Norfolk grandmother loses �15k and threatened by fraudsters in online dating scam
A Norfolk grandmother pawned her jewellery, borrowed money from loan sharks and lied to her friends after becoming ensnared in a �15,000 dating scam.
The 62-year-old woman from Breckland, who wishes to remain anonymous, fell for a web of lies and threats spun from Afghanistan, Ghana and Norfolk through a dating website.
Having joined the website in September 2011 after getting a divorce, the grandmother met a man called Austin claiming to be French and working as a peacekeeper in Afghanistan.
Wooing her through love poetry and YouTube clips of her favourite songs, the fraudster built up her trust over two months of sending messages on the site.
'He was really sweet,' she said. 'He took interest in what I did.'
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He sent her photos of a home in France they would live in together and set out a bright future for the two of them.
But there was a snare in the dream.
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The con artist told the Norfolk grandmother he needed to send her a pack of documents and a piece of jewellery in case something happened to him in war-torn Afghanistan.
She gave him her address but was then contacted by a man calling himself Raymond who claimed to be a diplomat. He said the package was stuck in Ghana and they needed money to send it to her.
She agreed, and more cash was demanded. When she said she could not pay 'Raymond' threatened to send thugs to her Breckland home to hurt her.
The fraudsters then told her the package had left Ghana but was stuck at customs at Heathrow and she was asked to pay more money.
She did, losing �15,000 through 12 money transfers which can not be traced.
Borrowing money from shady characters, getting a loan on her car, pawning jewellery and asking friends for help, the woman was forced to lie to get the cash together.
She told the EDP: 'I lied through my teeth to people. I was gullible and very naive. Where I grew up people didn't even lock their doors. I have been very sheltered. I was just looking for friendship.'
Trading Standards have helped to arrange debt counselling for the woman.
And Ann Jackson, trading standards officer at Norfolk County Council, said: 'This is a very sad tale, where a lady seeking a relationship had her trust built up through regular contact on an online dating site, only to be exploited.
'Whilst there are many genuine people out there looking for love on online dating sites, her story, and the consequences of handing over money are certainly worth bearing in mind.'
•Norfolk Trading Standards are running scam awareness surgeries throughout February. For details visit www.norfolk.gov.uk