The following story is a real-life account from the daughter of a romance scam victim, Iris.
My mum grew up in Bodmin, Cornwall on a farm. She married my dad, and although my mum suffered from bi-polar, which was not diagnosed until much later in life, we had a happy childhood. I was close to mum. We did things together, and she supported and helped me in the upbringing of my older children.
My parents divorced after 20 years of marriage and mum met her second husband at a singles club. They lived in Wadebridge, Cornwall and enjoyed taking the dogs for walks on the beach – mum was a spiritual person. They both moved to Somerset, to the same village as my family and me. However, within months mum and my stepdad split up. This left mum feeling lonely and although we were around, she was feeling isolated. Mum talked about going on the dating sites on the internet, and we thought this was a good idea. We even bought her an iPad. Mum wasn’t particularly internet savvy, but we thought the sites advertised were safe to use.
Mum initially spoke openly to us about who she was meeting and actually had a few dates, but this changed when she met this person called Peter. We started to question mum more about him as she had begun to send him money. He had said he needed £4,000 for medical fees as his daughter had been in an accident. This was money she didn’t have, but mum was caring so if she could help someone she would.
This is where our relationship started to change. I told mum I was beginning to think Peter was not the person he says he is. Mum became angry and didn’t want to talk to us, but then she started to agree and say, “I think you are right, I am going to stop.” This was the worst scenario though – she was still talking to him and sending money, and I just didn’t know. Mum was moving away from the dating website and using Skype to speak with him.
Mum moved to Plymouth, and things took a terrible turn when Peter told her to sell all her belongings, which mum did. She was to travel to Leeds to meet up with him. They planned to meet at the Travelodge. He didn’t turn up but rang her to say he had been held up for one reason or another. For several days mum would sit in the front foyer all day waiting for him. The police called on her, but she refused any help.
Peter was now completely controlling her and dictating what she bought and what she ate so he could get at her money. He had also isolated her from the people who cared about her. We believed now that Peter was not one person but several.
Mum returned to Plymouth with nothing and had to spend a night in a hostel. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. Then she spent time in a B&B before getting a flat and having to use food banks.
Now though mum was speaking with a person called Jacob. She had met him on Skype, but we think Jacob and Peter are one and the same. He was now feeding her stories of woe and how he needed money urgently. Mum’s bi-polar was now playing a part in her vulnerability, although it was undiagnosed. Her cognitive skills were severely compromised. She then started to speak with someone called Jerry who was asking her for help which ultimately meant sending him money.
I felt I had nowhere to turn. I didn’t know how to help my mum, and neither did anyone else. These people target and spend hours, days, months and years grooming their victims and don’t care about the ramifications this has on entire families.
My mum passed away from a stroke in 2017. I believe this was brought on by the stress and realisation this was all a scam. We, as mother and daughter had become estranged. While dealing with her affairs, it came to light that she had died owing thousands of pounds. I found presents mum had wrapped with name tags on for these men, waiting for the day they would come – they didn’t. After the police investigation, I was given back my mum’s iPad. When I turned it on, there were messages from Peter asking where Iris had been. She was not responding to his messages, and he said he was worried. He is still sending her messages.
My mum has gone, and I don’t think in her later years of life she was ever shown the kindness she wanted to give to others. I hope this story helps those who may be going through a similar thing or know someone who this is happening to.
If you’re concerned that a family member or friend, may be the victim of a romance scam you can find helpful advice in our Community ScamWise brochure.
You can also contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help and information on 03454 04 05 06 or by clicking here