A romance scam victim has waived her anonymity to raise awareness of this latest fraud wave in conjunction with Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre.
Ms Brenda Parke, a 60 year old retiree, was scammed out of £60,000 during February and March this year after joining an online dating site and befriending a man calling himself Bradford Cole. Over the following weeks they developed a close relationship via e-mails and phone calls.
Bradford portrayed himself to be a successful Dutch businessman who earned his living supplying and fitting computers. He told her his partner had died and said he was estranged from family and friends. He said he had moved to the UK a year ago bringing his young daughter, Mauoreen, with him.
An emotional story
He claimed that while abroad on business, his daughter had been injured in a hit and run accident and required £9,600 for the operation in hospital. Bradford did not ask Brenda for the money directly but claimed to have borrowed so much from the bank and that he had no-one else to turn to for help. He very subtly and cleverly manipulated Brenda into taking a position of responsibility for his daughter’s welfare. She wrestled with her conscience and whilst she did not want to give her hard-earned money to a stranger, she did not want to leave a child to fend for herself. She wanted to pay the hospital directly but was told that they needed cash in advance. Having verified this online, she subsequently arranged money transfers.
Thousands of pounds lost
Brenda’s plight continued when Bradford needed a total £44,500 for his business and then further monies for his accommodation and transport home. Brenda repeatedly told him that she could not help and suggested other places to try, but with no success. Each time Brenda told him that she was unable to help him further he said that he understood totally and appreciated how difficult it must be to trust someone she did not know. He told her it was his responsibility to sort the money but claimed he had nowhere else to go. Brenda perceived him to be a very kind and gentle man, if naive about the practicalities of overseas business. Bradford talked much of the times they would soon be able to spend together getting to know one another away from such difficulties.
He asked Brenda to meet his return flight at Birmingham airport so they could go to the bank together to return her money. Having received almost £60,000 in cash, Bradford failed to arrive at the airport. Brenda immediately reported her story to the police.
Fraudsters target peoples' vulnerabilities
Talking about the case Brenda said: "With great hindsight, I am fully aware of how utterly stupid I have been and I appreciate that there is little, if any, chance to get my money back. Having previously considered myself to be a bright and intelligent woman, who has successfully created a secure financial environment for my retirement, I believe that if I could be manipulated and reduced to ‘a puppet on a string’ because of this man’s subtlety and supposed sincerity, then there are millions of vulnerable people out there just waiting to be abused by a very professional and consummate actor. It is so cunning and amazingly well done that I am left reeling with shock at my own vulnerability. My embarrassment is overwhelming but I feel that I must take this step in reporting my experience in order to help promote awareness and to help other innocents to avoid such devastating situations. In my subsequent research, I have discovered that scamming is a multi-billion pound business worldwide and that there are even teams of scammers working together to create the ultimate scam.
"Anyone in a similar situation should stop and think before handing over a single penny. I would urge anyone who is a victim to come forward and report this horrendous crime to Action Fraud. The perpetrators manipulate you to pay a huge price financially and emotionally for a fictitious relationship and their activities must be disrupted. I urge dating sites to take far more responsibility for who they allow to advertise on their websites and for the banking and money transfer companies to take responsibility for raising staff awareness, thus helping to protect their customers and fulfilling their duty of care towards them."
Report romance fraud to Action Fraud
Romance fraud is in the top five most commonly reported frauds to Action Fraud, which provides a single place for victims of fraud to report to or to get advice on protecting themselves and for anyone needing Victim Support.
To report fraud to Action Fraud, fill out the online fraud reporting tool.