British divorcee Sheila has revealed how she was duped by an online con artist who targeted her through a reputable dating website. The divorcee in her late sixties told Channel 5 show Secrets Of The Scammers how she was contacted by a man claiming to be called Glen Almond and got caught up in a whirlwind romance.
She ended up giving away £4,000 before she discovered she was the victim of an elaborate scam based in Nigeria. Even to this day, Sheila has no idea who she was actually talking to or where her money went.
The couple then started planning their future together. Glen told Sheila his time in Afghanistan could be coming to an end in a matter of weeks and he would move to the UK to be with her. He said he planned to set up his own business there importing goods from the Far East.
"We were planning to walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand and live happily ever after."
Sheila said she didn't know anything about his business but 'I thought we were to be a husband and wife team and I would support him in any way I could.
"He told me our whole future was at stake if he didn't pay and we risked losing everything."
Desperate to help the man she loved, Sheila was able to sell some shares and delve into her savings to give £4,000 in total to Glen.
She also put her house on the market so they would have some money to buy a new place together. It was only thanks to sharing her excitement over the plan with a prospective buyer that she discovered she had been conned.
"As I was showing prospective buyers around my house I was so excited as Glen was due to be coming home tomorrow. I couldn't help telling them all about it and showed them Glen's picture on my laptop." she recalled.
The prospective buyer was a former soldier himself and was suspicious of Sheila's situation. After doing some research of his own, his fears were confirmed and he contacted Sheila and told her she had been duped.
"The moment I found out it was a fake profile and it wasn't for real I was emotionally devastated. My whole world fell apart. I contacted the police who found I was one of hundreds of victims of this professional, international scam and they traced it back to Nigeria. I have no idea to this day who I was corresponding with. Someone out there in the world was writing these emails and I have no idea who it was."
Alexis Conran, presenter of Secret Of The Scammers, was able to track down a reformed Nigerian con artist who was part of a team perating dating scams like that experienced by Sheila.
The remorseful scammer called Kingsley admitted that divorcees were deliberately targetted because they are often emotionally vulnerable and easy to manipulate.
"I mostly made money through romance scams, we would pretend to be interested in dating them and along the line we con them out of money using various methods." he said
"We are looking for someone who is divorced as there is always an emotional attachment, they feel some sort of emptiness." he added.
He said they would send the woman a picture of a handsome man they would 'fall for' and concoct a back story about their life. He said they often pretended to have a military background as this is attractive to women and gives them a plausible reason why they can't meet."Most women say they want security and someone with a good job. One of the best jobs we believe is in the military and with a military man you can say you are travelling. It is a game of emotions."
He added that you have to dedicate time to each 'mark' and he would only be in contact with a maximum of five women at a time so his lies didn't get confused.
"The more time you spend on them the more attached they become and then the sooner you will get money, sometimes it is only between one and three months," he said.
"If you want to stay organised I would limit it to between one and five, when you are lying to them you don't want to forget anything.'
Kingsley admitted he is now sorry for what he has done and is no longer working as a scammer and regrets duping women out of their life savings.
He said: 'A lot of people have been permanently damaged and some will not recover, if I had the chance to undo everything I would."