Preston woman conned out of £9,000

A woman who was conned out of £9,000 by a con artist on a dating website has spoken of her ordeal.

The 50-year-old woman, known as Sarah, was tricked into sending the cash to someone posing as a serviceman in Afghanistan after they got talking online.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, both she and Lancashire Police are urging other people looking for online love to be wary of tricksters at this time of year

The ‘serviceman’, who claimed to be married with children, started talking to her in June last year, but it was a couple of months before he asked about visiting her.

“I got an e-mail from this person saying they would like to talk, and supplied two more e-mail addresses,” Sarah told Blog Preston.

Later on she was sent fake army forms requesting leave which she filled out and sent back via e-mail.

She was then asked to send money to cover flights, their leave and covering soldiers while they were away.

However Sarah said that it wasn’t until she handed over the money did she realise.

“It was not until it was a case of sending the money over for the flights, when the alarm bells started ringing.

“Someone close by to me was in the army and I spoke to them. He said soldiers don’t pay for flights. I then realised something was wrong.”

She alerted a bank in Preston who immediately looked into the transaction.

Sarah said she was unsure if she will be able to get back any of the money, which came from the savings of both her and her 79-year-old mum.

Detective Constable Tony McClements, from Lancashire Police’s economic crime unit, warned that criminals come up with a range of excuses to ensure their true identity is never revealed.

“Online dating sites are incredibly popular but unfortunately it is all too easy to throw caution to the wind and forget about making sure you and your money are safe.

“These fraudsters will offer excuses that their webcams aren’t working and will fail to send pictures so they are never seen and once they have your money they prove hard to trace.

The mother of four said she never used the site to find a partner but rather to make new friends further from her normal network.

“I’ve never felt lonely. But he said he read my profile and liked what he read and would like to speak to me again.

“I thought he was a happily married man wanting a bit of chat without pressure.”

Sarah said that she is now much more wary of people approaching her online and only talks to people now she already knows.

DC McClements added that fraudsters are using a number of methods to get money from people at this time of year.

“They are tugging at heart strings. Not just the romance form, but sending out pictures of deformed babies claiming they need money for operations and animal charities.

“There are a lot of genuine sites trying to raise money for good causes. But it’s very difficult to know your money is going where you want it to go.”

—-

Image rights belong to flickr user chigmaroff.

Sign up below to receive Blog Preston's weekly newsletter. It wings its way into your inbox every Sunday with a round-up of our best content from the last week and a look ahead to what's happening in the city.