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20 June 2011, 06:00
A 42-year-old lady has lost her savings and run up debts totalling £7,000 after she was recently scammed by a man she met through an internet dating website.
The victim - who has asked to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her children - was scammed by the conman during March and April this year.
The 42 year old, from Stevenage, became acquainted with the conman, who called himself William Goetsch, after they met on an internet dating website in March. ‘William’ had created a profile which included a photograph of him.
“I joined the dating website as I was keen to meet someone and begin a new relationship,” She explains. “William seemed perfect for me and we chatted regularly online and on the phone. He included a photograph on his profile and told me that he was Italian, had lived in the UK for most of his life and that he had a seven-year-old daughter, Vera. He told me he had lost his wife as she was giving birth to their son. I felt very sorry for him and believed our relationship was going somewhere.”
She began to develop feelings for William and she had even spoken to William’s daughter. He led her to believe that they would start a new life together and that she would become a new mother to Vera.
Then one day, William told the victim he would be taking a three month trip to Nigeria for work and taking Vera with him. During his trip, William contacted her claiming that his daughter had contracted malaria and urgently needed money to pay for medical treatment. Concerned for the girl’s welfare, she sent William £2,000 without hesitation.
The victim was led to believe that Vera had recovered thanks to the money she had sent. William claimed he was keen for Vera to return to the UK to live with her while he was working in Nigeria and she gave William a further £1,000 to pay for flights. However, William frantically contacted her claiming Vera had been kidnapped on the way to the airport and the people who had taken her were requesting a £15,000 ransom for her safe return.
It was at this point that she approached her family for help in obtaining the additional money that William needed. Her family were immediately suspicious and advised her to not contact this man again.
William continued to contact the victim and told her he had managed to get hold of £13,000 in ransom money and he now only needed £2,000.
She said: “I totally believed in this man. I had fallen in love with him and could not believe that he would wish to do me any harm. Even though my family were telling me not to trust him, I was so convinced that he was telling me the truth I sent the £2,000 to him anyway.”
William continued to manipulate the victim in this manner, even stating that both he and Vera had been kidnapped and that both of them would be killed if she didn’t send a further £2000. She also had a telephone conversation with Vera who was screaming and crying down the phone, claiming that her father was being beaten up by the men who kidnapped them.
The victim had already used her own savings, her children’s savings and had run up thousands of pounds worth of credit card debt. She contacted her brother for help in obtaining the extra money and he suggested she report the matter to police.
“When the police arrived, they made initial investigations and confirmed that I was the victim of a conman. William had always contacted me from an unavailable number. He had even gone to the trouble of creating a false customer service number for me to contact so I could confirm the details of Vera’s flight with British Airways. He was so manipulative and had an answer for everything.”
Stevenage Intervention PC Andy Batey, the officer dealing with the victim's case, said: “Be immediately suspicious if the person you have recently met begins to ask you for money. They will normally come up with a number of plausible reasons for needing the money, such as they want to meet you, but do not have enough money for the travel costs, or they will claim they are stranded abroad and don’t have money for a visa. They may claim they have been beaten up or kidnapped and need money for a ransom fee or they may claim they need surgery or treatment for a serious illness and you are the only person who can help.”
He added: “Another tale-tale sign is that your online date may look like a model or only have one picture of themselves. In addition, scammers often only give a post office address or a telephone number which they never answer, or they tell you they can only ever answer text messages.
“Never hand over money to anyone unless you have met them face to face several times and are confident of their identity. Be cautious of telephone numbers or web addresses which are supposed to be from an organisation, but look like personal accounts. Research their contact details on a search engine, or if you have met someone online and are in any way suspicious of them, contact police for advice on: 0845 3300 222."
She said: “I am devastated that someone has scammed me in this way. In total I have lost around £7,000 I didn’t have and am now left in a considerable amount of debt which will take me years to pay back as I am on benefits.
“I had read about people being scammed over the internet, but I never thought it would happen to me as William and his daughter were so convincing. I would advise anyone who meets someone over the internet to always be cautious and, if someone begins to ask you for money, always contact the police for advice.”