Pensioner, 83, was duped out of more than £20k by romance scammer posing as US millionaire widower she met while playing Scrabble online | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

An 83-year-old woman was duped out of more than £20,000 by a romance scammer she met while playing Scrabble online. 

The pensioner, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, fell for the fraudster who posed as a 60-year-old American millionaire widower.

The conman said he would visit the UK to give her a second chance at love after her husband died a few years earlier.

The fraudster built a connection with the pensioner through the word game before he suggested they move the chat over to another platform. 

It was here that the relationship became more intense and that the requests for money began.  

The pensioner, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, fell for the fraudster who posed as a 60-year-old American millionaire widower

On one occasion he claimed his daughter urgently needed an operation to save her leg and that he did not have access to his bank card to pay a surgeon.

Another time, the fraudster said he needed cash to pay his bail after he was arrested in Istanbul, Turkey when he was returning from a business trip.

He even emailed a fake letter purporting to be from the United Nations, which stated he was a prisoner.

The woman sent more than £20,000 over an 18-month period before she suspected she had become a victim of fraud.

She told her brother, who went on to report the matter to Action Fraud following advice from Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

Neither the woman nor her brother have been identified by police.

The woman’s brother said: ‘The scammers are very clever. They target things like online Scrabble because they know this is a place where they’ll find older women with a bit of money.

‘And it always goes the same way – where the scammer starts off by building a relationship and then claims they haven’t got access to their bank card and need a bit of money and will pay you back.

‘We knew my sister’s behaviour had changed but we found out something was seriously wrong when she came to my wife and I for help. 

‘She said “I’ve been a fool, I’ve just been to the bank and I’ve been sending money to someone abroad”.

‘There have been many different scams in total that we know of targeting my sister, but I think it’s either all the same person or a group of scammers who are based somewhere in Nigeria.’

Women are more likely to lose more than men, with the average claim for them standing at £10,610, compared with £8,181 for men (Stock image)

‘She would ask to speak to him on the phone and there was always an excuse as to why he was unavailable. He’d say “Babe, I’m travelling” or “Babe, I’m doing this… I’ll catch you later”.

‘And he’d never use her name. It was always “Babe”, “Sweetie”, “Queen” or “Hunny”, because they have so many on the go that they don’t want to risk using the wrong name.’

The victim’s brother now has power of attorney and supports her bank in investigating suspicious transactions, police said.

READ MORE: Love hurts! Romance scams are up 40 per cent for men… but women tend to lose more to ‘persuasive’ fraudsters

The scammer, or scammers, are yet to be uncovered.

The brother continued: ‘Everyone should be suspicious if someone they don’t know contacts them online.

‘I dread to think what could have happened if my wife and I weren’t there for my sister. The scammers could have drained her account and left her with nothing.

‘The photos and videos that she received seemed genuine but I found out how to do a reverse image search and was able to show her they were all fake.

‘It makes me really angry because they’ve deliberately targeted someone who is elderly and vulnerable. But I hope that by speaking out this will help protect other victims.’

Detective Sergeant Stacey Shannon, of GMP’s economic crime unit, said: ‘My staff met (the brother) in December last year as he was giving a talk at a bank and directed him to report to Action Fraud.

‘Unfortunately, his story is far from unique and there are many people who fall victim to such scams. 

‘I hope his experience will help other victims realise what is happening to them and encourage them to make a report.

‘Everyone should be vigilant online, and I want to emphasise that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’

The story comes as romance fraudsters are expected to target individuals with new insurance scams this Valentine’s Day. 

Romance scammers may put pressure on victims to make fake insurance claims, the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) has warned, leaving victims left unable to drive, face losing their job or struggle to find work.

In a new twist on romance scams, victims may be asked to take out fraudulent insurance policies and then manipulated into making fake claims, so that criminals can bank the payout, the IFB said.

READ MORE: Heartbreaking romance and fraud scams worth billions of pounds revealed ahead of Valentine’s Day as authorities warn of new insurance scam-style con

The victims who will have unknowingly struck up a relationship with a crook, are tricked into making small claims at the start, which increase over time, leaving the person stuck in an endless criminal funding cycle.

Shelley Comb, IFB intelligence and investigations manager, said: ‘Being convicted of insurance fraud can have life-changing consequences; don’t risk it all to line someone’s pocket.’

This comes as it was discovered that more than £700,000 has been scammed out of people in Northern Ireland by fraudsters targeting individuals looking for love.

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, the Police Service of Northern Ireland revealed they received 73 reports of romance fraud between April last year and the start of February.

The total loss has been put at £713,133, including life-changing amounts of more than £100,000, £50,000 and £20,000, and other sums running into hundreds of pounds.

The biggest single loss reported to the PSNI was £130,000 after payments were made over a period of time to a woman the victim met online.

Police said the woman had claimed that money she was entitled to was tied up in an overseas business but she did not have a bank account to access the funds.

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