BBC’s For Love or Money: Scam victim in tears
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dianne, 88, said was lonely as she was not seeing friends and family. She started speaking to a man who claimed to be called ‘Hillary Mammdov’ or ‘Larry’ on Facebook and eventually sent him over £35,000. “[The pandemic] was a horrible, horrible time, and I think he saved my life,” she said.
On the BBC programme For Love or Money on Wednesday, Kym Marsh and Ashley John-Baptiste tried to show Dianne the truth behind this online romance fraud in an effort to help her draw a line under this horrific chapter in her life.
Larry claimed to Dianne that he was an engine room engineer on a ship which meant he was always travelling around. He said he had dual Azerbaijan and American citizenship, and was living in America at the time.
He told her his account in Azerbaijan was frozen and promised to pay her back when his account reactivated, when asking her for help.
She was not worried about getting repaid as she thought Larry was good for money. He had sent her documents proving he had $1million (around £7.9million), but for various excuses he could not access his money.
Dianne sent Lary £36,000. (Image: BBC)
Dianne was determined to get Larry to come to the UK so they could finally meet.
He later claimed to be in New Zealand, he told her he would come to the UK before returning to America. However on the way to the airport he claimed he was in a motorbike accident.
After receiving a call about the accident, she was happy to pay his medical bills to start his treatment.
She said: “It was £9,000 – it wasn’t cheap, but over the three years of course it’s got more and more and more and he does owe me a lot of money and he said he will repay me but words are cheap.”
Dianne had given Larry money for flights and medical bills, as well as the custom fees to have his valuable box shipped from different countries to the UK.
Dianne said she had used all her savings to pay for these things – around £36,000.
In tears, she said: “It’s taken me all my life since I was 35 scrimping and scraping, working two or three jobs, looking after my children.
“I’ve been stupid. I really have been stupid but what do I do?
“I still love him. I’m still crazy about him. This is why I have come to find out if he is real.
For Love or Money: Dianne was devastated after finding out Larry was not real (Image: BBC)
“I’d like to have the love I never had.”
Scammers overseas like to think online romance fraud is easy but teams of UK police are determined to show them this is not the case.
Criminals target victims through social media and dating websites so they can find vulnerable people looking for companionship.
After investigating Dianne’s case, Ashley found hat Larry and the profile of ‘Hillary Mammdov’ were fake.
Unfortunately Ashley found that the relationship was nothing but a front from the beginning to get money from Dianne. All the passports and official documents he sent to Dianne were forged online and were not genuine. The money she spent on the medical bills was also a front as treatment for accidents in New Zealand are free.
Ashley said: “The passports, driving license, the photos, the other document information, we can tell her that a scammer is at play.
“From what I can see, Larry – the person Dianne thinks she’s talking to isn’t real, and the photos of Larry belong to another man.”
Devastated by the revelation that it was all a lie, Dianne said: “I loved him so much, he meant my life to me.
“I would take him over everybody, all my family and everything. I can’t believe he’d be so cruel.”
For Love or Money continues tomorrow on BBC One at 10am.
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