Surrey woman loses £150,000 in bogus soldier date scam

A Woking woman has lost £150,000 after she was targeted in an internet dating scam in which fraudsters pose as US soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

Police said she met someone online who said he needed the cash to buy his way out of the army and relocate to the UK.

Officers said other women in Surrey had also handed over money to bogus soldiers who they met on dating sites.

One Caterham woman gave away £1,400 but later found the officer she was communicating with was in fact dead.

Spanish bank accounts

Surrey Police said the fraudsters were usually plausible and often used real names, ranks and pictures of serving US soldiers.

Det Insp Richard Hamlin said fraudsters were skilled in building relationships, preyed on often vulnerable victims, and could spend weeks grooming them to make them think they were involved in a "genuine romance".

He said: "It is a sophisticated scam and those behind it are very difficult to trace meaning there is little chance of getting back any money once it has been handed over."

He said the Woking woman had frequent email contact with the bogus soldier before he asked for money.

A few days before he was due to arrive in the UK, all contact ceased and she never heard from him again.

Sent 'army' paperwork

Police said her £150,000, which was handed over in small and then larger amounts, appeared to have been sent to Spanish bank accounts.

When she contacted the US Army, officials confirmed the suspect's name was known to them as being a fraudster.

The Caterham woman was contacted by a man who claimed to be a lieutenant in Afghanistan and told her he would visit if she could pay £1,400 for his journey.

When she was asked to complete apparently official army paperwork and to hand over a further £8,000, she contacted the embassy. She found out the officer she thought she was in contact with had died.

Police have advised people starting an online relationship to check if what the other person is saying is true by asking another person who would know.

People who meet someone online but who cannot telephone or write to them should be suspicious, and be very suspicious if they are asked for money.

Officers said people should never be persuaded or pressured to part with money by someone they've never met, no matter how convincing they are. They should also keep personal information secret.

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