‘Went with my heart!’ Devastated widow targeted for £1,400 by ‘charming’ scammer

For Love or Money: Kym confronts scammer on the phone

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Susan was widowed, and left devastated at the passing of her husband, but after a passage of time, her children encouraged her to meet someone else. It was at this point, her daughter set her up on an online dating website in the hopes of revitalising her mum’s social life.

Here, she came across the profile of a man who she thought she could strike up a relationship with. The person was using a fake identity and alias “Perry Powell”.

Appearing on BBC One’s For Love or Money, Susan said: “When I saw Perry Powell on the site, I thought he was attractive and he was very charming.”

The man claiming to be Perry said he was a divorced surgeon, currently working in Israel after being posted there by the United Nations. 

It wasn’t long before the pair moved off the dating website and communicated via phone.

The couple became close over the following months, texting up to 30 times a day.

Susan said: “He sounded exactly as he portrayed himself. He sounded like a real gentleman.

“He always said goodnight and good morning. I know it sounds awful, but I’ve fallen in love with someone I hadn’t even met. It was all perfect.”

As a Christmas gift, Susan bought Perry a silk tie and some books which she shipped to Israel, costing her £50. 

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But fearful the relationship was too good to be true, she asked her new partner for more proof.

She added: “I asked him to take a photograph of himself, because I wanted to prove who he was.

“I must have asked him a hundred times, ‘How do I know if you are real?’ But he never sent me selfies.”

The so-called Perry eventually sent Susan a photograph which appeared to show him holding a book she had sent him. 

Not long after this, he called Susan to tell her a patient whose life he had saved had provided him with gold.

However, to bring it back to the UK legally, he would need to pay the duties – asking for £470 for a customs certificate from Israel.

Susan said: “He kept making excuses. They were quite convincing. He said it would only be a loan, and I swallowed it and believed it. I went with my heart instead of my head.”

Perry then sent Susan a receipt which seemed to be from Israeli customs, which she thought proved the matter was legitimate.

In total, Susan had sent £1,400 to the person she believed she would have a relationship with. 

However, the connection between the two quickly unravelled when presenter Ashley-John Baptise spoke to DCI Gary Miles, economic crime specialist with the Met Police. 

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The officer was able to determine the customs papers were fake, as names did not match up and spelling errors were included.

The picture of the man supposedly holding Susan’s book had been digitally altered, and a reverse image search also showed the pictures used by the man claiming to be “Perry Powell” were actually of an innocent man called Fred who is based in Holland.

Confronted with these details, Susan said: “I feel quite sad about it all. I feel stupid, like I’ve made an idiot out of myself.”

But the show’s presenters were keen to take the matter further, calling the scammer at first posing as Susan, and then looking for answers.

Presenter Kym Marsh said: “You’re being recorded for broadcast on the BBC. We believe Perry Powell is a fake identity you’ve created as part of a scam.”

The scammer quickly refuted this, saying: “That’s all lies. That’s nonsense. How can she be saying this? I don’t see any truth in that.”

He followed by putting down the phone.

Susan, while upset, seemed resolved to put the whole saga behind her.

She added: “Although I’m quite shocked, he sounded like a totally different person than I had built up a picture of. I just feel he’s out of my life now, and I’m pleased.”

For Love or Money continues on BBC One weekdays at 10am.

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