WHEN Sunita Brittain connected with Michael through Facebook Dating in January, she couldn’t believe how much they had in common.
Not only did they have the same birthday but he also claimed to be adopted too.
Sunita was targeted by the scammer on FacebookCredit: SWNS
The mum-of-two, 51, from Harworth, said: ”My story parallels with the Tinder Swindler, it is crazy.
“I was so vulnerable, I had just come out of a loveless marriage, was going through a divorce and was just craving some kind of attention to make me feel wanted again.
”He started talking to me in a very intimate way and made me feel like the only woman in the whole world.
“He was telling me things that you imagine in a fairytale, with that happily ever after ending.”
As well as owning a multi-million pound global engineering company, Michael also claimed to be a cryptocurrency analyst.
After the pair matched on 9 January, Michael asked Sunita for her number and they went on to exchange hundreds of messages on WhatsApp.
However, the mum says there were red flags from the start – which she “dismissed” because of her feelings for him.
She said: “”I found it strange why he never wanted to Facetime.
“He said he was camera shy – the one time I tried, the image from his side was blurry and he looked about 20 years older than his pictures.”
Eight days after their initial match, Michael told Sunita there had been a “tragic accident” at one of his engineering projects out in Northern Cyprus.
Describing how he had to “rush out there”, she continued: “He had to provide a huge pay-out of £160,000 to one of the families.
“Three days later, he told me the Cyprus Police are holding him in custody.
“He continued to say how much he loved me and how we will be together when this is all over.
“He called himself ‘The King’ and me ‘The Queen’ and told me how much he felt the connection of great love.”
Michael then asked Sunita to make three separate bank transfers to his lawyer, from his offshore bank account.
When she logged into his fake account on HorizoGlobal, the mum could see Michael had over £7million in his bank account – which she found reassuring.
I was so vulnerable, I had just come out of a loveless marriage, was going through a divorce and was just craving some kind of attention to make me feel wanted again.
He told her to transfer three separate transactions to his lawyer – two of £60,000 and one of £40,000 – which got rejected.
“I could see the money in his account going down, it was so realistic and didn’t even cross my mind that it was a fake website,” she said.
“He kept telling me the lines were down and there was no Wifi, so I had to keep transferring the money in instalments because he was unable to do it himself.”
The following week, Sunita received a fake email from the bank saying Michael couldn’t transfer any more money due to “security reasons”.
She explained: “I got calls from Michael and he was starting to stress out – saying he would have to sell his bitcoin and borrow money off his lawyer.
“He told me to send the bank my ID and lie saying I was his finance.
“He said he would rather pay the compensation rather than lose his trading business license and needed to buy flights to come home back to me.
She transferred £9k after seeing Michael had millions in his bank account – which turned out to be fakeCredit: SWNS
“He started guilt-tripping me, begging me to help him – saying he would pay me back.”
At this point, Sunita transferred £9,000 to Michael’s “lawyer” in Coventry.
Once she had done this, Michael sent Sunita screenshots of his flights back to Doncaster on January 28.
She was planning to pick him up from the airport before heading to LA on the Sunday so they could “prove Michael’s identity for his offshore bank account”.
Sunita said: “My suitcase was packed and I was so excited.
“I couldn’t get hold of Michael all afternoon, and suddenly I received a call from one of his ‘lawyers’ saying Michael was arrested by police officials on his flight home for ‘tax evasion’, his phone had been taken away and he was stuck in Police Custody.
MET Police Guidance to avoid being scammed online:
- Be suspicious of all ‘too good to be true’ offers and deals. There are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes.
- Don’t agree to offers or deals immediately. Insist on time to get independent or legal advice before making a decision.
- Don’t hand over money or sign anything until you’ve checked someone’s credentials and their company’s.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know or trust, whether in the UK or abroad, or use methods of payment you’re not comfortable with.
- Never give banking or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust. This information is valuable so make sure you protect it.
- Always log on to a website directly rather than clicking on links in an email.
- Don’t just rely on glowing testimonials. Find solid, independent evidence of a company’s success.
- Always get independent or legal advice if an offer involves money, time or commitment.
- If you spot a scam or have been scammed, report it and get help.
- Don’t be embarrassed about reporting a scam. Because the scammers are cunning and clever there’s no shame in being deceived. By reporting it, you’ll make it more difficult for them to deceive others.
Source: MET Police
“I rung my best friend, telling her about everything that happened and how I was supposed to be going to America.
“She asked me how much I had given him so I told her.
“That is when she said, ‘Sunita. Wake up. You’ve been scammed – you have kids to think of, he could’ve killed you.
“She could tell right away and that is when the penny dropped and I knew that I had been scammed.
“The whole thing may seem desperate but when you’re on your own, these scammers play with your mind and people don’t understand that.
“When you isolate yourself from people, you can be blind-sighted by somebody getting into your head.”
Following this conversation, Sunita immediately notified her bank, who froze her account and got in contact with the Action Fraud Police Unit.
The mum claims the scammer has been harassing her ever since and demanding she “unfreeze her bank account”.
“He suddenly turned nasty and started threatening me that he would find out where I live” Sunita said.
“He’s been calling me on different numbers and shouting, it’s terrifying and just horrific.
“On Feb 1st I opened my blinds and saw a suspicious van parked right outside my house so I immediately called the police.
“I have two children and no where else to go and just want to stop this from happening to anyone else.”
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