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The women still falling prey to Facebook dating scams with Danish doctor’s face | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Deep in rural Missouri, Lauren McEwen thought little of it when she received a Facebook friend request from an attractive man apparently living a few hundred miles away in Tennessee. They shared several mutual friends and, assuming he was someone who originated from her hometown, she accepted.

McEwen, 70, a divorced grandmother, was happily single and had not envisaged romance in her life before the man, who called himself Ace Swift, began sending her messages. An online relationship soon began.

But she was even less prepared for the reality that the man in the photographs was Dr Christian Boving, a doctor and television personality based in Denmark, who The Times revealed last year was a victim of widespread identity theft by romance scammers targeting potentially thousands of women across the world.

Lauren McEwen, 70, accepted a scammer’s Facebook friend request because they appeared as a friend of family members

“It did hurt. It was a real let-down, it left me with a real ‘kicked in the stomach’ feeling. It took me a couple of weeks to come to terms with it,” McEwen said.

She is one of several new victims who have chosen to speak out about their experiences with Boving’s impersonators amid claims that Meta, which owns Facebook, has failed to clamp down on fake profiles using the doctor’s images.

Last year The Times revealed that an estimated 140,000 people lose money on Meta’s platforms each year.

There was a 29 per cent rise in the number of romance scams and victims lost £18.5 million to this kind of fraud in the first six months of last year.

Research shows that 60 per cent of all reported “authorised push payment” fraud, where a customer is tricked into authorising a payment to an account controlled by a criminal, is connected to Meta.

Others affected include a Ukrainian woman who had recently fled her war-torn home country when she was targeted by a romance scammer passing off Boving’s photographs as his own.

Another lost a substantial sum of money while believing they were investing in a legitimate scheme. The Times also spoke to a family of a woman who cannot convince her to this day that the man she believes she is in a relationship with is a fraudster.

While fake profiles using Boving’s images have appeared on various social media websites and dating apps, the problem is particularly acute on Facebook.

Boving has accused Meta of consistently failing to delete fake profiles as he called for more stringent verification methods to prevent the accounts from being created in the first place.

The real Dr Christian Boving

Boving, who works as a GP and owns a skincare brand, is a public figure in Denmark and has shared many details of his life on social media.

He formerly worked for the Danish royal family on their yacht and, as well as serving in the military, has made regular television appearances.

But in countries outside Denmark, many women have no idea of the real identity of the cheerful and good-looking man in the photographs.

Boving, who is gay and has a husband, first became aware of fraudsters using his identity more than a decade ago.

But in recent years, the number of fake profiles has soared and the issue has grown out of control.

Boving hoped that speaking out about the issue in December would bring about some change.

Although more victims were alerted to the truth and ceased contact with the men using his images, many profiles remain online and he is starting to lose hope.

“I think my case is lost. I don’t think this will ever stop for me”, he said.

In July, Boving emailed Meta with a long list of fake profiles that he said had not been removed after being reported.

Boving has made multiple requests to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to remove fraudulent adverts using his photo

Boving has made multiple requests to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to remove fraudulent adverts using his photo

Although The Times also sent this list to Meta in December, a number of those profiles remained active this month.

Meta had also pledged to place features designed to tackle account impersonation on Boving’s genuine Facebook and Instagram accounts.

But he has not noticed a difference and has called for Meta to make it harder for accounts to be set up in the first place, such as requiring ID from new users.

“I just wish to be free of it”, he said.

“But I don’t think I can be free. I would love it if Meta actually took me seriously and did something about it. That’s my issue right now. I want them to take action and they don’t. It seems like the more profiles they have, the more money they earn — I don’t know.”

He recently received messages from a Danish woman who was “broken” after scammers used her photographs and wanted his advice on how to deal with it.

But Boving continues to receive scores of messages from victims scammed by people posing as him.

“There are a lot of people whose pictures are being used or who have been falling for the fake profiles who are mentally torn apart”, he added.

