ELDERLY people looking for love are falling victim to fraudsters on internet dating sites.
Seventy-one-year-old Lilliana Jones, of Queenfield, had a lucky escape after being targeted for £5,000 last month, and wants to warn people of the dangers of online romance.
Spanish-born Lilliana joined the Global Personals website when she felt ready to move on after her husband, William Jones, died in 1992.
William had served in the Royal Navy, and Lilliana found herself drawn to those in uniform, being contacted by who she thought was a general in the American army last year.
“We became very friendly, but we were only speaking by email at first,” she said. “He asked me not to tell anyone I was talking to him because they have strict protocol in the army. He had pictures of himself on his profile wearing full army gear in a conference.
“I took him very seriously because he seemed so respectable. He won my heart and I fell in love with him just from writing back and forth.”
One day last year Lilliana got jilted but decided to persevere with the site before meeting a strangely similar user.
“In January another person contacted me who said he was a doctor with the army out in Afghanistan and was close to retirement,” she said.
“We were emailing each other every day, and he asked if I would be able to look after some things for him before he returned to the UK. He asked if I could keep a packet containing gold bullion, jewellery and personal items.”
Lilliana agreed to meet a courier at Heathrow on February 20.
“That night I had a phone call from Germany to my mobile phone,” she said. “The courier was stuck in German customs and said he needed to pay £5,000 to be released. I told him I do not pay for friendship but I kept getting calls, saying the package was in my name. I called the police.
“He broke my heart and destroyed my self respect.
“People need to be aware of what is going on. It is lucky my neighbours stopped me from sending the money when I told them what was going on.”
A spokesman for Global Personals said: “We’re sorry to hear this has happened to Ms Jones. We take a number of steps to protect our members.
“Our specialised team check all profiles and monitor suspicious activity to prevent fraudulent behaviour, often stopping scammers before they have chance to reach members.
“We also have a Report this Member button on every profile page, for members to alert us instantly.
“The online safety tips feature on our site advises members never to give money, personal or bank details to someone they have never met.”
For more information and guidance in dealing with internet fraud Action Fraud should be contacted first on 0300 123 2040 .