DORSET PCC TAKES ANOTHER FRAUD CASE TO MINISTER AFTER RESIDENT IS DUPED OUT OF £14,000
Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill will take a fraud victim’s case to the Policing Minister to challenge the service Action Fraud is providing to victims.
It’s in response to a case involving a 56 year old woman from Bournemouth who was scammed by a man she met on an online dating site.
Whilst the victim lives in Dorset, the case was referred to West Midlands Police to investigate following a referral from Action Fraud, as this was where they believed the offence originated. She has taken her plight to the Dorset PCC, to criticise the national fraud service claiming that they have failed to update her regularly and that they are more focused on data collection than serving victims.
The victim’s story:
- The victim was scammed out of £14,000 during March and April this year after being be-friended by a man on an online dating site.
- Over the following couple of months they developed a close friendship, exchanging e-mails and phone calls. He portrayed himself to be a UN medic who was based in Syria, explaining that his job was dangerous and he didn’t want to leave his personal possessions in the country, preferring to send them to her via the Red Cross to look after.
- He also said he was sending a package for her to keep which he had been given by a Syrian Sheikh. According to fake customs papers the package supposedly contained 34 gold bars, which he was sending with his personal possessions, as they’d be safer with her.
- She received fake information that the box containing the gold bars had arrived at Heathrow airport and was asked to pay a £1,770 handling charge. She also received a video of the gold bars supposedly being unpacked at Heathrow by customs officials.
- A subsequent email then asked for £7,400 in government tax to release the package so it could be delivered to her. She paid both of these fictitious charges. He then asked her for £4,000 for a flight from Syria to get home.
- Her son spotted a YouTube video of the gold and realized the story had been a fabrication. She immediately reported the story to the police and the case was referred to Action Fraud.
Her journey with Action Fraud:
The victim informed the Dorset PCC that she has not had regular contact from Action Fraud. She told the PCC the process was very frustrating as they were more focused on collecting data, rather than updating victims of crime.
Talking about the case the victim said: "It was a horrible experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I appreciate that there is little chance to get my money back. I want to report my experience in order to help raise awareness so other people don’t fall victim to the same crime.
“Action Fraud should be there for you. They should be able to look at your case and be in a position to update you. They need to keep in contact with the victim by sending an email or a courtesy call. Not knowing anything about the case is horrible.
“My experience has put me off using the internet as you don’t know who you are talking to. When you’re a vulnerable woman, people can tell you anything and get you around their little finger. There should be more protection on websites.”
Response from Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill:
Talking about the case, the Dorset PCC said: “This victim appears to have been let down from start to finish.
This is Groundhog Day again I am afraid. This keeps happening to victims of fraud in Dorset. Victims should not be expected to have to chase what’s happened to their case. It’s just wrong. They need to be regularly updated.
Other than an intervention from Victim Support, the victim has had nothing. This is not the way to carry out police investigations. Both Action Fraud, and then, later, West Midlands Police, have failed to update or even speak to the victim.
The letter from Action Fraud telling the victim that her case was now being dealt with by West Midlands Police didn’t even include a reference number for her to use if she had a query. This case is slapdash and slapstick.
I also want to applaud the victim for coming forward. She is incredibly brave. To actually stand up and tell people that you have made a mistake on an online dating site takes courage.
We know cybercrime is the emerging threat and that’s why we are putting more resources into tackling it in Dorset.
Crime isn’t going down in some areas, it’s changing. Crime is going online and people need to be aware of that.
I will be taking this victim’s case to the Policing Minister and challenging him on the apparent service failure by Action Fraud and other agencies”
MEDIA: For more information about this case or to receive anonymised copies of the fake documents received by the victim or audio clips of the victim and Dorset PCC, Martyn Underhill discussing the case, please email firstname.lastname@example.org