Home Money My mother lost £30,000 to romance scammers who took advantage of her loneliness after my father died.

My mother lost £30,000 to romance scammers who took advantage of her loneliness after my father died.

0 comment
Howard Kosky discovered that his mother Shirley had been the victim of a friendship scam

Howard Kosky discovered that his mother Shirley had been the victim of a friendship scam

When Howard Kosky cleaned out his late mother’s house last year, he found an envelope with used Apple vouchers worth thousands of pounds.

As he looked, he discovered that they were all in denominations of £250 and £500, which amounted to around £13,000.

At the same time, when his mother’s estate went into probate, Howard, who lives in St Albans, received her bank statements and found a worrying number of withdrawals and bank transfers.

Unfortunately, the vouchers and payments were not given to friends or family, but to scammers who cruelly took advantage of his loneliness in the two years before his death.

Howard’s mother, Shirley, used Facebook on her iPad to chat with her friends. But six months after Howard’s father died in October 2020, she began using friendship websites.

“Every once in a while she would talk to me and say, ‘I met this man, how would you feel?’ and I would say, ‘Well, Mom, if you’re happy, I’m happy.'”

But my suspicions were there. She would ask him her name, where she lives and she would often say that she is in the United States.

‘I remember going out to lunch with Mum and she said, “How would you feel if I met someone?”…she showed me a photo of a guy who was in his early 50s and prettier than George Clooney.

“With all due respect to mom, she was playing the 80s…

“I tried to tell her, ‘Mom, it’s a scam,’ and my cynicism almost offended her.”

Howard’s story is not an isolated one, as romance scammers continue to fleece people across the country and warnings from family and friends are ignored.

“Suspicions arose when he said that someone in the United States had asked him to transfer $3,000.”

He warned his mother not to move money anywhere, but unfortunately she did not heed the warnings and lost £30,000 as a result.

“Unfortunately, each time it followed a very similar pattern, and as much as I would tell Mom it’s a scam, it’s not a real person.”

‘In the end I couldn’t be a companion or take care of my mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She was in control of her own money and her bank account and unfortunately I realize that professional scammers know exactly what they are doing.

‘They are obviously very literate and there is certain language and points in terms of how to try to get people to respond and react in a certain way. Unfortunately, mom was a victim of it.’

Romance and friendship scammers tend to target more vulnerable people

Romance and friendship scammers tend to target more vulnerable people

Howard visited his mother every Sunday to spend time with her, but did not realize she had transferred thousands of pounds to scammers until after her death in June 2023.

As well as Apple vouchers worth £13,000, Shirley lost around £17,000 to scammers via bank transfers.

‘I don’t know what was going through his mind, obviously loneliness. She had been married to my father for over 50 years. They hadn’t spent a day apart.

‘That void in his life… I guess he was looking to fill it somehow.’

Howard isn’t sure if Shirley would have realized it was a scam, but he hopes that if she had she wouldn’t have made the same mistake.

‘Who knows when someone feels so alone? All she could do was ask mom every week how things were.

‘It’s not my place to access your phone and check your messages.

‘It’s not my place to try to log into all her different parts online, I just had to trust what she told me.

“The fact that on more than one occasion he met someone online who was in the United States, and after several weeks the question arose: ‘can you transfer money to me?’ She would have hoped that mom would have realized that there is a pattern that these scammers have.” Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Although Howard had power of attorney, he says she was of sound mind and there was no need to control her.

‘Mom was mentally healthy and fit, so I didn’t feel the need to execute the power she had. Because that is taking away your freedoms and liberties. She kept driving and she was more than capable of living on her own.

“I felt a mixture of anger and frustration”

When Howard realized that Shirley had been the victim of several scammers, he says he felt a “combination of sadness and anger.”

‘It’s very sad that Mum was a victim, that she had that level of loneliness after Dad’s death that she felt like she was becoming friends with someone… they would get closer if she transferred money. I don’t know.

‘The anger was towards the scammer and a little bit towards my mother, no matter how much I told her not to do it, she still did it.

‘I know it’s not strange. It’s strange that no matter how many times you watch shows on TV, or listen to the radio, or read articles warning people… it feels like among the lonely older age group… they are a little more susceptible to be victims than perhaps others.’

It feels like among the older, lonely age group… they’re a little more susceptible to being victims.

New figures from Wealth At Work show that 14 per cent of the 6.2 million adults who were victims of fraud fell for a friendship or romance scam.

The research found that among those who had lost money in a financial scam, the average amount was more than £1,000.

Despite Howard’s anger towards the scammers, he did not contact the police to tell them what happened.

‘There is nothing you can do. I remember that I later contacted the bank and asked how the transfers were made. The reality is that no crime is being committed. The smart thing about the scam is that it’s not fraud, you’re not paying for something you’re not getting.’

There has been a proliferation of Authorized Push Payment (APP) scams when someone is tricked into sending money to a scammer posing as someone else.

money item button_style module" data-channel-color="money">

The latest figures show £239.3m was lost to APP scams in the first half of 2023. Meanwhile, UK Finance said yesterday that romance scams are at record levels, with victims losing £36.5m on last year.

These scams often run for months and tens of thousands of pounds are siphoned off once trust is built.

The £36.5 million figure is also likely to be the tip of the iceberg as many victims do not report crime, including the case above.

‘It is uncomfortable. You feel like you’ve been defrauded and money has been taken from you, but the reality is that (my mom) bought a lot of vouchers. So do many other people.

‘It just so happens that these vouchers were given to someone claiming to be someone and my mother was the victim of a scam.

‘It’s loneliness. All I can do is try to understand it. She was with my dad for 50 years… as soon as dad leaves, there’s a huge void. I guess chatting with people online she felt was a way to have a friendship.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

You may also like