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“I Thought it Wouldn’t Happen to Me”:
Warrington Woman Conned Out of Over £50k Shares Her Story to Warn Others

APP Fraud

Lyn was taken in by ‘Derek’s’ pictures and stories and kept the scam a secret from her friends and family as she was so embarrassed.

Digital binary blocks form the shape of a red heart. Illustration of the concept of online dating app and romance scams and swindlers related to it

A woman from Warrington has detailed her experience with a romance scam that saw her lose over £50,000 – her entire pension pot. Lyn, who is in her 60s, and the Cheshire Economic Crime Unit (ECU) have shared her story to bring awareness to the prevalence of romance scams and other types of fraud in the UK and to encourage victims to come forward.

TLW Solicitors’ Fraud and Scams team helps victims like Lyn recover their lost funds after romance scams on a no-win, no-fee basis.

Lyn met Derek in 2020 on a Facebook group for widows, following the loss of her partner. He claimed to also be a widower and told Lyn that he had recently moved from Manchester to Dubai as he owned a mineral company in the country. ‘Derek’ used edited pictures taken from the internet to back up his story and showered her with compliments and romantic emails to reel her in.

Although Lyn never met Derek in person, she was taken in by him and his ‘banter’ and the pain they shared in their bereavement. As time went on, Derek would call Lyn once or twice a week, and she had no reason, initially, to believe anything untoward was going on. Around four months into the ‘relationship’, Derek told Lyn that there had been a serious accident in Dubai where six of his employees had been injured and were in hospital. He told her that he was responsible for paying for their hospital treatment and asked if she could help him with the money, which he said he would pay her back with interest.

A short while later, Derek told Lyn that the hotel he was staying in would evict him unless he could pay the bill and asked if she could send some money to help, which she did. He also encouraged her to open accounts with Coinbase and other cryptocurrency platforms to send more money to him and his ‘business associates’. Ultimately, Lyn eventually cashed out her entire pension to help Derek, a total of over £50,000.

Lyn only found out about the scam in January 2021 when she was visited by Cheshire Police, who broke the news to her that the relationship was fake and she had been scammed. The force’s Economic Crime Unit was able to recover Lyn’s funds as it was found that her bank had missed several chances to spot and prevent the scam as it went on.

Lyn was initially ashamed to share the details of the scam with her family and friends as she didn’t believe it would ever happen to her, but now she urges people in similar situations to speak up, “you need to talk to family and friends,” she says, “don’t keep any secrets.”

‘Derek’s’ real identity is still being investigated.

Romance scams, where a fraudster uses dating apps and social media sites to target victims who are genuinely looking for love with the intention of defrauding them out of their hard-earned money, are a common and increasingly prevalent type of scam in the UK. Recent data released by Lloyds Banking Group showed that romance scams are increasing year-on-year and that, in 2023, the average amount lost to these types of scams was almost £7,000.

We regularly cover romance scams in our blog, including red flags to look out for with both yourself and any friends or loved ones who are looking for love online, and how to stay safe online if you are using dating apps and social media sites to meet other people.

With both the romance scams we hear about from our clients and those reported in the media, one of the most commonly used tactics is Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud. APP fraud occurs when a scammer convinces a victim, usually using impersonation, to transfer money out of their account and into the scammer’s. The success of these scams relies on the victim being unaware that the person they are transferring money to is not legitimate, so they bypass their bank’s security pop-ups and warnings and authorise the payment willingly.

As the victim is still under the scammer’s spell at the time, the scam is often not noticed until much further down the line, so victims like Lyn have often sent multiple chunks of money before realising they’ve been scammed. By this point, the money has been moved from the scammer’s account to a secondary one, usually overseas, and becomes very difficult to recover.

If you, a friend, a family member, or a loved one have been targeted by a romance APP scam and have lost money as a result, the first thing you should do is report the fraud to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre and your bank. Your bank should conduct its own investigation into the report initially, and, in some cases, this is sufficient to secure a refund; however, in other cases, the bank may refuse to accept liability for the loss and, therefore, not issue a refund.

If this is the case, and you believe your bank could and should have done more to prevent the scam from taking place – like in Lyn’s story – you can consider opening a case with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the independent body responsible for investigating and resolving disputes between customers and their financial institutions.

Banks in the UK have a duty to protect their customers from scams and fraud on their accounts by implementing sufficient security measures and procedures. There have been a number of important decisions made by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) about the banks’ failure to reasonably undertake their responsibilities to their customers, and customers have successfully secured part or total compensation as a result.

We have a team of experienced APP Fraud specialists who regularly help clients take complaints to their banks and the Financial Ombudsman Service; we understand the complicated application process and tight deadlines and can anticipate the challenges and arguments that banks are likely to put forward.

We deal with these types of processes every day, so you can rest assured that your case is in the best hands.

Heading up the team is Legal Director Sarah Spruce. She says:

“Lyn’s story is one we hear every day from our romance scam clients, and as she says, victims should not feel embarrassed about coming forward to family, friends, or the authorities and reporting the scam. Romance scammers cruelly prey on victims’ emotions and insecurities and make them believe that they are in a genuine relationship – and who wouldn’t help out a friend or loved one in need when they ask for money? This is why it is so important to stay vigilant online and, most importantly, never, EVER, send someone money if you haven’t met them in person.”

If you think that you, a friend or a loved one have been the victim of a romance scam, please contact our specialist team for a confidential, no-obligation conversation.

You can call us at 0800 169 5925, email info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk, or complete the make a claim online or callback forms below.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible as strict time limits can apply.

Minimum case values apply.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.

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