what they were saying wasn’t true.”

Ann’s case may be extreme, but it is not an isolated case.

Throughout lockdown, romance fraud has been on the rise.

The Financial Conduct Authority reported a 20 percent increase last year with fraudsters stealing £68 million.

Steve Jackson, detective inspector from the City of London police regularly deals with this type of fraud and offers guidance to viewers.

He said: “We see this a lot unfortunately. People are vulnerable and isolated due to lockdown and people want relationships and they want to believe it.

“Usually, it is military personnel impersonation with a shared problem and that’s how they hook the victims.

“We’ve had cases where people remortgage their homes, go into debt and take out loans, people are struggling.”

Awareness is the best preventative measure.

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