‘Callous’ romance fraudster conned woman out of £20,000 | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Watch: Woman was conned out of £20k by romance fraudster

A woman who was conned out of £20,000 by a romance fraudster is campaigning to make the crime a specific offence in law.

Suzanne Famula, 39, was duped by “callous” 41-year-old Christopher Harris after meeting him on online dating site Hinge in November 2020.

Car salesman Harris, who has 16 previous convictions for more than 25 offences, including nine fraud-related cases, initially told Suzanne he had long-term health problems and needed £400 to “go private” to receive “proper care”.

During their five-month relationship, Harris continued to ask for money, claiming that he was too unwell to work and needed it to cover medical expenses, mortgage payments and bills.

The most Suzanne ever sent him in one go was £1200, which he said he needed for a hospital procedure.

In August 2021, Suzanne realized she had been the victim of fraud and called off the relationship – but she had already handed over £20,810.

On 24 February 2023, Harris was sentenced to 30 months in prison at St Albans Crown Court after pleading guilty to fraud by false representation, and for failing to answer to court.

He received 29 months in prison as well as being given a restraining order against contacting his victim.

Suzanne Famula was conned out of over £20,000 after meeting a man online. (SWNS)

Suzanne Famula was the victim of a romance scam. (SWNS)

Suzanne is speaking out for the first time in the hopes that romance fraud will be treated as a more serious crime.

Suzanne, a hairdresser from Hertfordshire, said: “I had no idea someone could be so callous.

“He made me trust him and open up to him, but the whole thing was a lie.

“He told me he was ill and I felt sorry for him.

“He’d ask for small amounts of money at a time, so I didn’t really notice at first.

“But it quickly added up, and before I knew it, I’d given him all my savings.

“It’s been a nightmare, and I’ve felt disrespected and judged throughout the whole process”

‘I’d been taken for a mug’

When the pair first met on Hinge, Suzanne said she was feeling ”vulnerable” as her father had just suffered a stroke.

They spoke on and off for a few months before becoming a couple in April 2021.

Throughout their relationship, Harris claimed to have a plethora of health conditions, including high blood pressure and a heart condition.

Due to his supposed bad health, he would often cancel plans to see Suzanne and ask her to take him to Bedford Hospital for appointments.

On 27 July 2021, Suzanne received a text from an unknown number claiming to be Harris’s mother.

The text said that Harris was in trouble and needed some money.

Suzanne, despite never having met his mother, went over to her house to ask what was going on. However, his mother denied sending the texts from her phone and claimed to have “no idea” about her son’s heart operation.

Suzanne added: “It suddenly hit me, and I knew I’d been taken for a mug.”


Suzanne is speaking out for the first time. (SWNS)

She contacted Money Claims Online, a part of the government website for small claims court relating to large sums of money and began the process to get justice and her money back.

In October 2021, three months after the case had been with the civil court, Suzanne went to the police after feeling there was “a lack of support and communication.”

At a hearing on 14 December 2022, prosecutor Cassandra Roberts explained that after investigating his HSBC and Barclays bank accounts, the CPS concluded that Harris had pocketed Suzanne’s cash.

Despite the prison sentence, Suzanne feels more needs to be done to support victims of romance fraud and has started a petition to make it a specific offence and to create a register for romance fraudsters.

Suzanne said: “I don’t think this crime is taken seriously enough. I wasn’t taken seriously or respected.”

Word writing text Romance Scam. Business concept for Dating Cheat Love Embarrassed Fraud Cyber Couple Affair written Cardboard Piece the jute background Marker and Hearts next to it.Word writing text Romance Scam. Business concept for Dating Cheat Love Embarrassed Fraud Cyber Couple Affair written Cardboard Piece the jute background Marker and Hearts next to it.

There are several ways to spot a romance scam. (Getty)

Common romance scammer behaviours

A list of common scammer behaviours to watch out for and report from Get Safe Online.

  • Declarations of love – If someone you are in contact with starts declaring their love for you within a matter of weeks (or even days or hours), be cautious.

  • Requests for money – This really should send alarm bells ringing whatever the form the request comes in. Scammers will look to gain your sympathy with the stories they tell.

  • Someone offering you money – These are always scams. The same goes for anyone with a sure-fire get rich quick schemes. The only one trying to get rich quick is the scammer as he or she fishes for your bank details or other financial information.

  • Threats and blackmail – Some scammers have tried to threaten money out of people for not showing pictures, webcam footage or messages that they have managed to get out of them online.

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