Feeling lonely and isolated after her partner had passed away, our client, 67-year-old Debbie was contacted by a scammer who conned her out of over £135,000.
How the online romance scam occurred
Debbie was a regular user of an app called Meetup to find recommendations and meet new people. Our client never intended to meet anybody romantically on the app, however, when a scammer reached out to Debbie asking to meet up, they exchanged numbers and began to build a friendship.
Debbie and the scammer, who claimed to be from America working in London, would have daily phone calls. As the scam progressed, the conversations gradually became more romantic, with Debbie beginning to develop strong feelings.
The scammer claimed to be an architect, and informed Debbie that he had to travel abroad to build a hotel. He sent pictures of building plans and warehouses to the client, which added further legitimacy to the story.
After a month of communicating and building a rapport, the scammer began to ask Debbie to send money for various reasons including compensation for a fatality, money for a lawyer, staff wages, rent, and medical bills. These requests came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when there was a lot of disruption around the world, which led Debbie to believe that the scammer was in desperate need of her help.
Unbeknownst to Debbie, the intentions of her new friend were not genuine, and she found herself thousands of pounds in debt. Our client sent the scammer more than £130,000 over a period of two and a half years.
The emotional impact of an online romance scam
This devious scam had an enormous impact on our client, both financially and emotionally. She was left feeling embarrassed and depressed.
Debbie came close to selling her house due to the financial loss she suffered, as she could no longer afford to keep up with her mortgage payments.
Our client was in an extremely vulnerable position and therefore more susceptible to the scammer’s manipulative ways. As she had never experienced anything like this before, Debbie did not know the common signs of a romance scam. Read our top tips for spotting a romance scam here.
After being told that there was nothing that her bank could do to help, Debbie contacted CEL Solicitors, experts in fraud and scam recovery claims.
After speaking with Debbie and taking on her case, CEL Solicitors’ specialist fraud and scam team successfully recovered £135,000 of her lost funds.
Commenting on the case, Trainee Solicitor, Sophie Morton said:
“Romance scammers often use fake photos and personal information to gain the trust of their targets. Our client was at an extremely vulnerable point in her life and unfortunately, the scammer exploited her emotions and manipulated the ‘relationship’ entirely.
“These kinds of scams are often very convincing and, in this situation, our client had multiple phone calls with the scammer and so she had no reason not to believe his story. This was backed up with numerous photographs of the scammer, which again supported the stories he was feeding our client. We would always advise anybody in a similar situation to use reverse image searches to check if the person’s photos are stolen from other sources and to be extremely cautious about sending money to people you meet online.
“Romance scams are very common unfortunately and we understand how people can fall victim to one. That is why when we assist our clients with scams of this kind, not only do we try and help recover their money, but we provide advice on how to avoid similar scams in the future as often victims are retargeted.”