London’s Metropolitan Police force is warning internet users again to be vigilant online after revealing that a woman was tricked into handing over a staggering £1.6 million to fraudsters.
The victim, a woman in her 40s from Hillingdon, met a man calling himself ‘Christian Anderson’ on a dating site back in February 2014.
After meeting offline a few weeks later, he began to reel her in with stories about how he worked in the oil industry, that he was divorced and had a daughter, and that his father and sister died of cancer.
The woman fell for his story and, believing they were going to move in together once he ‘returned from Africa’, gave him money for various things including 25,000 for a police fine and £170,000 to pay for an ‘anti-terrorist certificate’.
She even travelled to Amsterdam to meet a man claiming to be holding ‘Anderson’s’ inheritance—non-existent money which he promised would help set them up with a new life together.
The victim apparently questioned Anderson’s stories several times but on each occasion he sent her false documents or made up excuses for why he could not send her evidence.
Two of the gang—31-year-old Ife Ojo and Olusegun Agbaje, 43—were eventually caught by the Met’s Falcon cybercrime division.
Over the past year alone Falcon has investigated love scams affecting 100 people involving £4 million in losses, the Met revealed.
“The suspects showered them with compliments and confided their seemingly innermost secrets to them. In many cases, the suspects were talking to their victims online or over the phone for hours every day,” said Falcon’s DCI Gary Miles.
“Romance scams are not the most prevalent fraud but the financial and emotional impact to victims is huge. Many victims borrow money from friends and family to pay the suspects. Victims typically feel embarrassed and ashamed when they realize they have been duped, so they often don’t report what has happened to them or even confide in a friend.”
Detectives are now searching for other members of the gang and trying to establish if there are any more victims.
In the meantime, Falcon has been collaborating with the Online Dating Association on information sharing and pressed home the importance of its members quickly identifying and disabling fraudsters’ profiles.