Scams are unfortunately widespread, with people losing thousands or even hundreds of thousands of pounds. Sadly, this was the case for one woman who unwittingly found herself a target, after a difficult time in her life.
HSBC shared the story of Marjorie – not her real name – who decided to use a dating website two years after her husband had died.
She selected a website aimed at over 50s, with a focus on those who had been widowed.
Soon enough, she hit it off with a man who said he was called Gerald, a supposed businessman who owned his own electrical business in Milton Keynes.
Their conversations moved quickly to WhatsApp, and they sometimes spoke over the phone.
However, Gerald said he was away in Dubai, working on a significant project building a shopping mall.
As a result, the pair were never able to meet face to face, but soon enough their conversation took a different turn entirely.
Marjorie explained: “Towards the end of February, he began to mention he was having cash flow problems with his business. He said he needed a short-term loan of funds to complete the building project.”
Fully believing Gerald was a businessman, when he explained he would repay her at the end of the project in April, she was comfortable.
Further legitimacy seemed to be added when Marjorie was sent a copy of Gerald’s passport and shipping documents.
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Unfortunately, she had fallen victim to what is known as a romance scam – sadly increasing in prevalence.
It involves victims being targeted under the guise of developing a romantic relationship online, with the fraudster often claiming they are outside the UK on business or travelling.
Once a rapport is established, the fraudster then starts to ask for money.
Sometimes it can be to cover costs to get to the UK, but in other instances it can play on emotions, such as needing to pay for an operation for a supposedly sick relative.
The devastated Marjorie ended up losing £96,000 to the vicious scam, where she was left out of pocket and grieving for the end of a relationship that was never genuine in the first place.
Criminals are creating fake profiles on websites, apps and social media targeting those looking for love.
As a result, HSBC says it is always important to be on one’s guard, and never transfer money to a person one has not met.
Those who believe they have fallen victim to a romance scam can call HSBC using the number on the back of their credit or debit card.
Individuals can also report the matter to the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service, Action Fraud.