“They are depressed, they are mentally broken down.”

Victims approached with stealth on Facebook

Many of the scammers using Boving’s images have targeted their victims with stealth and care. McEwen, who had not dated in ten years, said she would never normally engage with an online approach from a stranger. But the scammer had managed to become Facebook friends with some of her relatives before making his approach.

Lauren McEwen was showered with compliments by a scammer calling himself Ace Swift

Lauren McEwen was showered with compliments by a scammer calling himself Ace Swift


“So I thought, well, this must have been somebody who we knew at some point that moved away. I didn’t have any qualms about accepting his friend request,” she said.

At that point in her life, she was focused on her grandchildren and had not been interested in looking for a new relationship.

But after the man, Ace Swift, struck up conversation last October and began showering her with compliments, she began to feel differently.

“I didn’t think anything was missing in my life, until this man started talking to me and telling me what a wonderful personality I had, how I was so beautiful and how he really wanted to meet someone”, McEwen recounted.

She pointed out to the man that he was much younger than her and questioned his interest.

But Swift, who claimed he was an emergency medical technician, spun a story about a previous girlfriend who only cared about money and had no interest in his daughter.

As McEwen was self-conscious about her appearance, she did not press him to start video calls, admitting there was “a little bit of vanity” from her side due to their age difference. She was reassured by the volume of photographs Swift sent her, unaware that they had been mined from Boving’s accounts.

While the scammer had not asked McEwen for money, she suspects that they were playing a longer game.

“They are probably trying to scam lots of women that they are talking to so if you get one that’s a little reluctant, they just talk to her a little longer and don’t jump in”, she said.

McEwen realised the truth in December after coming across an awareness group with warnings about the scammers.

“It hurt my feelings, because I thought we did have a connection”, she said.

Like many romance scam victims, she suspects she knew deep down that something was not right.

“I guess I knew underneath — I probably didn’t really want to know it. I was enjoying the attention and the compliments,” she added.

PTSD after thousands of pounds lost in scam

Another woman, Emily, whose real identity is being protected, revealed how she had engaged with a scammer for four years before learning that the man in the images was Boving.

The pair had met in a local entrepreneurs group on Facebook in 2019 and struck up a friendship, which later became romantic.

At the time, she described feeling “isolated and alone” after struggling with dating.

Emily, who is in her 40s and lives in Canada, ultimately lost more than C$16,000 (£9,335) following an investment and romance scam carried out by the scammer, who called himself Marcos and claimed he was a doctor working overseas.

She believed she was paying into a legitimate investment scheme and had also agreed to send separate payments to help fund vet bills for the man’s sick dog.

But at the end of last year, Emily became angry when she was asked for more money, this time to help the man in a legal case.

It was only in January after she finally reverse-searched the man’s images, that she discovered the truth.

“It was so shocking when I found out”, she said.

“I had to take sick days from work. I’m still feeling this, and seeing a therapist. Part of me believed it was a relationship, when it wasn’t, and then it’s also the money loss. It’s both things.”

Emily, who has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has reported the case to police in Canada.

She is now “piecing together how [the scammer] was able to infiltrate my defences so well”, she added.

“I realise that with these scammers, they find an opening.

“Feeling isolated and alone at the time really added to it. I’m making sure I’m never this vulnerable again.”

Artificial intelligence used to produce fake video

Yulianna Olefirenko, 32, from Ukraine, started to feel something was wrong when the man she was in contact with became angry after she refused to send him money

Yulianna Olefirenko, 32, from Ukraine, started to feel something was wrong when the man she was in contact with became angry after she refused to send him money

Yulianna Olefirenko, 32, had also been vulnerable when she was scammed by a man using Boving’s images who called himself Michael. Originally from Ukraine, she had fled her home country and had recently lost her father when the man contacted her via Instagram in July 2023.

“My emotional state was not good”, she recalled.

Micheal claimed he was an American surgeon working in Syria and the pair began talking regularly.

