A pensioner who paid £3,500 to a romance fraudster has warned others to be wary of online conmen.
The woman in her 70s, who wishes to remain anonymous, told of how she was conned into handing over thousands of pounds over a three month period.
The fraudsters initially contacted her on Instagram – where she liked to keep in touch with friends across the UK.
She said: “The first messages were just very friendly. They messaged me every day asking how my day had been and what I had been doing.
“This went on for around six weeks and I had no reason to believe they weren’t who they said they were.”
The widow, from Derby, whose husband died 24 years ago, thought she was speaking to a 60-year-old major general in the US Army.
She said: “He told me that he was deployed to Afghanistan but that he needed some money to be able to access his account.
“He asked me to buy some iTunes cards so that he could get the money from them and get access to his account.
“I went to a number of different places getting the iTunes cards and spent several hundred pounds in one day.”
The victim sent the fraudster the codes on the rear of the cards and the money was redeemed from them.
The requests for cash continued and the fraudster even went as far as getting her to pay for a fictitious parcel that was full of jewellery – including a ring.
A fake shipping document was sent over showing tens of thousands of pounds owed to customs to release the package – something the victim was told she must pay.
She said: “I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t know how I was going to get the money. I left it for about six weeks before it just so happened that my daughter saw the texts and told me that what was happening wasn’t right.
“This conman told me that when he retired he was going to come over and we were going to be married. Looking back now I think ‘how could you be so stupid’.
“In all I sent £3,500 to him. Some of that money was on a credit card and some of it was a loan from the bank. I have to pay that money back now out of my pension.”
The victims experience has left her shaken and untrusting of – especially when it comes to the online world.
She said: “I question everything and everyone now, it’s a terrible feeling. I have made all of my social media accounts private and if I am concerned about someone I report them immediately.”
And she has this one simple piece of advice for anyone who is approached online: “Don’t listen to a word they say.”
She said: “The conmen are so good at what they do. It’s almost like they are reading from a script. Every time I had a question they had an answer that seemed so plausible and I was suckered in.
“If anyone is approached online just take a moment and think about who you are talking to – because I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through.”