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“You’re made to feel like the criminal”: why victims of romance scams feel let down by banks

Loan Scams

“You’re made to feel like the criminal”: why victims of romance scams feel let down by banks

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When the 51-year-old business development manager Rachel Elwell received a message from a stranger on New Year’s Day 2021, she did not envisage that she would lose her life savings to a man she had never met.

She had joined Facebook Dating during lockdown, after her sister and friends convinced her to give online dating a go. She was living on her own in Coventry and working from home, and while she wasn’t set on finding love, she wanted to meet someone new.

“I didn’t have any expectations and was quite happy being independent,” she told me. “But equally, I thought it would be nice to chat to people.”

On 1 January, she received a message from a man she had “matched” with called Stephen. “He looked like quite a happy, friendly person in his photos,” she said. “And he lived within 25 miles of me, a reasonable distance if we were to meet up for coffee.” They soon hit it off. They both liked dogs and dancing, and she was moved by his story – he had been widowed seven years ago and had raised his teenage daughter alone.

After three weeks of talking, Stephen asked Elwell for money; he said he had secured an engineering job in Ukraine and needed a few hundred pounds to tide him over after receiving an unexpected tax bill related to this work. She was suspicious, but he said he had no family to fall back on…

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