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Old 02-14-2012, 09:35 AM
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Default Online date didn't exist... and the scam cost her 40,000 life savings

The fact that these people are so gullible really surprises me, and this sort of scam is so common on dating sites. Do you think you would ever be fooled to part with a large amount of money like this unfortunate woman has done?


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My online date didn't exist... and the scam cost me my 40,000 life savings

By KATHERINE FAULKNER
Last updated at 9:17 AM on 14th February 2012

When Vicky Fowkes met a dashing civil engineer on an internet dating site, she thought that she had met her perfect man.

John Hawkins was handsome, had his own business and appeared keen to share every aspect of his past with her.

But unbeknown to the divorcee, Hawkins did not exist and she had unwittingly become involved in an online scam which would see her handing over her 40,000 life savings.

Yesterday, the 59-year-old revealed how she is now forced to live off benefits because stress has left her unable to work.

'I have been completely taken in I consider myself an intelligent person, so I was very angry with myself and horrendously embarrassed,' she said.
'I am not a gullible person. I never thought I would be taken in by something of this kind. Of course there are people who will say, "How on earth did you fall for it?" But to my mind, I had developed a trust with this person.'

Mrs Fowkes, who has two grown-up sons, first began writing to Hawkins in April 2010 after joining a dating website. He told her that while he was living in Britain, he was currently doing engineering work in Nigeria.
Within weeks, he had sent her 'two or three' photographs which showed 'a good, solid-looking English man' in his 50s.

They exchanged messages and she even spoke several times on the phone to a man claiming to be her online date. He described his life in England, including details about his pets, children and past relationships.

Mrs Fowkes said she soon 'began to have feelings' for Hawkins and four months later, when he told her he was coming back to Britain, she arranged to meet him at Heathrow Airport.

However, he never arrived, claiming he had been prevented from leaving Nigeria because of an unpaid tax bill. Two weeks later, he called again saying he was unable to pay the bill because his money was tied up in the UK and asked for her help.

Believing his story, Mrs Fowkes began sending him money. Within three months she had handed over 40,000 her entire life savings.

It was only when police officers came to her home in Tewkesbury, Worcestershire, that she realised John Hawkins had never existed and she had been the victim of a scam.

'When they told me what had happened, I was horrified and humiliated,' said the education consultant. 'It is devastating.

'John said he was a civil engineer with his own business which operated in Nigeria. He was born in South Africa, he said, but had made a home in Britain and lived in Leicester.

'When he spoke he had a slight South African accent, which I found quite endearing. We talked about everything under the sun families, relationships, hobbies, interests, pets, our past. I completely trusted him.'

Hawkins's claim that he had been stopped from leaving the country over an unpaid tax bill seemed 'completely plausible', Mrs Fowkes said.

She believed further stories that he could not access money in his UK account because his cards had been stolen and he was desperate not to worry his elderly mother by asking for help.

Mrs Fowkes only realised something was wrong when police turned up on her doorstep in November 2010. 'I completely believed he was coming back and he was going to pay me back,' Mrs Fowkes said. 'His story was completely plausible. Everything I asked like why the embassy couldn't help he always had an answer for.

'I believed I had started a relationship but looking back I was obviously being groomed. When I told my two sons they were devastated and blamed themselves for not questioning what I was doing. But even if they had I would have dismissed it because I trusted him.'

Even after she had stopped speaking to him, the fraudster continued to pester her. Eight months after breaking off contact, she received a huge bunch of red roses from 'John Hawkins'.

The following day he phoned her to apologise for all the trouble and begging her to meet him so he could explain.

'He then said he needed 685 for the air fare back to England,' she said. 'I just put the phone down.'

Mrs Fowkes said she hoped that by telling her story she would warn other women not to fall for the same thing.

'These scams ruin people's lives,' she added. 'They do a huge amount of emotional damage as well as financial. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what happened to me.'

Robin Longmore, a financial intelligence development officer for West Mercia Police, said he was unable to reveal how police knew Mrs Fowkes was being conned. But he added: 'These scams are becoming increasingly common and can be incredibly sophisticated. Those targeted are often intelligent, professional people.

'John Hawkins is a made-up name and the pictures he used have been taken from the internet and are of an innocent member of the public.

'The cases we know about are the tip of the iceberg only about 5 per cent of people who are targeted ever come forward to tell the police about it. Most victims feel too embarrassed.'

According to a study by Leicester University, as many as 200,000 people in the UK may have fallen victim to online romance scams. Last year there were 592 known British victims, 203 of whom lost more than 5,000. Some victims handed over as much as 275,000.

Colin Woodcock, a senior investigator at the Serious Organised Crime Agency, said: 'This crime affects hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the UK to the tune of up to 80million a year.

'Victims typically lose from 50 to a couple of hundred to several thousand pounds, but some individuals have been taken for over 275,000.'



http://http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2100719/My-online-date-didnt-exist--scam-cost-40-000-life-savings.html
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Old 02-14-2012, 10:10 AM
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Default Re: Online date didn't exist... and the scam cost her 40,000 life savings

She sent money to a man who was, in reality, a total stranger.....and she considers herself 'an intelligent person'.

Perhaps when she compares herself to a box of nail clippings she would come off as the more intelligent.
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Old 02-14-2012, 10:17 AM
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Default Re: Online date didn't exist... and the scam cost her 40,000 life savings

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Originally Posted by catusfelidae View Post
She sent money to a man who was, in reality, a total stranger.....and she considers herself 'an intelligent person'.

Perhaps when she compares herself to a box of nail clippings she would come off as the more intelligent.
She is obviously trying to cover herself by saying that. I think it is incredible that people are taken in by lies, and even more incredible that they throw away as much money as they do.
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Old 02-14-2012, 10:28 AM
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Default Re: Online date didn't exist... and the scam cost her 40,000 life savings

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She is obviously trying to cover herself by saying that. I think it is incredible that people are taken in by lies, and even more incredible that they throw away as much money as they do.
I don't see how it happens. Granted, I'm very good at giving money to pan handlers, but that's just a few bucks.

Someone asks me for more than that and red flags start waiving in my brain.

I have to wonder if the women who fall for this stuff aren't just a little too desperate for a man.
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Old 02-14-2012, 10:37 AM
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Default Re: Online date didn't exist... and the scam cost her 40,000 life savings

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I don't see how it happens. Granted, I'm very good at giving money to pan handlers, but that's just a few bucks.

Someone asks me for more than that and red flags start waiving in my brain.

I have to wonder if the women who fall for this stuff aren't just a little too desperate for a man.
Apparently these scammers flood potential suckers with words they want to hear and get them hook, line and sinker. Ah well, as they say, 'there's one born every minute.'
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