A Burnley woman has been conned out of £7,000 in an online dating scam.
The victim (46) exchanged messages with who she believed to be a potential love interest over Facebook. The man then told her that his six-year-old daughter had a brain tumour and needed £6,800 to fund a lifesaving operation in Europe.
The fraudster went so far as backing up his claim with pictures of a child allegedly in a coma lying in her hospital bed in Turkey and provided so-called medical reports from a consultant.
Moved by the man’s story and convinced it was true, the victim transferred the money to a UK bank account.
Det. Insp. Martin Kane, from the Lancashire Economic Crime Unit, said: “This case highlights the lengths that people go to target people online through what we call ‘romance scams’.
“These con artists will tell a story to pull at your heartstrings to gain enough sympathy and desire for them. Their method is to work up a relationship with you, tell you about a problem they are experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money.
“The problem is we see these types of frauds on a daily basis. They engage with their victims, question them, get lots of personal details and identify the victim’s vulnerability. They then use the most appropriate scam to target the person’s vulnerability.
“We are all potentially vulnerable to a fraud scam, it is just which type and what vulnerability have we ‘given away’.
“The victims we work with are from all walks of life, and always say that they can’t believe they fell for it. We even have victims who have fallen for the scam so much that they continue to transfer money when our officers have told them it is fictitious.
Detectives from the national Economic Crime Unit are now investigating this incident in Burnley and are working with the banks and the City Of London Police to locate the fraudsters and track the money.
Det. Insp. Kane added: “My advice is to be very aware of the potential to become an intended victim and be very careful of what personal information you reveal to a stranger online.
“These fraudsters are organised criminals, are ruthless and will use any technique or chat up line to get your money from you.
“In the dating world they are charming and will use photos of attractive men or women to get your attention. They are often in other countries with access to UK bank accounts but will pick random towns across England to build their story around.”
If you fear you have been a victim of any fraud you should report it via the Action Fraud website or by calling 0300 123 2040