A conman posing as an American soldier serving in Afghanistan scammed more than £250,000 out of two women on a dating site.
Tosin Femi Olasemo, 37, of Adamsdown, Cardiff, was yesterday sentenced to four and a half years at Cardiff Crown Court for online dating fraud.
Olasemo, a Nigerian who was in the UK on a student visa, used the name Captain Morgan Travis and a photograph of a soldier in full military uniform for his profile on match.com. After wooing the two women, he claimed he needed the money to arrange leave from the army.
"This case is an example of how an individual can sit in front of a computer and destroy another person's life," says detective sergeant Jamie Holcombe of the South Wales Police Economic Crime Unit. "Olasemo took advantage of his victims' vulnerabilities and showed no compassion for their significant losses."
The news comes as research released today from internet security firm BullGuard reveals that one in seven online daters believes that they've been scammed at some point.
A third think they've been lied to, while one in five say a date has tried to get financial information out of them for fraudulent purposes.
"While online dating is an increasingly popular trend and can be a very successful platform on which to meet like-minded people, it can also potentially open you up to identity fraud if you're not aware of the dangers.
"It's very difficult to get the balance right between being friendly and engaging with new people and giving too much away," says Cam Le, security expert at BullGuard.
"If anyone is asking for too much personal information soon after striking up conversation, then alarm bells should start ringing. If something feels wrong then hold back."
According to Action Fraud, common scams include asking for money for travel costs, or because a relative is ill.
Warning signs include supermodel good looks, a quick move away from the dating website's messaging system and on to private chat, and a reluctance to tell the victim much about themselves. And beware of anyone that gives you a pet name: while it may seem charming, it's merely a way of making it simpler to string several victims along at a time.
"As always, we would encourage those using dating sites or other internet forums to be vigilant," says DS Holcombe. "Please do not send money or provide personal details to strangers."
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