Met Police warn of online dating scams

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Media captionThe victim of an online dating scam describes how she got drawn in

The Metropolitan Police is warning about internet dating scams, saying it has investigated the loss of £4m through the fraud in the past year.

Officers said they was dealing with 100 victims manipulated by men and women pretending to love them.

The warning comes as the BBC's Angus Crawford spoke to one victim who sent money three times to a man in the United States.

She said she did not know how she had been "so damn stupid" to fall for it.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she met the man who claimed to be a US Marine living in California after being encouraged to try online dating by friends.

"My common sense was telling me something wasn't right in his story," she said.

"He sounded too much like a movie character."

But she said the man's young son began ringing her on her mobile phone and calling her "mum".

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Media captionThe BBC News team catches out another online romance scammer

Analysis - Angus Crawford BBC News Correspondent

So who's most likely to become a victim of dating fraud? The short answer is, anyone looking for love online is vulnerable.

From January to the end of October this year - there were 2,858 reports of dating fraud reported to Action Fraud from around the UK. Victims lost more than £21m.

One victim told me when she tried internet dating the first man who replied to her profile "was the only one who sounded like a decent person".

What she didn't know was that scammers routinely use multiple, fake profiles to target a single victim - sending abusive or unpleasant messages from some of the fakes, to make their main bogus profile seem comparatively kind and considerate.

Det Ch Insp Gary Miles is from the Met Police's Falcon Unit, which investigates cybercrime and fraud. He says victims aren't stupid, the criminals are very sophisticated.

"This is their profession, they have designed social engineering specifically to target the vulnerabilities of those seeking relationships."

After a while she said she was asked for money to buy the boy an iPad. She was later told the boy needed surgery, which needed paying for, and then that he had cholera and needed money for treatment.

The woman said she had the feeling "something was not right".

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Olusegun Agbaje (left) and Ife Ojo admitted their part in the biggest online dating scam ever investigated by the Met

"The first thing I thought was, 'how in hell could I have been so damn stupid?' after sending him money three times."

She said when she questioned the man he became abusive.

"[He] said he would kill himself because his son was dying and how that blood would be on my hands."

In September, two men admitted their part in duping a woman out of £1.6m in the biggest online dating scam the Met have investigated.

Olusegun Agbaje, 43, of Kershaw Close, Hornchurch, Essex and Ife Ojo, 31, of Hammonds Drive, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, will return to court on 8 January to be sentenced.

Their sentencing was adjourned earlier at Basildon Crown Court after the Probation Service failed to produce a report requested at conviction.

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