Losing out to online dating fraud

Looking for love at the age of 54, seemed the most natural thing in the world to Suzanne Hardman. Suzanne had been a divorcee for just a few months and finding love again in her 50’s did seem to be one of the best ways of handling all of the heartbreak and trauma she had been through. Not in here wildest dreams or worst nightmare did she ever envisage losing out to online dating fraud and being relieved of £174,000.

Suzanne was an innocent in the world of dating and unfortunately was easy prey for the skilled conmen that are now so rife on UK based online dating sites. She chose one of the best known of all in Match.com, the biggest in the UK and although Match has a range of advice on safety in using their site and communicate regularly to members on safety issues by email, unfortunately it wasn’t enough to save Suzanne’s recent divorce settlement and what she had intended to use for a comfortable retirement, with her plans for that now in tatters.

Suzanne fell for the patter of a man known to her as James Richards, a 48 year old widower and the holder of both British and American passports, living in Portsmouth. He worked, said his profile, in the construction industry. His photo showed a middle-aged man, that almost all women would have been attracted to, with hazel eyes, tanned skin and rugged looks, sitting against a backdrop of the Grand Canyon.

Suzanne so desperately wanted to believe in James, she says: ‘I felt flattered, the messages were a bit gushy very quickly, but which woman doesn’t like that sometimes? We’d been corresponding for about a month when he started telling me he had strong feelings. When we started talking on the phone around the same time, we realised we had a lot in common. We were both only children and had both recently lost our parents. He was kind and considerate. When I was too busy to chat, he never minded — unlike some men who can take offence.’

Sadly for her, Suzanne’s blind faith and need to believe in James cost her incredibly dearly. Because unbelievably in the space of just one month she handed over a staggering £174,000, virtually all her life’s savings, to help ‘James’ — even though they had never even met. Something that most women would be alarmed by and something that only happens to others and not you, but unfortunately we have now seen it happen so many times in different cases and the likes of ‘James Richards’ as he claimed to be, are very clever and plausible conmen.

Suzanne was, in fact, the victim of a cruel and incredibly, plausible and brilliantly executed con. The extravagant claims in those gushing emails were not crafted by James, but by a hardened and expert gang of Nigerian fraudsters cynically targeting women looking for love, not operating on the internet via some remote location in their home nation but alarmingly, they operated their scam from a house in suburban Hampshire and using one of the most reputable and popular dating websites in Match.com, as a front for their deception and sadly they are not alone.

In a recent Daily Mail article by Tessa Cunningham, highlighting the case of Suzanne and others, they state that even on a respectable site like Match.com, web monitors estimate that there are actually ‘thousands’ of scammers on the site, many are from Nigeria but increasingly other individuals and gangs of fraudsters have infiltrated the site and there was another recent case highlighted where a ‘handsome Italian’, who turned out to be Minhaj Uddin from Cardiff, who had managed to dupe more than 70 women, with his total crimes being worth more than £750,000. He was jailed for just 16 months earlier in 2014.

The problem is so serious that a recent lawsuit in the US, claimed that more than half the profiles on Match.com are false, something that the company denies, but with Suzanne’s case and the cases involving Minhaj Uddin, there certainly does seem to be a widespread problem. The Nigerian gang, Monty Emu, Emmanual Oko, Addewunmi Nusi and Chukwuka Ugwu were convicted last week at Winchester Crown Court, of fraud and money laundering offences, involving Suzanne and 8 other women, involving more than £200,000. They await sentencing.

Does it have to happen? Are there alternatives? Are often questions we are asked and the answer is always yes!  There are safer ways of dating and offering a credible, much safer alternative is what Attractive Partners actually does.  All of our members are personally interviewed, ID and background checked and thoroughly vetted before they are able to join. Also there is no public profile of our clients whatsoever, with only our Personal Matchmaking team having access to client details, making your whole experience with Attractive Partners, a safe and very confidential one. With most of our clientèle coming from a professional, business or academic background as well as being higher net worth.

If that sounds like your sort of dating service then please ring us NOW on 0800 644 4140 and speak to one of our Personal Matchmakers between 9am and 9pm Monday to Friday, or complete our contact form below this blog post and we’ll get back to you within 24 working hours.

Click here to read Tessa Cunningham’s article on the Mail Online website.