Following the loss of her husband in 2021, Mary from Somerset (name changed to protect her anonymity) was targeted in a sophisticated romance scam designed to steal money left by her late husband.
Mary began speaking with and soon developed feelings for “David”, a member of the American Special Forces working in Syria, communicating daily via WhatsApp, David claimed that due to his location, he was unable to speak in person or over the phone and was only able to communicate via the messaging platform.
After speaking for some time, David claimed that he wanted to come to the UK to meet with Mary but needed help to do so.
“He told me he loved me and wanted to meet me. I was only looking for companionship at first, but it developed into love. It was my first winter on my own since my husband had died.”
David manipulated Mary into sending money by claiming that his bank account had been frozen.
“I was sending money into an account set up by the army, or so I thought.”
Mary’s grown-up children were well aware of her online relationship with the man calling himself David and warned their mother to be careful.
“It’s difficult once you’re under their spell, you don’t want to listen to anyone else. My family were right all along but I never listened.
“He managed to convince me that he was trustworthy. He kept saying he was a ‘gentleman of honour’.”
This went on for some time until the fraudster eventually requested a further £120,000. By this point, however, Mary was out of money. When Mary told David that she was unable to send more money, she was promptly blocked.
“I felt sad and rejected, but also relieved because he wouldn’t be able to manipulate me anymore.
“I had to cut down on food and heating. When my children and grandchildren visited I made sure I had cakes and biscuits in to make it seem like everything was alright.
“I used to look after my granddaughter once a week, but I couldn’t afford to get there. That’s one thing I’ll never forgive the scammers for – they took that time with my granddaughter away from me.”
Getting money back from a romance scam
For around a year Mary gave up any hope of getting her money back, believing it was impossible to recover. She then decided to contact CEL Solicitors’ dedicated fraud team. After examining her case, we were able to recoup Mary’s losses and help her life return to normal.
Claudia Jenkins, Mary’s case handler and a Fraud Team Leader at CEL Solicitors said: “Scammers will use every trick in the book to steal money from hardworking people and they are particularly good at manipulating those at their lowest points – often convincing their targets that giving the money was their idea. It’s important to remember that there is help out there and you should never suffer in silence.”
Similarly, Paul Hampson, Managing Director of CEL Solicitors, said: “It’s not just the money that makes romance fraud so distressing, it’s the feeling of betrayal and the emotional cost, too.
“Criminals target victims who are vulnerable, gain their trust and exploit them. Working away in the army is a common story we see from scammers as they’re often deployed to faraway locations, unable to meet their online lovers.
“In this circumstance, we were able to reclaim the client’s money via her bank, and she also received compensation.