A warehouse worker who was set to marry his online lover has been left heartbroken after learning he had been scammed out of £15,000 by an African fraudster.
Dave Hazel fell in love with a woman called ‘Linda Smith’ on a dating site in 2012, and over a year the pair developed their relationship through exchanging messages.
The 59-year-old had never met Linda in person, but had spoken to her on the phone and was convinced that his lover was all set to move from Canada to the UK in order to be with him.
However, her requests for financial aid became frequent and extreme and Dave, from Norfolk, found himself caught in a web of lies when he discovered that his ‘Canadian’ lover was actually from Ghana.
Dave, who used dating sites such as Match.com and Uniform Dating, forked out a massive £15,000 in total before confronting Linda about some flights he had paid for which he discovered had been from Ghana, not from Canada.
After confronting her and subsequently emptying all of his savings, she cut contact from him and has now disappeared from the internet.
Dave, who is still single, had plans to start a family with Linda and is now speaking out for the first time about being scammed online.
He said: ‘After losing almost £15,000 I was heartbroken – I had been ready to start a family with Linda.
‘I had been speaking to her online for 12 months but despite not meeting her or using Skype, we had spoken on the phone.
‘I met her on a dating site and she looked like someone I’d met in London and she said she remembered meeting me.’
Dave said the pair began building up a relationship, having conversations daily, with her introducing herself as Linda Smith.
‘I even rang her and she spoke with an accent that sounded more English than Canadian.
Before I knew it, I was falling for her – my heart had melted and she was lovely. She wanted to live with me and I thought I was in love.’
He made arrangements to meet Linda, but her entering the UK wasn’t as easy as he’d expected.
The bachelor said: ‘The first thing she asked me for was a VISA costing £500. I was ready to have a full relationship, and I was happy to help her.
‘She asked me to send it through Moneygram – which works almost like PayPal and two weeks after that it was another £500 for a medical check.
‘She said she would marry me and have children – she was promising everything I’d always wanted.’
Yet Dave’s dream was about to be destroyed as the money requests kept coming in, eventually reaching more than £15,000.
The unsuspecting paid for what he believed were plane tickets, visa complications and more – fully believing that Linda Smith was on her way to finally meet him.
His suspicions were finally aroused when she asked for flight tickets from Ghana.
Dave said: ‘I thought she was coming from Canada but when I asked for proof of the tickets they said she was coming from Ghana.
‘I asked her to explain – and she said she’d just been visiting.
‘But then I got a phone call from immigration in Ghana after she’d been detained for having a large amount of money on her person.
‘They told me the person I was waiting for wasn’t coming and was being arrested.’
Dave decided it was time to investigate properly, a staggering two years after he’d first spoken to Linda.
Upon visiting his local bank, it was quickly discovered that all the paperwork, which showed email correspondence between Dave and ‘Linda’ and evidence of where Dave had sent his money to, proved Dave had been victim of a scam.
Staff also told him there was no way he could get his money back, as he had voluntarily sent it and it couldn’t be traced.
Dave added: ‘It was the darkest period of my life – I asked them if they were joking, I couldn’t have been conned.
‘I didn’t trust anyone and couldn’t speak to anyone for months.
‘Without Victim Support – a service which offers initial support and information to victims of crimes like mine, and assessed your needs going forward – I wouldn’t be here.
‘I’ve learnt you should always ask for advice, and if you’re sending money without seeing them, stop.
‘Don’t be ashamed – you’re not the only one – these cons left me heartbroken and it’s taken me years to fix things.’