Graham, 60, appeared on this morning’s episode of For Love or Money, explaining how he had sold his beloved vintage motorbike and used profits from the sale of his home to fund what turned out to be a scammer. After he separated with his wife, Graham found someone who claimed to be 39-year-old Oxford gold trader Maryanne, who was stuck in Dubai on business.
Graham had previously been married for 33 years, but with the kids leaving home and his multiple sclerosis (MS) impacting him, the once happy couple decided to split.
He explained: “With MS days are different, you can have a good day one day and a bad day straight after. To be honest, me and Helen, we just drifted apart.”
After separating from his wife, Graham found an online dating site where he first got in contact with Maryanne Smith in January 2019.
He shared: “She was bubbly, she was good fun. She was nice to talk to. It was from that point I was able to help her a bit with money and it was then, only when I’d sold my house in March this year, that I was able to send big lots of money to her.
“We had this understanding that it was only ever going to be a loan and it was getting more up to a crescendo where she could be with me within days and I’d send her more money. Ultimately it didn’t happen. She never turned up.”
The pair had bonded over their common interests of motorbikes and religion and Graham was desperate to have her back in the UK.
Maryanne told Graham that she had taken over her parents’ gold trading business and was in Dubai arranging 200 kilos of gold to go back with her to the UK.
However, she first had to pay hefty export and import taxes to move the gold anywhere.
Graham shared: “She said she needed £18,000 for hotel bills and she’d got the goods that she was buying and needed to get these goods back to Britain. She ended up having quite a lot of money of mine.”
Over six months Graham sent Maryanne £17,500 to cover food, accommodation and security fees for the company looking after her gold.
Graham had asked for proof and appeared quite suspicious of his online romance a few times, when Maryanne would send documents as proof, got him to speak with her friends and even put him in contact with Interpol to corroborate her story.
At this point Graham had sold his precious vintage motorbike to help fund Maryanne’s needs.
In March 2020 his divorce was finalised and the family home was sold, with Maryanne promptly asking for a stake of the profits.
She told Graham it was the final amount needed and after it was sent she could be home in a matter of days.
Within two months Graham paid £50,000, but Maryanne instead had to go to America due to complications.
Graham continued: “She needed some extra money, £1,500 for hotel bills, I knew that was coming and I paid that off but now it’s left me with nothing. She should’ve been here within a day or two at that point. Now we’ve come to the second week since I’ve last spoken to her and I can see she’s never going to come back.”
By this point Graham had sent Maryanne £98,500.
Their relationship had mostly been conducted over email, as well as those who were trying to corroborate Maryanne’s story.
During the investigation on the show, it became clear that most of the emails were fake, with one being supposedly sent from the police actually from a reply address with the name captain747detective6.
Additionally there were misspellings in official emails, logos of legitimate companies had been reproduced on letterheads and the images that Maryanne claimed were her were found on a scam warning website dating back to 2013.
On the programme, co-host Ashley John-Baptiste texted Maryanne posing as a friend of Graham and asked how to get her to UK.
She replied: “I need about £8,500 to clear all my bills here because I have stayed so long. This is not the best time to talk, we just need to do as I said and I will be home.”
Mr John-Baptiste then also called the person posing as Maryanne, pretending to be Graham who had spoken on the phone with her before.
She said: “It’s been terrible! It’s a long story, we haven’t spoken in a while, I’ve had to go through so many stresses over here. All I want to do right now is come back home. I’ve spoken to your friend about how he could help so I don’t know if you can give him the go ahead to make the payment. I already told your friend I need about £8,500. That should be ok to sort out my hospital bills and sort out everything I need over here.”
However, as soon as Mr John-Baptiste admitted that he was not Graham, and that the call was being recorded for broadcast on the BBC, the line immediately went dead.
Confronted with the fact that he had been scammed, Graham said: “I’m really grateful because you’ve given me closure. Don’t let anybody else be trapped in the same method. Two years of being scammed!”
For Love or Money airs on BBC weekdays at 10:00.