A woman who was the victim of three romance fraudsters is urging people to be cautious when they’re approached by strangers online after she lost more than £30,000 to men she believed were in love with her.
Sophie, who is in her late 40s and lives in south Essex, was conned into sending cash and mobile phones, and had loans taken out in her name.
Some of the money was recovered thanks to the work of our officers, but the mental strain and emotional manipulation Sophie suffered led to her having a breakdown, damaged relationships with her family and saw her suspended from work for six months.
Sophie, who has three children, was looking for love on a dating site in 2019 after breaking up from her partner of 17 years.
She was messaged by a man who claimed to be of English and Swedish heritage and living in Dubai. The relationship developed but several months in, the man said his daughter was stranded in London after having had her bag stolen and needed cash immediately. Sophie transferred money for food and a hotel.
The man then started demanding money himself, made threats about Sophie’s children, and told her he’d send intimate photos to her work.
In total, he took out more than £25,000 in loans, rented hotel rooms, hired prostitutes, and spent hundreds of pounds in sex shops, all in Sophie’s name.
Sophie had a breakdown and went to the police.
She said: “I felt ashamed and humiliated. I was going through a lot of mental issues. I thought about taking my own life and that’s when my family came in and helped, and the police got the mental health team involved. My biggest fear was having my children taken away from me.
“Mentally, he stripped me of my happiness and wellbeing. I was low anyway and he was telling what I wanted and needed to hear. I thought he was in love with me.
“The police were brilliant. A CID inspector came from Chelmsford and he was lovely and really supportive. They gave me letters I could send to the banks and the credit card companies.
“I got a fair bit of the money back, but I had to go into an IVA (individual voluntary agreement to repay debt) so I can no longer get any credit or any cards for six years. I’m blacklisted because of what he has done to me. I can’t get a mortgage, I won’t have a house to leave my children.”
After a gap of more than a year, Sophie liked a post on Instagram which led to her being messaged by a man called Alan who said he was in the US Army.