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 Worcestershire woman taken for £40,000 by romance scammer

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Nailgunner
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-17026330

Quote:
Valentine's Day is usually a time for thoughts to turn all things romantic - but police warn it is also a time for scammers to "sharpen their arrows to play Cupid".

And one of those with bitter experience of romancing conmen is 59-year-old Vicky Fowkes, from Bushley, Worcestershire.

In 2010 Ms Fowkes found the courage to join a dating website.

She was subsequently targeted by a man from overseas, who claimed to be a South African businessman with UK links who happened to be working in Nigeria.

Ms Fowkes was tricked into giving nearly £40,000 to the man, who spent months wooing her on the internet and on long conversations on the telephone.

The man told her he had been detained in Nigeria due to tax problems and persuaded her to send cash on a number of occasions to supposedly help with his "legal problems".

"This scam has changed my life, emotionally and financially. It also had a detrimental effect on my health," Ms Fowkes said.

"It is only through the support, love and compassion of family and friends that I am where I am today."
'Hurt and violated'

Ms Fowkes was eventually alerted to the scam by the Economic Crime Unit of West Mercia Police, her local force.

REGULATOR'S ONLINE DATING TIPS

Never reveal too many personal details, including addresses
If you click in cyberspace and they ask you for money, never hand it over
Do not reveal vulnerabilities such as loneliness
Watch out for "serial daters"
Discuss online conversations with friends and family

"When I found out I had been scammed I felt utter disbelief - that this could not be happening to me," she said.

"I feel very emotional, hurt and violated."

Ms Fowkes said she wanted to tell her story to prevent other people from being caught by conmen in a similar way.

"It can happen to anybody," she said.

"I was being groomed to be financially ruined to somebody else's gain."

The conman, who used the alias "John Hawkins", has never been caught and Ms Fowkes' money has never been recovered.

Robin Longmore, financial intelligence officer at West Mercia Police, was the one who first identified Ms Fowkes was being conned.

He said it was estimated that "many millions of pounds" were being stolen from UK victims each year in similar scams.

But he added the actual number of people affected was difficult to evaluate.

"Many victims do not come forward through embarrassment - and indeed some refuse to accept that they are victims when spoken to by officers - and continue to send money," Mr Longmore said.
'Money mule'

He said conmen would usually profile their targets to establish if they had money available which they could get them to part with.

"If not, the victims will often be unknowingly used instead as a money mule for laundering money," he added.

"Funds are invariably asked to be sent via a money service business... to third parties, often overseas and particularly in West African countries, but we have had instances where funds have been sent to China and other countries and these are then moved on again."

The Association of British Introduction Agencies regulates and monitors the online and offline dating industry in the UK.

As opposed to online dating agencies, the traditional "offline" agencies usually require clients to visit in person - and show three forms of ID.

The not-for-profit watchdog only accepts dating agencies for membership if they have been trading for at least 12 months and have met other criteria, such as having a viable business plan.

It also only deals with UK companies which have UK-based phone numbers and offices.

Regulator spokesperson Karen Mooney said scammers usually targetted "mainly vulnerable women who perhaps are a bit lonely".

"They tell them how lovely they sound," she said.

"They've never met, but they feel they know them.

"Normally a very sensible person with money can hand over money because they think it'll bring happiness."

Ms Mooney added: "He's offered her a dream."
More at the BBC's website. Horrible, horrible news.

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Flibble
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 4:53 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I wonder how the police knew she was being targeted.

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N.O.R.A
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 5:38 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Another article here with hundreds of comments.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 5:43 am Reply with quoteBack to top

N.O.R.A wrote:
Another article here with hundreds of comments.


I hope non-British forum members don't think those comments reflect the nation. A large collection of the readership are notoriously retarded.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 5:55 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I find it odd all the comments about the victim.

The story said "Most victims feel too embarrassed.", so all these people who have said nasty things about the victim are also falling into the mugus con.

Blame the victims so people will be less likely to report it.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:36 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Flibble wrote
Quote:
I wonder how the police knew she was being targeted.


It can be family or close friends of the victim who are aware of what's going on but can't get the victim to listen to reason or it can be the victims bank manager etc who notices large amounts of cash heading off to unusual & exotic destinations who notifies the authorities.

Some people would moan about an invasion of privacy etc but it's a good job it happens in cases like this.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:38 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Flibble wrote:
I hope non-British forum members don't think those comments reflect the nation. A large collection of the readership are notoriously retarded.


There are people everywhere who enjoy trolling about and saying nasty things. Some people just want to express how they are aware of scams and wouldn't fall for them. Anyway, it's good these articles are published.

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N N N
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Had to "invade a victim's privacy" myself to stop him getting scammed, that's when you start to understand just how deeply hooked the victim becomes. You simply can't reason with them.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:46 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Fair play to Mrs Fowkes for going public and trying to warn others. Takes courage.

re. Daily mail; as close to a hate speech as it is possible to come without actually going to prison. Terrible, terrible rag.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:53 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Flibble wrote:
I wonder how the police knew she was being targeted.

She had MUGU tattooed on her forehead?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:49 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Quote:
She had MUGU tattooed on her forehead?


Not only is that improbable, it is fairly insulting - if you want to insult victims, go on that rag posted above and join the rest of the victim bashers - otherwise keep it out of this thread.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:18 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I agree with Nailgunner, the lady was very brave to speak out. Sounds as though she's getting the support and understanding she needs.

My heart breaks for the victims who suffer in silence and shame. Crying or Very sad

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