Woman is conned out of £63K by man she met on an online dating site posing as a Royal Navy sailor

A woman who signed up to online dating when her husband left her has revealed she was conned out of her life savings by a man posing as a Royal Navy sailor.

Lisa, from the south of England, told how she fell for ‘Rob’ – who claimed to be stationed in the Middle East – and ended up sending him £63,000 before discovering he was a catfish.

So-called romance fraud has soared during lockdown, with more than 600 reports of scams made per month to Action Fraud during June, July and August, with criminals exploiting their victims’ desire for human contact. 

After connecting with Rob, Lisa told how they would email ‘constantly’, telling BBC Breakfast: ‘I’d always wake up to a lovely poem from him, obviously with the time difference, he was up earlier than me. All part of reeling me in.’ 

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Lisa, from the south of England, told how she fell for ‘Rob’ – who claimed to be stationed in the Middle East – and ended up sending him £63,000 before discovering he was a catfish

After a few months, Rob claimed his bank account had been hacked and asked her to send him some money.

Lisa said she was ‘very reluctant’, but he then told her his daughter was desperately ill in Dubai and he needed cash to pay for an operation. 

‘They are so manipulative,’ she said. ‘They know how to pull every string, how to emotionally blackmail you, because that is what was happening all the way through, with the daughter in particular. It was just emotional blackmail. 

‘It then became very much like, “She’s dying, she’s dying, she needs to be treated, if she doesn’t get treated she’s going to die, she needs an operation”.’

After connecting with Rob, Lisa told how they would email 'constantly', adding: 'I'd always wake up to a lovely poem from him, obviously with the time difference, he was up earlier than me. All part of reeling me in'

After connecting with Rob, Lisa told how they would email ‘constantly’, adding: ‘I’d always wake up to a lovely poem from him, obviously with the time difference, he was up earlier than me. All part of reeling me in’

Woman is conned out of £63K by man she met on an online dating site posing as a Royal Navy sailor 1

After a few months, Rob claimed his bank account had been hacked and asked her to send him some money. Lisa said she was 'very reluctant', but he then told her his daughter was desperately ill in Dubai and he needed cash to pay for an operation (pictured: email conversations between Lisa and Rob)

After a few months, Rob claimed his bank account had been hacked and asked her to send him some money. Lisa said she was ‘very reluctant’, but he then told her his daughter was desperately ill in Dubai and he needed cash to pay for an operation (pictured: email conversations between Lisa and Rob)

Lisa sent Rob £5,000 for her daughter’s first operation, and continued to send money over the following months.

When she told a friend what had been going on, the pal contacted the police and a female officer paid Lisa a visit. 

‘I gave her some photos that he’d sent to me and she went back to her office and literally within half an hour she was back onto me, “Are you on Facebook, go and look at this profile…” they were the photos.’

Rob had stolen the identity of a real Royal Navy sailor to orchestrate the scam – and the minute Lisa saw the profile, she said there was ‘no more denial’.

Lisa sent Rob £5,000 for her daughter's first operation, and continued to send money over the following months - something she now feels foolish for doing

Lisa sent Rob £5,000 for her daughter’s first operation, and continued to send money over the following months – something she now feels foolish for doing

But by this point she’d already sent him ‘everything she had and more’ – and has since be told she won’t be able to get the money back.

Lisa admitted she felt ‘shame, stupidity and total embarrassment’ and was too ashamed to tell her family for months.

‘My stepson at that time was 16 – they knew I was talking to someone in the Royal Navy,’ she recalled. ‘The first thing he said to me was, “Don’t give him any money”. I remember that so clearly.’

She urged anyone engaged in a romantic relationship online with someone they have never met to never send cash. 

‘It doesn’t matter how bad they make you feel, don’t give them any money,’ she said. ‘It can happen to absolutely anybody. They are so clever.’

Reports of dating fraud up by 26% in last year 

The average victim of romance fraud loses just over £10,000. Losses reported by victims between August 2019 and August 2020 total a staggering £66,335,239.

Police say it’s a sophisticated crime and up to 70 per cent of it originates overseas, often with organised teams of people researching potential victims. They and other organisations are running a campaign throughout October to raise awareness.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive of charity Victim Support, said: ‘Lockdown restrictions meant people could not meet in person for a number of months, which led to many seeking to form new connections online. 

Whilst using the internet can be a great way to meet people and form relationships, there’s also a great risk of being lured into a romance scam as fraudsters know how to take advantage of people’s desire for human contact.

‘Unfortunately, we’ve seen that circumstances caused by coronavirus were in fact used by fraudsters as a “hook” to extort money. For example, some have invented lies about needing medical treatment, or urgent travel expenses to leave a country, or funds to keep afloat after a bogus job loss caused by the pandemic.’ 

City of London Police said popular platforms where victims reported first interacting with criminals committing romance fraud were Facebook, Plenty of Fish, Instagram, Tinder and Match.com.

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