Valentine's warning as Doncaster dad tricked out of £15,000 by romance scammers

The daughter of a Doncaster romance fraud victim has spoken of how her father got so worked up by heartless scammers he ended up in hospital.

Saturday, 13th February 2021, 9:50 am

Kelly is sharing her family's story this Valentine's weekend in the hope others will be able to spot the signs if a loved one is falling for a romance fraudster.

Her father Ivan*, has handed over £15,000 to scammers since he was first targeted around three years ago - money he had put to one side to pay for his funeral.

Kelly said: "My dad's just turned 63 but he looks so much older because he has COPD. He isn't well at all and the money he had was for his funeral.

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People are being told to watch out for romance scammers this Valentine's weekend.

"Now he hasn't even got a car because he couldn't afford to keep it, he can't walk very far and he lives in a tiny flat so his quality of life has plummeted."

Retired truck driver Ivan's ordeal began when he met a criminal claiming to be a woman called Hilary, living in London, on a dating site. 'Hilary' encouraged Ivan to start communicating with her over Google Hangouts and Whatsapp rather than the dating site's messaging service, something fraudsters do as their requests for money are not as easily detected.

Hilary soon started asking Ivan for money for various reasons that became more obscure as time went on - even once claiming she needed money to help a friend who had been sent to prison for smuggling gold bars.

Ivan - who has lived alone for a number of years - would send money via Western Union's money transfer service, or iTunes gift cards.

Kelly said: "He gave all his money away and then ended up getting a loan to give to this person. Now he is trying to save up for a car but I think by the time he gets one he will be too frightened to drive as he has become really anxious."

She added: "He ended up in hospital because of all this. One of these people contacted him and he started to panic and had to go to hospital because he couldn't breathe.

"They were starting to threaten him and said they were going to find me and rape me. I'm not scared by them - they're probably in a different country anyway - but it's disgusting. It's heartbreaking that some people can do this kind of thing to someone. It's so wrong."

Andy Foster, South Yorkshire Police's Fraud Protect Officer, said: "It's horrendous that people like Ivan are being targeted by these criminals. These fraudsters are the lowest of the low. They will prey on people's loneliness and vulnerabilities, and take advantage of their kindness and generosity.

"This Valentine's Day, if you have a loved one who may be vulnerable to this type of scam, please make sure you speak to them about the dangers. The fraudsters are often based abroad and almost impossible to trace, so it's important people know what to do to keep themselves safe.

You can report romance fraud to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

*Name has been changed