ONLINE RELATIONSHIP

Emotional scam: ‘I regret giving £ 300,000 to a man I met online’

It was May 2019 when Sophia began chatting with Aaron on the dating site.

She was looking for a place to settle down and get married. Aaron answers that he was. They talk more, and things start to go faster.

Sophia did not expect to find out later that she would find herself without a partner and in debt of £ 300,000, after giving cash to a man she met. 300,000 pounds is more than $ 400,000 or more than 900mil Tanzanian shillings or 45mil Kenyan shillings.

Thinking of being a victim of “sexual fraud”, he tells BBC Asian Network that he wants dating programs to take more action to prevent this type of fraud.

‘False mortgage documents’

Sophia and the man she thought were her partner started talking about buying a house together – they never met in real life. Looking back, Sophia believes that she has been told “many lies” about their future.

He says he created forged mortgage documents and forged emails to lawyers. Sophia spent Aaron a huge amount of money which she was asking him for as part of their home purchase plan.

“I took out a loan worth thousands and spent all my savings, which is equivalent to around 50,000-60,000 pounds.

“Then I borrowed a lot of money from my family and friends,” he admits.

In total, Sophia says she spent about £ 300,000.

He is not the only one who has fallen into the trap of sexual immorality. According to the British Currency, a 20% increase in electronic money laundering fraud associated with sexual fraud was recorded between 2019 and 2020.

When she asked for an additional £ 50,000, Sophia decided it was time to question her. She called her bank, where she thought she had a joint account with Aaron. They told him that his name was not on the account statements.

“I felt like the ground was open under my feet. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I was in a very bad dream,” he said.

“You see the story, you read the story, you hear other people’s stories, but you think it won’t happen to you,” he explains.

“But it happened, because of the emotional abuse that you don’t realize you are going through,” he continues.

“‘Call the police and call the police,” Sophia then said.

“He was actually a young man working at Barclays who said, ‘you have to put down the phone and call the police right now’.

And he did. Thames Valley police are informing the BBC that they are investigating allegations of sexual fraud, which were reported through Action Fraud in January 2020.

No arrests have been made, but investigations are ongoing. She has not confirmed or denied the names or identities of the suspects or victims in this case. Two years later, Sophia feels that she is in a better position. A recent review by a financial mediator proved her correct.

This means that, according to the Compensation Model (CRM) model, Sophia has been an authorized victim, and that banks must repay their money legally. The process of getting her money back from the bank was not easy for Sophia.

“They were very quick to pull me aside and say ‘no, it’s not a scam, you know this person’,” he says.

Although Sophia ended up getting a loan from another bank, the Nation Building Agency was the only one that did not return the money immediately.

“After the submission of the mediator and the definition of a high-profile scandal, we fully accept the proposal to ensure that the member is paid in full, with compensation interest, and we apologize if, in part, we have caused further inconvenience.”

Mental effects Throughout that period, Sophia suffered from mental retardation.

“I had to take an emergency vacation week because my head was somewhere else … the emotional trauma and pain I felt seeing my family’s eyes.”

Today, Sophia is just happy to be out of this stressful time.

“My debts have been paid, all my debts have been paid, all my family and friends have returned,” he says.

“I miss a little money, but now I can move on with my life.”

But he does not want his story to be in vain. He wants more people to be aware of the dangers of trusting those in dating programs.

“No confirmation. No CRB checks issued, no employee inspections conducted.”

He also hopes other people who may find themselves in such a situation are aware of their rights when it comes to challenging banks.

Advice

  • People who date online should not send money, allow someone else to access their bank account, transfer money or take a loan on behalf of someone else.
  • You must not hand over copies of personal documents such as a passport or driver’s license.
  • Don’t invest in someone else’s advice
  • Do not receive or send parcels on behalf of someone else
  • Perform the opposite image search on the search engine to see if the person is using a fake image
  • Contact your bank immediately if you think you have been the victim of fraud and reporting to an online crime organization.