A woman from Leicestershire was tricked out of almost £40,000 after being targeted by a man who claimed he loved her on a dating app.
The 43-year-old woman, who has not been identified, was first contacted by a man, who was calling himself Mike, 18 months ago.
He claimed he was from Leicester and a year younger than her but said he was in the Army and based in Nigeria.
The pair began exchanging messages over a period of weeks, which then ran into months, leading the victim to believe they were developing a close relationship.
She said: "He made the first move and of course I was flattered.
"We spoke via messenger or WhatsApp mainly and it felt like we had something. He told me he wanted to be with me and he dropped in familiar place names so I felt like he was telling the truth and we had things in common.
"He complimented me all the time and made me feel good about myself. We would message a normal amount – sometimes three or four messages a day.
"He didn’t bombard me. He told me he was waiting for some kind of inheritance but that he was struggling for money and in debt until he received it. Eventually he told me he wanted to marry me."
It was at this point that the scammer asked the victim if she could send him money.
At first he asked for £40, which she says she was more than happy to help him out with.
He told her that the person she was transferring to was an Army agent, which was believable as she didn't know how easy it would be for him to personally access money whilst he was in the Army.
The victim continued by explaining that although the amount of money he asked for kept growing, she was already in love with him.
She said: "I would do anything to keep him happy and he always told me he would pay me back. It was just a case of waiting for his inheritance.”
During this time the victim ended up sending him nearly £40,000 by taking out three bank loans and giving him all of her life savings.
The pair never met in real life and only spoke on the phone.
“He always said it was difficult because of his work but by then I had been completely sucked into his lies. There was always a plausible explanation for things."
'He made me think he cared about me'
“But I was getting frustrated and then I ran out of money and he still kept asking for more. Now I can see how I was duped into sending him money.
"He made me think he cared about me but really all he cared about was the cash.
"I feel like if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
"You usually think of romance fraud targeting someone much older, but clearly that wasn’t the case. This whole episode has knocked my confidence massively.
"I feel so angry that there are people out there who do this so I hope that my story can act as a warning to others not to believe everything someone is telling you and to look out for the warning signs and check out what they’re saying.”
According to Leicestershire Police, warning signs for romance fraud include:
Travelling a lot, working abroad or saying they are posted overseas which provides an excuse not to meet in person.
Complimenting you frequently and declaring their love early on.
Little or no digital footprint with very attractive photos.
Making excuses when asked to video call or meet in person.
Asking for a small amount of money at first and perhaps using a tragic reason, such as a death, as to why they might need it.
Nicole McIntyre from Leicestershire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “All too often we see situations like this where a persuasive and convincing criminal is involved. Julia (not real name) finally reported her situation to Action Fraud and officers are now investigating.
“I hope that what happened to her will act as warning to others about the dangers of dating fraud. There are people out there who seek to prey on others and steal their money.
“Victims often feel guilty or ashamed, but it’s important to remember that these fraudsters are running an organised crime which they are very practiced in.
“If this sounds familiar to you or you know a friend or relative who might be in a similar situation, raise the alarm bell and get in touch with either Action Fraud or call 101.”
Help and support
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at or by calling 0300 123 2040