[£80m in the UK]
By LESLEY-ANN JONES and EMILY HILL
Reprinted from the Daily Mail, London, UK
Few love more fervently than the middle-aged and lonely. Which is why last week’s revelation that divorcee Kate Roberts lavished £80,000 on a handsome American soldier – only to find out he was a fictitious creation of a heartless gang A gang is normally a group or society of associated criminals with a defined leadership and internal organization that identifies with or claims control over a territory or business practice in a community and engages, either individually or collectively, in illegal, and possibly violent, behavior. Online gangs are not limited by territory and may operate side by side with other gangs while engaging in crime online. Some members of criminal gangs are initiated (by going through a process of initiation), or have to prove their loyalty and right to belong by committing certain acts, usually theft or violence, or rituals. Gangs are usually rougher and more visible than scammer cartels, and more often arrested. of Nigerian conmen – came as yet another salutary warning that not everything is what it seems on the Worldwide Web.
Kate, who had to sell her house to pay off her debts, is one of a rising tide of women (and a number of men) who have fallen for a new and worrying crime phenomenon: the romantic scam or rom scam.
One widowed grandmother, identified only as Jean, lost more than £100,000 to a fake soldier who told her he was raising a teenage son alone. She answered his calls for help with bills, school fees and getting his ‘son’ out of military prison.
Lost £80,000: Kate Roberts thought she was being wooed by this U.S. soldier
Police managed to trace some of the money to accounts in Nigeria and California and recovered just over £13,000.
The scammers’ modus operand is simple. The fraudsters register with dating websites using false identities and photos of good-looking people culled from the web. They typically pay subscription fees with stolen or cloned credit card details – and act quickly to inveigle their way into long-distance ‘love affairs’ over the net.
Sometimes they will send gifts or flowers. They’ll flatter and flirt. They know, after all, that most members of the dating site wouldn’t be there unless they were lonely and vulnerable.
Once a relationship is established, they’ll move in for the sting. This can be an elaborate ruse lasting weeks – perhaps they will concoct a trip abroad and later a sudden crisis that leaves them in urgent need of cash.
‘We are seeing a great deal more romantic scamming. It appears to be mainly women who are the victims, although we do know men who are affected. Public awareness is vital. People must be told what’s going on.’
Sometimes they will spin a yarn about sending money to their victim’s current account and ask him or her to forward some of the money on. Weeks later, the original transfer will bounce, leaving the victim thousands of pounds in debt.
Often the victims are so embarrassed and ashamed that they don’t involve police.
However, Colin Woodcock, a senior investigator with SOCA – the Serious Organised Crime Agency – said: ‘This crime affects hundreds, maybe thousands of people in