When a warehouse worker from Norfolk fell in love online, he thought it was the real deal.
So, of course, Dave Hazel was devastated to discover the woman wasn’t who she said she was after a year of online dating peppered with a number of phone conversations.
He believed he was falling in love with a Canadian woman called Linda Smith, who he met on a dating site in 2012.
In fact, he was being conned by a Ghanaian fraudster who had swindled him out of £15,000 over the course of twelve months by pretending the money was to help this fictional woman move to the UK to be with Dave.
Dave, who is now aged 59 and single, had plans to start a family with Linda and is speaking out for the first time about being scammed online.
After losing almost £15,000 I was heartbroken – I had been ready to start a family with Linda.
I had been speaking to her online for 12 months but despite not meeting her or using Skype, we had spoken on the phone.
I met her on a dating site and she looked like someone I’d met in London and she said she remembered meeting me.
I even rang her and she spoke with an accent that sounded more English than Canadian.
Before I knew it, I was falling for her – my heart had melted and she was lovely. She wanted to live with me and I thought I was in love.
Upon the request of his believed beau, the romantic started by sending smaller sums of money – £500 here and there for a VISA and medical insurance – through MoneyGram, which works a bit like PayPal.
Dave paid for plane tickets, visa complications and more – fully believing Linda Smith was on her way to finally meet him until he noticed the travel tickets were not from Canada, but from Ghana instead.
His suspicions were raised.
The Norfolk man recalled:
I thought she was coming from Canada but when I asked for proof of the tickets they said she was coming from Ghana.
I asked her to explain – and she said she’d just been visiting. But then I got a phone call from immigration in Ghana after she’d been detained for having a large amount of money on her person.
They told me the person I was waiting for wasn’t coming and was being arrested.
During the ‘darkest period’ of his life, Dave subsequently investigated but was told by his bank he couldn’t get his money back, as he had voluntarily sent it and it couldn’t be traced.
He has since sought help from Victim Support but wants his story to be a warning to others.
Move to make MTV’s Catfish obligatory public service viewing for all those with access to WiFi?
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