Devastated widow loses life savings of £30,000 after ‘video chatting’ with scammer

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Rachel met her late husband through the internet, so she decided to go back to this form of communication. Going on to a dating website, she was contacted almost immediately by someone using a fake identity, claiming to be “Henrik Bjorn ” but this was in fact an alias.

The man claimed to be an oil executive, based in Dundee, but currently working in Brussels. 

He told Rachel he was a widower, and the man often talked about his deceased wife and daughter, building a relationship with her.

Telling her story to BBC’s For Love or Money, Rachel said: “He talked about his wife and daughter, and showed me pictures of his daughter.

“We were talking about each other. He talked about his life, and I talked about mine – I didn’t want to be secretive.”

Soon enough, the couple moved off the dating website to communicating via email and WhatsApp. 

Rachel, a lover of music, was soon sent a litany of romantic songs by the man who claimed to be Henrik.

She said: “I asked Henrik about the lyrics and whether they were really meaningful. He said he was looking for words which had some meaning.”

Henrik told Rachel he was working in Jakarta, Indonesia, after securing a multi-million dollar oil contract, where he dazzled her with official looking paperwork. 

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But then the man she had been speaking to asked for money, saying he required financial help. 

Rachel explained: “We’d been speaking for two or three weeks. The first bit of money he contacted me in a panic saying his goods were in customs and that the money on them had been increased. 

“He said he couldn’t get into his account as he’d tried an old number and been blocked.

“He asked for about £3,500. I looked it up on the internet. He told me if he didn’t get the money, his goods would be put into auction. I looked it up, and that was correct.”

Eventually, Rachel was besieged with more requests for help, even being contacted by pleading voice messages asking for assistance. 

She explained: “He got in touch in a panic saying he was being kept in custody by the oil company because he hadn’t followed the rules for insurance for working on the rig.

“He wanted 101,000 euros. I said to him I don’t have that kind of money, and that is ridiculous.

“I said I could get £30,000. That’s the only amount I could get. He begged me for it.”

To help with Henrik’s request, Rachel raided her life savings, and was left struggling to make ends meet.

She had video called who she believed to be Henrik multiple times to ensure she was speaking to a real person.

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She added: “I had a couple of Skype conversations. It looked like the person I had seen. They were quite long conversations. 

“As far as I could know he was genuine. He kept talking to me, sending me songs, trying to be something to me.”

Unable to send any more money, Rachel was at her wit’s end, and devastated, she remarked: “I know it’s not my fault. But I’ve just been so stupid.”

Upon further research, it was found the scammer was using software to create a supposed video of the man in question which stopped and started – to appear as if the connection line was poor.

But this technological trickery was a sophisticated way of making the phone call seem legitimate, when really the scammer was behind the matter.

It was also found the photograph being used by Rachel’s scammer was an innocent, well-known businessman, and his photos had been stolen by 21 other scammers across 11 different websites.

Rachel concluded: “I just think it is so sad. You could be talking to anyone. I think I have answers now.

“I was angry, upset. I just want to say that all of us have to try and help everybody else.”

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