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Love in the time of COVID-19

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Love is a beautiful thing, but that surely will not be the opinion of a woman who was reportedly conned out £113,000 life savings by a romance scammer. Rachel Elwell, from the West Midlands lost the money after falling for an elaborate romance fraud.

According to the report in the Daily Mail, she had met the scammer on a free online dating site she joined to talk to people during the lockdown. She was quoted as saying: “We had similar interests and he lived within 25 miles where I lived, he had a dog we both liked dancing and he seemed quite open and transparent. We were going to meet up but there were COVID-19 restrictions, so there was no urgency and rush.’’

The man told her he was an engineer and later informed her that they would have to wait weeks to meet as he had gone to Ukraine for an engineering contract. To cut a long story short, the conman contacted Ms Elwell claiming all was not well that he was being held captive by kidnappers. She borrowed money from her banks through credit cards and loans and sent it across. Now, the poor woman is not only left facing bankruptcy after being scammed, but very depressed.

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I feel really sorry for the victim; the fraudster exploited her gullibility. Some people are unsympathetic to her story; one person I thought would not be surprisingly shocked me with his comment. Duncan the happy-go-lucky fellow who never takes anything serious except his beer. I asked him why and he told me he had been a victim.

Duncan, victim of a love scam? The self-acclaimed King of Bachelors? This is one guy who wore his single status like a badge of honour despite the pressure to get married from his mum. So, it is expected that I will be all ears when he told me he was a victim of romance scam.

During the lockdown, he was with his mum and an older cousin whose mantra was life is too short. For days on end Duncan’s mother will pester him about getting married and starting a family. His cousin was in agreement. Duncan was tired of her nagging and cry of “I want to carry my grand children before I die.’’ He eventually succumbed to his mother’s wish on the condition that they should find an educated young woman from their town for him. His older cousin Johnbull (Not real name) began the search in earnest. He made several calls and also guaranteed Duncan that he would leverage his position as the secretary of the Town’s Descendant Union to find the right woman.

Johnbull began to give Duncan daily phone bills, which he promptly paid. When the lockdown ended, it became phone bill plus transport fare to check out prospective brides. After many fruitless search, Johnbull informed Duncan that he had found the right woman.

He was really excited and told Duncan that the only snag is that the lady lived with her parents in the outskirts of town. He would require more money to travel down to check her out. Duncan suspected he was being fleeced, so he decided instead of giving Johnbull the fare, he might as well go with him; after all he is the one looking for a wife.

They embarked on the journey. Duncan wanted to know if Johbull had seen a picture of the woman. “I haven’t, but my contact assured me that the young woman met all the specification. I have also called the lady’s father to inform him of our visit without mentioning the purpose. You know as secretary of our union, it comes with respect and access,” Johnbull said.

The lady’s parents welcomed them warmly. Johbull after pleasantries wasted no time in telling the parents the reason for the visit: “We heard about a beautiful flower in this house and we have come to pluck it.” Everyone laughed at the statement.

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“Have you seen my daughter,” the father asked. Again Johnbull confirmed he had not and was only acting on the information he got.

The father went on to tell them that his daughter is not ready for marriage; she still had two more years to finish school and move on the next level of education. Duncan quickly interjected and informed the father that he is willing to wait until she graduate, happy to have a convenient excuse to wait for a while before tying the knot.

His response made the father smile mischievously and told them not to jump to conclusion until they see his daughter. He asked his wife to bring their daughter. From the smirk on the father’s face, Duncan said he could tell something was not quite right.

When the mother emerged with the daughter, Duncan was so embarrassed and wished the ground would open up and swallow him.

Before him was a girl of about 15.

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