A British woman has been conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by a fraudster who pretended to be actor Jason Statham.
The woman, who spoke to BBBC Radio Manchester, asked not to be named and explained how she had been targeted by the heartless fraudster at one of the most vulnerable times in her life. She told the station how she had just lost her mother and fiancé when she was contacted by the conman pretending to be the famous actor.
It all started when she was browsing through a Facebook page which is dedicated to the movie star. She was then contacted by someone she thought was Jason Statham. She told the BBC Radio programme: “I thought oh that’s nice, talking to his fans. I might have been star struck, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I was in the right place because of what I’d been through.” He then convinced her to continue their conversation through WhatsApp and the pair exchanged hundreds of messages over several months.
As the relationship progressed, the fraudster told her he had fallen in love with her and eventually, as most romance scammers do, he began to ask for money. He explained to her that he was waiting for a payment from one of his films to come through and as the woman was in such a vulnerable position, she believed him and transferred amounts totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Realising she had been the victim of an elaborate scam, she eventually contacted Greater Manchester Police who began an investigation. A spokesperson for the police told the BBC: “This lady has been subject to somebody who just tricked her at a very vulnerable time in her life. When you see the relentless messaging that this lady got from this person and you see the grooming and the exploitation, the impact is extraordinary. We all know it’s the tip of the iceberg. The amount of people that report fraud are probably about 5-10% of the amount of people who actually are victims. Fraud is an epidemic.”
Greater Manchester Police have been unable to prosecute the perpetrator of this crime, they believe he has been working from overseas making it nearly impossible to bring a conviction.
What is Romance Fraud?
Romance Fraud happens when a victim is tricked into thinking they have entered into a genuine relationship with someone they have met via a dating app, online profile or through social media. In reality, the victim is unknowingly communicating with a fraudster, who’s only intention is to gain enough trust to then steal their money, personal information or even identity.
New statistics revealed that people across the UK continue to fall victim to romance scams, and the consequences can be devastating. In 2018, 4,555 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud, the total cost of this is over £50 million.
Action Fraud are warning that the emotional impact of romance scams can be even more difficult to come to terms with than the loss of money. In a report produced by Action Fraud, 42% of victims described falling victim to romance fraud as having a significant impact on their health or financial well-being.
The report also showed that the average age of a romance fraud victim is 50 and that 63% of dating fraud victims are female who lose twice as much on average than males.
It is thought that these numbers do not accurately represent the true scale of the problem, as most victims feel embarrassed or ashamed to have fallen victim and never report it to the authorities.
Action Fraud recommend the following tips to avoid romance scams:
- Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.
- Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
- Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
- Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.
- Stay on the dating site messenger service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.