Iris was a victim of a romance scam that ruined her financially, destroyed her relationship with her family and affected her health. Here is her story.
After separating from her husband, Iris joined an online dating site. She met a few men through the website and then started an online relationship with a man named Peter.
Over the next few years “Peter”, and a series of other fake identities, would take over and eventually destroy Iris’ life.
After a few months of getting to know each other over Skype Peter told Iris his daughter had an accident and asked to borrow £4000 for medical costs. Wanting to help, Iris transferred over £5,000 to Peter via MoneyGram to Ghana.
Iris then gave up her accommodation and sold all her belongings to move closer to Peter in Yorkshire. She went to Leeds to meet him, but he didn’t arrive. After waiting several days, she returned to Plymouth and had to go into emergency accommodation.
Iris then began speaking with a man called Jacob who she met on Skype. Jacob said he lived in Texas USA and had a contract in Ghana, building an orphanage. He said he wanted to visit the UK and asked Iris to send him money for his trip. Jacob also told Iris that his son Romel had died leaving Jacob in financial difficulty and that he owed money to a restaurant owner, Priscilla.
Iris transferred over £2,000 to Jacob via MoneyGram to Ghana.
Iris then came across Jerry, also claiming to be from the USA, and working as a builder in Ghana. He told Iris that he’d been robbed in Ghana and requested emergency funds from her. Iris, now beginning to have doubts, expressed her concerns regarding her previous transfers to Jacob and Peter to Jerry.
Jerry promised to assist Iris in getting her money back. However, he said that to do that he would need further funds to pay for the process. He also asked Iris for the username and password of her Skype account so that he could track Peter and Jacob.
Iris transferred over £1,000 to Jerry via MoneyGram to Ghana.
Despite repeated concern from Iris’ family, Iris believed that Peter, Jacob and Jerry were her friends. They manipulated her thoughts, isolated her from her family and made her think that they had her best interests at heart. She could not see that they were scamming her.
At one time Jerry and Jacob even had the same profile picture on their Skype accounts but were still able to convince Iris that they were real people.
With her Skype account now in the hands of her fraudsters the police were unable to close the account and safeguard Iris.
Despite Iris’ profound belief that she wasn’t a scam victim, the situation was beginning to take a toll on her mental health. Her family were also feeling helpless as Iris was hiding things from them and refusing to accept the situation.
Eventually, the police were called in to investigate. During this time an officer from Trading Standards visited Iris, and she recounted the full story. The officer was a vital support to Iris, helping her come to terms with the fact that these men weren’t genuine and were most likely just one person.
Iris later died of a stroke. The stress caused by the scam was a likely contributing factor in her death. She died owing thousands of pounds and having lost control of her final years of life.
If you’re concerned that you, or a family member, may be the victim of a romance scam contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help and information. You can phone them on 03454 04 05 06 or click here
You can read Iris’ daughter Marilyn’s account here