European woman loses Dh500,000 in ‘emotional fraud’

Phone scam
The woman shared her story in Dubai at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC), to raise awareness about a type of online scam, which she said some hesitate to report because of feeling “ashamed”. Picture used for illustrative purposes only.
Image Credit: Stock photo.

Abu Dhabi: A European woman lost her life savings worth over $130,000 (almost Dh500,000) and went into heavy debt after falling victim to an “emotional fraud”.

She shared her story in Dubai at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC), which concluded last week, to raise awareness about a type of online scam, which she said some hesitate to report because of feeling “ashamed”.

The woman added that more support is needed for victims of “emotional fraud”.

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Lured on dating site

For her, it all began when the man – who said he worked for his father, describing him as one of the world’s most successful diamond merchants – lured her on a popular dating site. They started chatting and as their relationship developed, he invited her to meet him in a European country.

In due course, she felt that he was the “right person” for her. She even received many “romatic gifts” over the next 10 months.

Sharing a secret

She claimed they confided in each other, exchanging “secrets and personal details”. One of those “secrets”, she said, was a “fake disclosure” by the man that his life was under threat due to business rivalry. She claimed he would call her “in a state of fear”, saying if his rivals reached him, they would search for her next.

She said the man claimed he needed to find a safe place for a while to sort out the problem and use a bank card not registered in his name so his whereabouts would not be traced by his enemies. The woman received him at her home and gave him her card.

Shocking spend

The woman was shocked by the amount he was spending, and he soon depleted all of her savings, with a promise that he would return the money “as soon as the situation stabilised”. He even emotionally pressured her to obtain a personal loan, telling her that it was only a matter of time when they would be happily together again.

But her life only went “from bad to worse”.

He started intimidating her until he even asked her to sell her house and car, because “we need the money”. This was all she had left, and she started suffering panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. As her mental health deteriorated, she needed to see a psychiatrist.

The woman added that the man only left her when he realised that she had become bankrupt. After some time, he contacted her again from another country. She visited him and confronted him, but he did not give her any answers about their relationship or the money he had taken from her.

She said goodbye, knowing their relationship was over.

Realisation of fraud

The woman, who gradually began to recover from the ordeal, said it occurred to her that there had been “many gaps in his story”, which she initially had not caught. She searched for information about him on the internet according to the name by which she knew him, but did not find any details about him. It was then that she realised she was “a victim of a fraud systematised for many months”.

The woman conducted research using his photo, and the result she feared emerged – she found press reports of other women who had been deceived in the same way.

She suffered a nervous breakdown, and at first “felt ashamed” to share her story with others. However, she pulled herself together and resolved to seek justice. The woman informed the authorities, and the man was arrested in another country on charges of using forged passports. He was then extradited to his own country, where the cases ahgainst him are under investigation, she added.