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A man has spoken out to warn others after he was conned out of his £15,000 life savings by online scammer who claimed to be in love with him.
Fifty-nine-year-old Dave Hazel, from King's Lynn, Norfolk, fell head over heels for a woman calling herself Linda Smith he met on a dating site back in 2012.
Dave, a warehouse worker, spent a year chatting to the woman, who claimed to be from Canada, and began to plan their life together.
However, soon their chats turned to financial requests from the woman, who claimed she needed the cash to get a visa to come to the UK.
Dave said: "After losing almost £15,000 I was heartbroken - I had been ready to start a family with Linda.
"I had been speaking to her online for 12 months but despite not meeting her or using Skype, we had spoken on the phone.
"I met her on a dating site, and she looked like someone I'd met in London and she said she remembered meeting me.
"We began building up a relationship, having conversations daily - she introduced herself as Linda Smith.
"I even rang her, and she spoke with an accent that sounded more English than Canadian.
"Before I knew it, I was falling for her - my heart had melted, and she was lovely.
"She wanted to live with me, and I thought I was in love."
The pair made plans to meet up, but 'Linda' told Dave that getting into the UK wasn't an easy, or cheap, task.
"The first thing she asked me for was a visa costing £500," Dave said.
"I was ready to have a full relationship, and I was happy to help her.
"She asked me to send it through Moneygram - which works almost like PayPal and two weeks after that it was another £500 for a medical check.
"She said she would marry me and have children - she was promising everything I'd always wanted."
And the requests for cash didn't stop there, the scammer then went on to ask for money for flights as well as to help clear up some 'visa complications'. Dave quickly worked his way through £15,000.
He initially began to get suspicious when the woman told him she would need plane tickets from Ghana - not Canada.
Dave said: "I thought she was coming from Canada but when I asked for proof of the tickets they said she was coming from Ghana.
"I asked her to explain - and she said she'd just been visiting.
"But then I got a phone call from immigration in Ghana after she'd been detained for having a large amount of money on her person.
"They told me the person I was waiting for wasn't coming and was being arrested."
So, Dave did a bit of digging and went to his local bank, where it was found that all the paper work between the pair - and the money transfers - proved that he had been scammed.
Dave added: "It was the darkest period of my life - I asked them if they were joking, I couldn't have been conned.
"I didn't trust anyone and couldn't speak to anyone for months.
"Without Victim Support - a service which offers initial support and information to victims of crimes like mine, and assessed your needs going forward - I wouldn't be here.
"I've learnt you should always ask for advice, and if you're sending money without seeing them, stop.
"Don't be ashamed - you're not the only one - these cons left me heartbroken and it's taken me years to fix things."
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