These days, vast numbers of people turn to modern technology to find friendship, romance, and love, and many are lucky enough to meet the perfect person. However, for some, it ends up disastrously, as the person they meet turns out to be a scammer whose only goal is to defraud them out of money.
This is what happened to 50-year-old Rachel Elwell from the West Midlands, who recently spoke about her experience. Ms Elwell revealed she had been conned out of nearly £113,000 and faces bankruptcy after being scammed by someone she met through an online dating site.
One of the rising cases of fraud
Ms Elwell’s story is sadly not an isolated case. Data shows romance fraud has risen during the past year, with more and more people turning to the internet during Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns to find companionship.
According to Ms Elwell, she connected with the man online, who told her he lived close to her but was currently working in Ukraine. He also told her he had been affected by a range of serious issues and that loan sharks had taken him captive.
With his range of tall stories, the man convinced Ms Elwell to part with her cash. She now faces being declared bankrupt because of the scam.
Speaking about her decision to give the man money, she said, "When he said to me his life was in danger and I didn't hear from him, I thought he'd been murdered. Can you imagine feeling you're responsible for whether someone lives or dies?"
She added that the man had made contact with her at the start of this year, and he looked nice on the photos he had online. In addition, she said that they seemed to have many things in common and was convinced he was a genuine and open person who had just fallen on bad times.
Unfortunately, Ms Elwell fell for an all-too-familiar story. The man told her he was stuck in Ukraine and it would be some weeks before they could meet in person. Once he had gained her confidence, he called again to say he needed money to pay taxes before he could begin work in the area.
He even sent her what he claimed were copies of letters from the tax office demanding money and said he had cashed in his pension and sold his car to raise the cash. Ms Elwell then decided to help him by sending him money.
After this, the man claimed that debt collectors had captured him. He even sent her photos of himself supposedly locked in a basement by his captors.
Border officials confirmed it was all a scam
When the man was finally due to fly back in mid-March, Ms Elwell went to Heathrow Airport to meet him. It was here that Border Force officials told her from the man had been arrested, and the whole thing had been a scam.
Ms Elwell also went to the house where the man had claimed his daughter and the housekeeper lived but found no such people living there.
Police officials have said this type of crime has become increasingly common and that the lives of many trusting people are being devastated by the actions of scammers.