Europe

Pensioner hands over thousands of pounds to romance fraudsters

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Simon Frost cited “loneliness” as the reason he was driven to reach out to strangers via email and Skype. Speaking to the Cambs Cops podcast, the force revealed the 79-year-old was the victim of a “sophisticated international scam”.

The retired dentist said at least three people – or groups of people – targeted him, including one woman, who said she was from Nigeria, who he spoke to for ten years.

He gave £27,000 to one – and “considerably more” to another.

The father, who now has Alzheimer’s, revealed the latest scammer was only curtailed when he told her he was in hospital after a heart attack.

He bravely spoke out on the podcast after police, and his family, helped him realise was a blameless victim.

Speaking to the podcast, Simon, from Soham, Cambridgeshire, he said: “There were actually three different lots of people – two of whom I subsequently discovered were actually in league with each other, talking to each other.

“They had a go at getting at me through the local court in Ghana. This was two different groups.

“They are a pretty sophisticated bunch.”

He said he communicated with the women via Skype and email.

“It was just somebody that I could chat to on a one-to-one basis and be friendly,” he said.

“We chatted on an almost daily basis, for a period.

“It developed very quickly into showing interest in each other, and giving conversations about family life;.

“I learned on two of them, all about their family, and what their life was.”

He said one claimed to be employed by World Health Authority, and said she was going to visit him on her way to a conference in Europe.

He claims she was hit by a lorry on the way to the airport, and died.

“How true it is, I have no idea,” he said.

He said they took advantage of the fact the didn’t have a very loving upbringing and added: “They obviously realised I had money. They stared gently £100 here and £100 there.

“The second lot of people that took me on, really took me to town.

“I was made to in theory marry this girl. That’s how we got involved with the local authority.

“They managed to get hold of a copy of my birth certificate – god knows how.

“[…] This girl and her mother went off and managed to actually organise to get a wedding certificate.

“In the meanwhile I paid god knows what.”

She was supposed to fly to England, told him she was arrested at airport – and needed money to reach him.

“It was deliberately targeted to me and my soft nature,” he said.

“My whole rationale was to help people that were in trouble.”

He added: “I didn’t stop and think about it. That’s the truth of it. I didn’t stop and think ‘what on earth is going on’.

“I still strongly believe that this was actually the first one that has dragged on for ten years.

“The amounts I have paid were for most of the time not that much, although it got more lately.

“It’s only over the recent weeks that I’ve seriously thought about what was going on and why.”

One woman, he said he spoke to her since Christmas 2012, and only broke it off in recent weeks.

The dad-of-two sent her air fare and even went to Heathrow to pick her up – but she didn’t arrive

He said he told scammers that he loved them – and they did the same to him.

“We had long chats about what we might be doing or not doing, and why not,” he said.

He said he didn’t feel like he “totally” loved them but added: “I wanted them to understand that I meant what I was saying.

“She wrote a couple of days ago that she hoped I got well soon because we told her I had a heart attack and was in hospital,” he said.

“She can’t communicate with someone in hospital or expected to die.”

He said he was blamed by his bank despite being the victim of a sophisticated international scam.

Now he has family to help him arrange his affairs, to limit access fraudsters have.

Experts on the podcast said ‘red flags’ include asking victims to move off dating apps, and onto platforms like Whatsapp.

Scammers often claim to be doctors, oil rig workers, surgeons or CEOs, and need money for a project, or a helicopter flight, the police expert said.

Other warning signs are being fobbed off with reasons on why they can’t video call, and photos which are exchanged are often professional looking.

She said that if people tell you they love you very shortly into a conversation, and without meeting, be wary.

The spokeswoman says a common question is “what are you doing right now” in order to ascertain whether you have told family members about them.

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