Son of fraud victim issues warning about romance scams after Valentine's Day
The son of a South Yorkshire romance fraud victim has revealed he ended up on the verge of a breakdown due to the impact of the crime.
To help others, the man who is being referred to only as Richard, from Sheffield, is sharing his story with South Yorkshire Police over the Valentine's Day period so people can spot if a loved-one is falling for a romance fraudster.
His ordeal began last summer when Richard's elderly mother met a man on Facebook, who claimed to be an American aged in his 60s working as a diver.
Richard’s mother had separated from his father many years ago who sadly died last year.
Richard said: "My mum said she had been talking to a gentleman online. I said that's okay, as long as she wasn't going to be sending any money to him. Unfortunately everything I said to my mum went straight over her head because she was in a little bubble - she was in love and nothing else mattered.
"This man told my mum he had a sick son who needed medical care. As he'd made my mum fall so deeply in love with him, anything he said, she did."
Richard’s mum and the man met on Facebook but moved to Whatsapp and he used a copied internet image for a photo of himself.
Richard discovered his mum had been sending the man funds for his supposed sick son and for a visa.
The Post Office became concerned about the payments and alerted authorities. She was stopped from making withdrawals, but she continued attempting to send money.
Richard’s mum pawned some of her jewellery to generate finances and had a secret mobile phone to contact the man.
Richard, who eventually had to take control of his mum's finances, says his mum lost around £10,000 and the man has never been traced.
He said: "This has made my son ill and my relationship with my wife has been strained to breaking point. My brother has washed his hands of the situation and I've ended up having counselling sessions and taking anti-depressants.
He said: "We're absolutely distraught. If I hadn't been on this medication, I would have had a full breakdown by now.”
Andy Foster, South Yorkshire Police's Fraud Protect Officer said: "Unfortunately, romance fraud is an emerging trend in South Yorkshire and across the country. These scammers are totally heartless and prey on victim's sympathies or desire for love and attention. Sadly, they are also extremely difficult, if not impossible, to track down.
"You can protect yourself from romance fraud by avoiding giving away too many personal details to a stranger online, never sending money to someone you've only ever met online, and messaging potential love interests through reputable sites' messaging services. Fraudsters want to switch quickly to platforms like Whatsapp or Google Hangout so their messages asking you for money go undetected."
You can report romance fraud to Action Fraud - in confidence if you wish - at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.