Valentine warning after £200,000 online romance fraud
A woman who was convicted of money laundering, after falling for an online romance fraud, has warned about the dangers of such scams.
Hampshire Constabulary has released a video of the woman's story as part of a Valentine's Day awareness campaign.
The woman, referred to as "Jenny" on the video, lost £20,000 and received a suspended sentence for laundering more than £200,000.
Police said romance fraud was "emotionally destructive".
On the video she explained how she began using a dating website after being single for several years.
She started communicating with a "very caring, considerate" man who had an image showing on the site and who said he was an IT consultant.
"Very early on in the communication he was telling me how much he loved me, how he wanted to be with me, I suppose I got to the point where I believed everything he said," she said.
'Longing for love'
Jenny said they never met and an attempt to contact via webcam failed.
She explained that requests for cash began gradually, with the man saying that he needed money while in the Far East on business.
Four months later, Jenny had given away £20,000 of her own money. She later began to launder a total of £228,000 when he asked her to open up a bank account to transfer funds from other accounts.
She eventually received a suspended prison sentence for money laundering.
On the video she said: "I never thought that I was naïve; I didn't think anything like this could ever happen to me - it could happen to anybody."
The fraudster has not been identified or arrested.
Crime prevention advisor Sarah Cohen said the video would raise awareness of the "callous tactics" used in targeting users of dating sites.
"The consequences of romance and online dating fraud can be emotionally destructive because offenders prey upon a victim's deepest desires and longing for love."
Online safety advice
- Criminals who commit romance fraud trawl through profiles and piece together information such as wealth and lifestyle, in order to manipulate their victims
- Police can investigate and help to provide support, but often cannot get the money back
- It is very simple for fraudsters to cover their tracks by masking IP addresses and using unregistered phone numbers
- Never send money to someone online you have never met
- Think twice about posting personal information which could be used to manipulate or bribe you