UK: woman conned by Nigerian romance scammer
She is very brave to tell her story. How many others remain silent? Too many. :(
The lonely heart scam: Mother sent £80,000 to a man she thought was a charming U.S. soldier... but she'd been conned by Nigerian fraudsters
By Claire Ellicott
Last updated at 5:19 PM on 31st January 2011
Divorced and lonely, Kate Roberts thought her luck had changed when a charming U.S. soldier started chatting to her on a dating website.
When he told he loved her, she thought it was almost too good to be true. And sadly, it was.
The ‘soldier’ was in fact a member of a sophisticated Nigerian gang set up to exploit vulnerable women and convince them to hand over money.
Miss Roberts gave £80,000 to the gang after taking out credit cards, loans and borrowing from family and friends. She has now had to sell her house to pay off the crippling debts.
The 47-year-old yesterday warned others to be on their guard saying: ‘I was well and truly taken in and I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did.’
The mother-of-three was first approached when she set up a profile on the Friends Reunited Dating website in October 2009.
She started exchanging emails with a man calling himself Sergeant Ray Smith and chatting to him several times a day on MSN messenger.
He soon persuaded her to send him £225 for a phone line and a man with an American accent calling himself Mark began ringing her almost every day.
He claimed he was a 43-year-old widower with an 11-year-old daughter and was a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq.
To make his profile more convincing, the scammers posted pictures of a good-looking soldier in uniform as well as others of him topless.
The conmen even used a picture of a little girl, telling Miss Roberts, an administrator from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, it was his daughter.
She said: ‘I did have doubts but everything he told me sounded reasonable and I was in love.
‘He told me he couldn’t tell me much about his job for security reasons and I accepted that.’
Between October 2009 and July last year Miss Roberts handed over £80,000.
She made regular payments of thousands via Western Union and even paid cash directly into what she believed was his bank account as he told her he had no money.
He asked for at least £20,000 from her to buy official military ‘leave passes’. He claimed he was unable to take leave and could only get it by using fake documents he needed to pay for. On several occasions, a man claiming to be the soldier’s commander rang her to reassure her he was about to fly to Britain.
But she discovered it was a scam when she arranged for £12,000 to be sent to one of his friends to pay for his airfare to Britain and he suddenly stopped contacting her.
She said: ‘One day he just stopped emailing me and didn’t call me.
‘I drove down to an army base in Cambridgeshire which he’d told me he had been in for three years but they had never heard of him. I called the police and my phone company traced the phone he had used back to a mobile number in Nigeria.’
She was later told by police that she was the victim of a scam. Eight months later, Miss Roberts was forced to sell her home to pay off the huge debts.
She said: ‘Aside from losing the money I feel like I’ve lost the love of my life. I know he wasn’t real, but the feelings were real to me and that’s very difficult to come to terms with. Hundreds of other women must be getting conned right now.’
Both the police and the U.S. embassy have begun investigations into the scam.
Silence is the scammer's best friend; knowledge is the scammer's worst enemy. 沈黙は詐欺師のよき友達、知識は詐欺師の天敵。Think globally, act globally.