A GRIEVING wife from Littlehampton has told of her heartbreaking story after she fell victim to a gang of callous crooks.
The woman, whose identity is being protected, had been caring for her seriously ill partner of 23 years for more than four years before he died.
This was a horrific time for all the family and it could and nearly did blow my family apartFraud victim
Heartbroken and lonely, she turned to an online dating website to try to find love and companionship again.
That was when fraudsters struck. They preyed on her compassion and starting begging her for large sums of money, promising they would pay it back. They never did.
“I was grieving and lonely and like a big idiot, fell hook, line and sinker for their sob stories,” the woman explained.
“I wanted to have some company, just someone to go out for a meal, as it gets kind of lonely on your own.
“So I joined a dating website and I was suddenly thrust into the age of technology.
“I began to reply to some of the adverts and one or two seemed very keen, so I duly replied. Two seemed exceptionally keen to talk online, believe you me they knew just what to say – all the things you want to hear.
“Then it begins by them asking if you could please send the fare home as they have had their wallet stolen, they will meet you in London’s Victoria station, and pay you back. Then when you have sent the airfare they suddenly become ill, and have to pay medical bills of several hundred pounds, maybe £1,000 plus.”
The woman continued helping the strangers. However, her compassion soon drained her bank balance and threatened to jeopardise her home
“All told I spent over £9,000,” she added. “So it went on until a family member said ‘what are you doing applying for a loan on your home?’.
“I lost another £1,000 changing bank accounts, phone numbers and other security measures.”
The woman said she broke down to her family members when it all became too much.
“This was a horrific time for all the family and it could and nearly did blow my family apart,” she admitted.
“I feel so lucky to have them all around to guide me and take control.
“The worst feeling in the world is guilt. I was so ashamed of myself as I had lied to my family and tried to cover up all the lost money.”
She is now urging others not to fall foul of the conmen and to be wary when using online dating services.
“Do not believe what you read on these websites,” she warned, “insist on meeting the person before or if you do trust them do not give any money or access to any information about your family or money affairs.”