Britons warned of ‘alarm bells’ in growing scam as victim loses life savings of £36,000

BBC's For Love or Money: Scam victim in tears

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Victims have understandably been left in tears after scammers took their life savings with some vulnerable people losing over £35,000. Recently, For Love or Money viewers have watched Kym Marsh and Ashley John-Baptiste try and uncover the truth behind this online romance fraud in an effort to help draw a line under this horrific chapter in people’s lives.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dianne, 88, said was lonely as she was not seeing friends and family. She started speaking to a man who claimed to be called ‘Hillary Mammdov’ or ‘Larry’ on Facebook and fell in love with him and eventually sent him over £35,000. However it was all just a scam.

In an attempt to warn other vulnerable Britons about the scam and stop them falling victim online, has spoken exclusively to Karen Jordaan, UK Head of World Remit, about how people can stay safe.

Understanding and being able to recognise the tips, tricks and techniques of online security cons is the best way to avoid falling victim to them.

Ms Jordaan explained that online dating scams usually happen through online dating websites, but scammers may also use social media or email to make contact.

Criminals target victims through social media and dating websites so they can find vulnerable people looking for companionship.

They might express strong emotions for people in a relatively short period of time and suggest they move the relationship away from the social media platform to a more private channel, such as phone, or instant messaging/WhatsApp.

Once they’ve gained someone’s trust, they’ll ask for money and gifts, even their banking/credit card details.

They may pretend to need the money for some sort of personal emergency.

Most victims on the show seem to have met the scammers through various online dating websites when looking for love.

There are ways for older Britons to stay safe when using dating sites by always having these alarms at the back of one’s mind.

Ms Jordaan said: “Before speaking to anyone new online, you should alarm bells at the back of your mind that go off when one of these things come up.

“Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. Consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.

“If you meet someone online, and after just a short time, they claim to have strong feelings for you and ask to chat with you privately, it could be a scam.

“Another alarm should be if their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you.

“You should not be afraid to ask questions and double check what they are being told.”

Ms Jordaan explained that scammers will usually have a back story about how they are abroad for work, or live overseas. People are reminded to consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.

If they ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details it could be a scam.

She continued: “For example, if out of the blue you’re told you’ve won a round the world trip, it’s probably scam.

“If a stranger contacts you unexpectedly via email or social media or a company that contacts you doesn’t seem legitimate, e.g. has no postal address, be aware.

“Legitimate companies would never ask you to transfer money quickly and if you’re asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by vouchers or wire transfer, think again.”

Britons will never be asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs. If someone is asked to click on a link in a text message to ‘update’ or ‘verify’ account details, be aware.

Remember – banks and other reputable financial institutions will never:

  • Call someone to ask for their PIN or their online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad
  • Ask someone to update their personal details by following a link in a text message
  • Ask someone to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons

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