New warning over dating scams

Consumers who use dating sites are being warned never to hand over money to people they meet online – no matter how genuine they seem – after a Leicester woman racked up £80,000 debts in a classic scam.
The case was highlighted on BBC One’s Inside Out, which warned the practice was widespread, although most victims were too ashamed to come forward.
Kate Roberts, 47, of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, was lured in when she posted a profile on Friends Reunited Dating in October 2009.
She was soon exchanging emails with a man calling himself Sergeant Ray Smith and chatting to him several times a day on MSN Messenger. Smith claimed to be a widowed US soldier serving in Iraq, with an 11-year-old daughter.
But little beknown to Roberts, Sergeant Smith was actually a front for a gang of cyber criminals operating out of Nigeria.
The gang provided pictures of the soldier and his daughter to bait the trap, and began to reel in their victim with an initial request for £225 for a phone line.
Then, a man with an American accent calling himself Mark began ringing her almost every day.
Roberts said: “I did have doubts, but everything he told me sounded reasonable and I was in love. He told me he couldn’t tell me much about his job for security reasons and I accepted that.”
In a classic operation, the scammers then ramped up the requests for cash, including one for £20,000 to buy the leave passes Smith needed to be united with his cyberlove.
In total, Roberts coughed up £80,000 in regular payments of thousands via Western Union. She even paid cash directly into what she believed was his bank account as he told her he had no money.
Roberts explained: “One day he just stopped emailing me and didn’t call me. I drove down to an army base in Cambridgeshire, which he’d told me he had been in for three years, but they had never heard of him. I called the police and my phone company traced the phone he had used back to a mobile number in Nigeria.”
The victim was later forced to sell her home to pay off the debts she racked up.

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