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Pat Ekins, a 46 year-old grandmother lost everything to a 28-year-old she met in the Turkish resort of Marmaris. She sold her house and gave everything to Ibrahim Halin, who fled with the money.

So how did he dupe her, and how can we avoid being led astray?

Toy Boy Con

Ekins told her story to the Daily Mail, four years after losing the money, after having her life turned around by charity Emmaus.

She met the 28-year-old on holiday, and for a while she flew over to see him every couple of months. He told her he needed £70,000 to invest in his bar, so she sold her house in Preston, Lancashire, without telling her family, flew over, and transferred the money into Halin's account.

He left her apartment after receiving the money, saying he was going to sign the papers for the bar investment, and he never returned.

To make matters worse, she had lived in the home with her ex-husband and youngest daughter (who is now 27), and had been supposed to split the money three ways. So when she lost the cash they turned their back on her, and when she returned from Turkey she ended up sleeping in a park.

She told the newspaper: "It was a proper reality check. I thought, what I am doing here after everything I had going for me? All for a man."

Not alone

It's a tragic tale. However she is not the only woman in the UK to be duped by a man who she thought loved her. Typically these scams tend to take place online nowadays - although there are clearly risks in the real world to.

When Professor Monica Whitty from the University of Leicester researched the risks of internet dating, she discovered these scams were rife. In just one year in the UK there were 592 victims of this crime - with more than a third of them losing over £5,000.

She estimated that in total there are likely to have been 230,000 victims, who have lost between £50 and £800,000.

In these scams, individuals set up fake profiles, declare their love early on, and then ask for small gifts or money. If their victim complies, they increase their requests, often asking for money to help them with a serious danger, or to fly to the UK. In some instances they encourage the victim to take photographs or make videos of themselves that they use to blackmail them with.

Brenda Parke

Brenda Parke, a 60 year old retiree, told her story to Action Fraud to warn others of the risks. She was scammed out of £60,000 after meeting a man on an internet dating site. He said he was a successful businessman whose partner had died, leaving him with his daughter.

He said his daughter had been injured in an accident overseas and needed £9,600 for an operation. She was manipulated into feeling responsible, and sent the money. He then insisted he needed £44,500 for his business and to travel home, and that he would repay her as soon as he returned to the UK. She went to the airport to meet him, but he never showed up.

She said: "Having previously considered myself to be a bright and intelligent woman, who has successfully created a secure financial environment for my retirement, I believe that if I could be manipulated and reduced to 'a puppet on a string' because of this man's subtlety and supposed sincerity, then there are millions of vulnerable people out there just waiting to be abused by a very professional and consummate actor."

Protect yourself

The experts say that it pays to assume the worst when you are getting to know someone online. When internet dating, always guard your personal details, and do not reveal too much about yourself - especially if they ask about your financial situation.

Ask a lot of questions, research their answers, and trust your instincts if someone appears to be cagey or inconsistent.

Be especially wary of people who declare their love early, despite never having met you, especially if they have no photo, or if their photo looks like a model.

If they ask for financial help or talk about difficulties, this should be a red flag. The scammers are very convincing, but these are tall tales - don't be sucked in.



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