A woman was conned out of £30,000 by a stranger she met on an online game.
Jessica, whose named has been changed by police keep her anonymous, was caught out by a scam known as ‘romance fraud.’
Police describe the victim from Staffordshire as a woman living a comfortable existence including a nice house and car.
However, Stoke-On-Trent Live reports that her life was turned upside down after she fell for a scam.
In 2011 Jessica began playing the Scrabble app ‘Words with Friends’ where she would often talk to strangers and make online friends.
However in June this year a stranger challenged her to a game, which led to him seducing her and conning her out of thousands of pounds.
Jessica said: "He told me he lived in San Jose, California. His father was from the USA and his mother from Malta. The pictures he sent indicated that he was a very good looking man.
“He told me he had divorced his wife and lost their two children in a car accident three years ago.”
As they got to know each other better their relationship intensified, with the fraudster telling Jessica he loved her and sending her red roses.
Jessica received a number of photos and videos, including pictures of expensive flight tickets, to try and prove the lavish lifestyle he could apparently offer.
The ongoing relationship gave Jessica a happiness she had not known for a long time, which unfortunately led her to make some rash financial decisions.
"I told him I wanted to book a cruise because I was feeling so much better thanks to him. He told me not to book it until we met up, but I couldn’t resist it and booked a ticket for me and him," she said.
"This was when the scamming really started. He begged me to allow him to pay for the cruise, I refused and told him, pay me back when you see me.
“He made me feel guilty for calling him a liar and not caring, because I wouldn’t accept his gratitude. So he tried to send me the money, and then he shared pictures claiming that all his $1.5m fortune was now frozen following a trip overseas.
“The conversation quickly turned and before I knew it I had agreed to send him £3,500 to cover necessities like food and medical supplies.
“He said he had 65 staff underneath him that he needed to provide for and so two days later he convinced me to send a further £26,350."
Unfortunately the fraudster did not stop there, contacting Jessica in another two or three days and asking for an additional £7,150 as he had a problem at one of his oil rigs and needed money to fly over a specialist from Turkey.
By this time Jessica had run out of money and so her bank froze her account and said they suspected she had become victim to a scam.
"I struggled for 10 days on limited money and then luckily I managed to get some cash out to see me through," she said.
"I was visiting the bank daily, begging them to unfreeze my accounts as I had bills to pay. I was too ashamed to ask any friends or family for help, they wouldn’t believe that I would be so stupid to give my hard-earned money to a stranger."
The detective was able to demonstrate that the photo of the man she thought she was talking to was actually taken from a social media profile of a random man in Norway.
In reality her relationship was with a group of fraudsters who were most likely performing the same scam to a number of victims at any one time.
When asked how she felt when she realised it was a scam, Jessica said: "To be honest, I just felt stupid. That money was there for a rainy day and retirement so that I could go and enjoy myself.
“But, it’s gone now, never to be seen again. The only positive is that I’m a stronger person for it and now more aware of how easily people can be manipulated into something they want to believe is true."
Action Fraud and Staffordshire Police detectives are currently investigating this and many other examples of romance fraud, but unfortunately securing convictions and getting money back can be very difficult.
For the best advice on how to spot a romance scam before it is too late, go to Action Fraud . If you think you are a victim of any sort of fraud, please contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
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