Scotland Yard today issued an alert over “romance fraud” scams saying Londoners had lost at least £4 million to con-men in the past year – including a businesswoman fleeced of £1.6m, according to the Evening Standard.
Detectives warned the number of cases of romance fraud was rising, as the case of the businesswoman conned by a man she met on a dating website emerged.
Two men were due to be sentenced Friday in connection with the scam in which the woman who is in her 40s handed over increasingly large sums of money to the man and his “associates” over a period of 10 months last year.
Nigerian Ife Ojo, 31, who claimed to be studying at the London School of Business and Finance, and Olusegun Agbaje, 43, an NHS admin assistant of Hornchurch, Essex, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud at an earlier hearing.
Detectives believe they were part of a wider romance fraud gang – many of them based overseas – who target lone and vulnerable women on the Internet.
On their arrest police found a laptop containing records of conversations between the woman and the man called Anderson and a copy of The Game, a bestselling book on the art of seduction.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Miles, of the Met’s FALCON cybercrime and fraud task force, said: “This is a growing problem, in recent months we have seen an increase in reports of romance fraud.
“Within the past year Falcon officers have investigated the loss of more than £4 million in relation to about 100 victims. These victims were ruthlessly manipulated by men and women pretending to love them.
“The suspects showered them with compliments and confided their seemingly innermost secrets to them. In many cases suspects were talking to victims online or over the phone for hours every day.”
In the latest case the woman, from Hillingdon, told police she had met a man called Christian Anderson on a dating website in February last year.
Unusually, they met in person after a couple of weeks when he told her he was an engineer working in the oil industry and was divorced.
As the relationship continued he convinced the woman he loved her but said that he needed a loan of £30,000 for equipment for an engineering project in Benin, Africa.
The woman paid the cash and handed over further sums in a series of increasingly elaborate requests by the man who convinced her they would soon be living together.
At one stage the victim began house hunting for them and even traveled to Amsterdam to meet an associate.
The woman told detectives she often doubted the man’s authenticity but every time she asked for proof he sent convincing but false documentation.