A DEVASTATED lonely heart is warning others to be on their guard after her dream online date turned into a real-life nightmare.
Widowed pensioner Marilyn Davies has found out that the dashing US Army officer who contacted her on a dating website was actually a cyber criminal trying to swindle her out of money.
Mrs Davies plucked up the courage to try online dating after her husband of 39 years died just over a year ago.
After registering on the websites Zoosk and Are You Interested, a man calling himself Edwin Massin-gale, who claimed to be a US master sergeant serving in Afghanistan, tried to build an online relationship with her.
But US Army CID has received hundreds of reports from people across the world targeted by cyber criminals assuming the identity of American soldiers who promise true love, but end up breaking people’s hearts and their bank accounts.
The scammer bombarded the 60-year-old with more than 200 e-mails and text messages, often until 4am, including supposed photographs of him in uniform and of his 10-year-old son.
But what started out as messages of admiration soon turned into requests to visit Mrs Davies in England, along with his son. The couple never spoke on the phone and the scammer told her to keep their relationship secret.
It was when he asked Mrs Davies to e-mail the Afghanistan government at an e-mail address he supplied that she spoke to relatives and realised that it was all just a ploy to trick her out of her money.
Holding back the tears, Mrs Davies said: “Now I just feel so stupid and so vulnerable.
“He said he wanted to live with me and marry me and be in my arms.
“I just laughed about it at first, but it became so serious. He was saying that he was really scared in the army. I felt sorry for him,” she said.
Luckily, Mrs Davies, of Hereford, became wise to the scammer’s lies before she sent him any money, but is still terrified that he knows personal information about her.
“I was my husband’s carer before he died. After, I felt I needed someone to speak to just as a friend and go out with and that’s what I was looking for. I just wanted to fill a gap.
“I didn’t feel like I could go out on my own. I’ve never even walked into a pub before on my own. I was dedicated to my husband.”
Having decided to give up internet dating, Mrs Davies is now warning other singles to be wary and not to fall prey to similar scams.
“I’ve had enough, I’d rather stay single. I don’t trust anyone now,” she said.
Tim Thorne, of Trading Standards, said it was a well reported scam, but little could be done to regulate it.
“The websites used to bring people together are not directly to blame – it’s the people who use them and provide false information to the vulnerable.”
He urged people not to respond to requests for money whatever reasons are given. Mrs Davies received an e-mail asking for $1,200 toward administration costs for his leave to be transferred by Western Union to a woman at an address in Chingola, Zambia. Bizarrely, the letter referred to a Gary and not an Edwin Massingale and told her that she had three working days to make the payment.