A WORTHING woman has spoken out about losing £12,000 to a conman who told her he was an American soldier based in Iraq.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, struck up a friendship with the man on an internet dating website in 2009.
For the first time, the woman has revealed how she was scammed in the hope other people will be vigilant against con artists.
“I feel angry, miserable and embarrassed,” she said.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from what they did to me, but if I can send out a warning to other people then maybe things will change.”
The pensioner spent four months chatting to the man she thought was a soldier on an over-50s dating website, before he asked her for money.
“I believed him completely when he said he was moving to live in the UK when he left the Army,” she said.
“He told me he was shipping a trunk of his belongings to London and needed me to collect them, because his son, who lived in Cardiff, was too far away.
“He said it would cost £3,000 for the relevant documents to get the trunk here.”
The woman said the conmen were incredibly convincing. She was initially sent a photograph of the man she thought she was chatting to, in normal clothes.
As she talked to the man more, she was sent other photographs of the same man wearing military uniforms.
“The conmen obviously stole that man’s identity because they had so many images of him – it never crossed my mind he wasn’t who he said he was,” she said.
Eventually, after handing over another £9,000 in total for what she believed was more documentation and shipping fees, the woman was told to collect the trunk of belongings from Canary Wharf, London.
“When I got there I realised the dreadful mistake I’d made,” she said.
“There were Ghanaian men with the trunk, and it was filled with what I believe to be millions of dollars. The men said they needed £42,000 from me to make the dollars clean. Of course, I knew I’d been conned, but it was too late.”
Sussex Police have urging people to be on their guard against con artists.
The warning comes as part of the Office of Fair Trading’s national Scamnesty month which runs throughout February.
Sussex Police said nearly half the UK population has been targeted by a scam, and one in 15 fall victim to a scam each year. For more information about scams or to report them, visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/scamnesty (see external link to the top right of the screen) or call 08454 04 05 06.