Olefirenko, who now lives in Canada, claims the man even used artificial intelligence on videos so she believed she was talking to the real owner of the photos.

“He texted every morning, it was like a daily ritual”, she recalled.

“I woke up every morning and [the] first thing I did was open my phone and read. They were romantic messages that would make any girl’s heart swell. There was so much feeling and emotion and care in each message.”

She began to feel something was wrong after Michael asked for her involvement in his investment company and became angry when she refused.

When Olefirenko discovered she had been scammed, she “couldn’t take it”, she recalled. “The very realisation that it’s all a lie and you’ve been used just for money … it’s so cynical, so vile and unfeeling and heartless.”

In some cases, victims of romance scams refuse to accept the truth, even when confronted with evidence. This is true of Alice, not her real name, who lives in the US and has continued in a fake relationship with a scammer using Boving’s images despite desperate interventions by her family.

At one point, her aunt wrote to Boving to ask for his help. He agreed to film a video for Alice to explain that she had been scammed by someone who had stolen his pictures.

“I sent it to her and she still didn’t believe it”, the aunt said.

“She thinks that I created a fake video to send to her.”

“I think it is that she’s so desperate for love, and she was so excited about talking to this person, that she’s in denial and doesn’t want to accept the fact that she’s talking to a scammer.

“She wants to believe that it is real.”

Scam the scammer

It remains unclear who the scammers are, but there are suspicions that some may operate as part of organised groups. Jane, not her real name, decided to ‘scam the scammer’ when she was messaged out of the blue by a man who called himself Duran. She researched the stranger and found out he was using Boving’s images.

“I thought, OK, let me see how long it takes for this guy to crumble”, she said.

“I know these people take advantage of so many women around the world. If he does it to me, it’s one less person that he’s doing it to.”

Jane, who continues to talk to the scammer to this day and is gathering evidence, noticed that Duran always replied at every hour of the day. She also noticed that his spelling and language would sometimes change and suspects that multiple people are using that account to talk to women.

At one point, she had a video call with the man. Jane told him her camera was faulty to avoid showing her face but described having a conversation with an “AI generated robot” of Boving. The scammer has already asked her to send money to a US bank and Jane is carefully storing the details of everything she is sent.

“I want to see how far he will go”, she added.

“If he’s going to waste my time, I will waste his time twice as much.”

Scammers remain at large

Mary Chater, 65, from England, was the first victim of romance scammers using Boving’s pictures to speak out last year. Since then, she has met the doctor on a video interview with the BBC in continued efforts to raise awareness.

“In one way, it brought it all back with terrible clarity,” she said of their meeting.

“But in another way, it sort of put it all to bed as well because, I realised I was one of many, maybe thousands, I don’t know, who have been taken in by this very attractive face.”

But Chater, who is the widow of Julian Curry, the British actor best known for playing Claude Erskine-Browne in Rumpole of the Bailey, remains frustrated that scammers are continuing to operate.

“It kind of put my difficulties into proportion when Christian said it had been going on for ten years,” she said.

“I just can’t see why Facebook isn’t doing anything apart from the fact it will impact on the money that they rake in.”

While Chater hopes that continuing to talk about what happened will help other victims, she still finds it “exhausting” to talk about.

“It was such a visceral experience. It just ate into me”, she added. “I’ve had to kind of pull myself up and get going again and it was very difficult.”

Meta is clear that accounts that impersonate someone else are against its rules. It said it had removed a number of accounts flagged to them and was continuing to investigate.

The company claims it does not allow fraudulent activity and works closely with law enforcement to support investigations and keep scammers off its platforms.

Meta said that between October and December last year, it took action on over 690 million fake accounts on Facebook, 99 per cent of which it found before they were reported.

The company encouraged anyone who believed they had spotted content or an account they believed to be fake to report it using its in-app tools and said it had a trained team of reviewers who checked reports 24 hours a day.

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