Widow loses inheritance to romance fraudster

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South Yorkshire Police put out a warning the other week after a widow in Rotherham lost £10,000 of her inheritance thanks to a romance fraudster.

Jane (not her real name) has been left struggling to find money to pay her bills thanks to the con. South Yorkshire Police has launched a romance fraud campaign to warn others of the dangers of looking for love online.

The widow was first contacted by the offender on Facebook. He claimed he was called ‘Darren’ and that he worked in the construction industry in the US. He sent Jane a friend request and started ‘talking’ to her, asking her why she was on her own. When she told him she’d lost her husband, he promised to be there for her.

Moved chats to WhatsApp

The man had appeared genuine and Jane thought they would meet up one day. ‘Darren’ encouraged Jane to swap their chats to WhatsApp. The messaging service has higher encryption than Facebook, meaning his fraud was less likely to be detected.

He asked Jane to send him £50, which he claimed was to go towards paying back his workmates who had put their money together to buy him a plane ticket, so he could visit Jane.

Some weeks later, he asked for another £100 to pay for the airport fees. As the weeks went by, he kept asking for money until eventually Jane had sent him a total of £10,300.

No money left

The last Jane heard from ‘Darren’ was a message where he said he was in Liverpool in a hotel but was unable to leave because he didn’t have enough money. Jane sent him a further £500, telling him that was all she had left. She never heard from him again.

Jane’s son eventually persuaded her to report the man to Action Fraud.

Her family had warned her against the man, but she hadn’t listened. Her son warned that if the man had done this to her, he’d be doing it to other women too.

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South Yorkshire Police said romance fraudsters were very difficult to trace. Jane has not been able to recover any of her money, which she had inherited from her late mother. The stress had led to her dropping to only six stone in weight and she is worrying about how she will pay her bills.

She added that she felt very stupid and warned others to say they had no money should anyone contact them in the same way. South Yorkshire Police urged anyone who has been the victim of a similar crime to report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk. The signs of how to spot romance fraud are available on the website: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/romancefraud