Roy Twigg was shocked when two policemen knocked on his door to inquire if he had been transferring money to a woman named Donna – the woman he had been in a relationship with.
“When they said well, it’s fraud, she’s not who she says she is, I just had to lean against the wall or else I’d have collapsed,” Roy shared with Panorama.
Roy, 66, had been ‘catfished’ after developing a relationship over a few months, spending close to $130,000 on a woman by the name of ‘Donna.’
Catfishing is defined as “to lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona,” according to Google.
Now Roy is using his pension to pay off creditors but shares how it is not the humiliation of being hoodwinked that stings but how his loneliness was manipulated.
“I thought we were in love. I thought we were going to get married. I had no suspicion whatsoever. The money seemed to be for plausible things,” he says. “You reckon drink and drugs are big killers, but loneliness is a bigger killer than any of them, and trying not to be lonely is what I do every day.”
Unfortunately, it is all too common for many to be affected by ‘romance fraud.’
And it makes sense as many nowadays use dating apps and site to find and develop relationships.
The national fraud and cybercrime center, Action Fraud, receives up to 10 reports of romance fraud per day and is considered the highest level of organized international crime.
The victims are usually women between their mid-40s and 60s.
And while most folks believe it could never happen to them, it happens even to the brightest among us. Gary Miles, Detective Chief Inspector of Metropolitan Police’s Falcon unit, tackles fraud along with cybercrime. Miles shares how the techniques skilled scammers use are getting better by the day, sometimes conning even the highly educated.
Picking out potential victims is what happens after scammers ask an extensive set of questions, created to stir up key financial information.
And usually, these scammers are not just talking with one person.
“These fraudsters will show a lot of interest, pay them compliments and focus on getting certain details out of them,” Miles shares.
After the scammer decides to move forward with a victim, the scammer will move the conversation off the site or app to text or email so they become harder to trace. It is also noted to be an attempt to both isolate the victim and give the victim the illusion of being more connected as a love interest.
“It can affect anyone,” he says. “I’ve known victims of all ages and both sexes. I’ve had to send officers to far flung parts of the country to convince people that they are being defrauded.”
And halting the process can prove to be a challenge as so many victims due to stigma, do not report the fraud.
And when victims do share the incident, the money can be very difficult to trace as huge amounts of cash potentially have gone through a quite a few UK or US bank accounts that eventually end up in West Africa.
Another common ploy scammers do is “come clean” when they are about to be discovered, admitting to scamming but then claiming ‘they still love you, here is what I look like, will you still love me.’
And if you have been burned before, odds are — you will be targeted again.
Soon after Roy Twiggs’ huge financial loss, he was quickly contacted online by a woman by the name of Sherry. They quickly began talking and soon enough, she began asking for money.
Thankfully, a Panorama reporter convinced Roy he was being hoodwinked again.
“I just want someone to be with and talk to,” he shared quietly, “I’m not a brilliant catch. And that’s all there is to it.”
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