Woman conned out of £150,000 by man she met on Facebook

A woman was conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by a man she met on Facebook as police are warning of a stark rise in romance fraud.

A woman from Yorkshire was conned out of more than 150,000 by a man she met on Facebook.

Between January and March this year, romance fraudsters conned their victims out of £361,000 in the Humberside Police force area alone.

Detective Sergeant Ben Robinson, from Humberside Police's economic crime unit, has pledged to tackle the rise in the number of romance fraud offences and says prevention is the key.

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He said: "Romance fraud is a a particular scam I want to prevent because the offences that take place have a significant psychological affect and emotional impact on the victim. If you are in a relationship and that comes to an end you have to deal with that trauma as well.

"They key message I want to get out there is never send money to anyone you have never met and take steps to verify that the story and this person actually exists. You can go on to Action Fraud or report any concerns to us."

The woman first met the man on Facebook and the pair quickly formed a close relationship talking every day for hours at a time. The man told her he worked as a civil engineer, that he had gone to university in America and was currently working abroad. To try and convince the woman he was who he said he was, he sent her details of his work contract.

After some time he told the woman he needed some money to assist with completing the contract. The woman, who was a bit suspicious, spoke to him on the phone and was put at ease because he had an American accent and was very articulate.

She later received an email from him stating he was booked on a flight to come and see her.

However, a few days later she received an email from a "doctor" in the USA, claiming the man had been in am accident and was in hospital. The email stated that he needed to have surgery.

The man asked the woman to take money out of her bank account and pay it into another account that he gave her details of. He sent her an email saying he had money in an offshore account with Global Security and they would pay her the £150,000.

The victim didn't get any of the money back she was owed.

The man then claimed that if £30,000 was paid into his bank account,the money would be released. The woman paid the £30,000 but did not receive any money back.

When the woman contacted the US embassy in Oman to see if the man was OK after the accident the consulate sent her an email telling her all the information and ID details were fake.

The majority of the fraudsters who commit romance fraud do not live in this country, which makes it difficult for the police to return the money to the victim.

Detective Sergeant Robinson said: "Once a victim's money goes abroad then it is gone.

"We cannot arrest our way out of it if that makes sense - preventing and empowering people with the knowledge is the most important way to get the message across.

"If you are in a relationship with someone you have never met before take as many steps as possible to verify that person. That could be checking any photos they send you for authenticity or even asking them to send a picture of them posing with today's newspaper. If they are not prepared to do that then alarm bells should start ringing."

"Do not send money to anyone. If you are in a relationship with someone you have never met before they are not going to send you a trunk full of money or transfer you $5 million into your account just because they showed you a contract, it isn't going to happen."

Police are keen to help and support anyone who has been a victim of fraud.

Vulnerable victims in the Humberside Police area will receive visits from the community team over a four-month period where officers will work to identify what made that person become a victim.