ABI Patron, Peter James, writes about the escalation of ‘Romance Fraud’
Jack Roberts’ client is a woman whose 59-year old widowed mother is being fleeced by the ‘new man in her life’; supposedly an English filmmaker based in Germany. She is yet to meet her paramour, but is happy to make a series of loans to him. “He’s a pretty busy guy out on the internet,” Jack tells the client. He’s been conducting expert research for her. “At least half a dozen ladies are all in love with him – and several of them are in the process of helping him buy his ex-wife out of their property. Not bad for someone who doesn’t actually exist!”
This above excerpt is from ABI patron, Peter James’ latest novel, ‘Dead at First Sight’. Peter has produced another fast-moving, page-turning, tale-twisting best-seller and acknowledges the expert input provided by Private Investigator and long-standing ABI member, Jack Roberts of Global Investigations. The theme of the book, ‘Romance Fraud’, was suggested by Peter’s contacts in Sussex Police as a topic which needed exposure. How better to do this than share with his millions of readers!
This particularly cruel crime cost UK victims alone over £300m in 2018 – an increase of 18% on the previous year - and that was discounting the estimated 94% who were too embarrassed to report their misfortune to Action Fraud. In the US in the same year, it is estimated that victims coughed up over a billion dollars to these same people.
“Many of the victims were smart professional people who were supposed to know what they were doing. It was hard for a worldly-wise person, who had handed over every penny they had, to admit this to friends and family.”
In the book, Jack Roberts is a character playing himself. He is called on by Peter’s hero, Det Supt Roy Grace, to reveal information pertinent to a murder he is investigating, and which has been committed by the fraudsters, who are also in Jack’s sights. Naturally, Jack gives Roy Grace a vital steer, but is hindered by data protection legislation from divulging the identities of his clients. He accepts that the Police have much-reduced resources and are unable to go after the offenders overseas. Jack nevertheless offers some advice to the Superintendent, warning that he should act quickly; “Or you might find that vigilantes will be doing your job for you!”
The scammers are invariably based in Ghana, Nigeria or Eastern Europe. Indeed, for the Ghanaian ‘Sakawa Boys’ it appears to be a cottage industry . . . these adept internet fraudsters are easy to spot . . . they are the ones driving their Range-Rovers and Toyota Camrys around the prosperous Santa Marie suburb of Accra each Saturday night.
Peter James with ABI President Ron Harrison
In the real world, Jack has investigated more than 300 romance fraud cases for clients who have been conned out of enormous sums of money . . . one almost reaching a staggering $5m. Peter was introduced to Jack at the 2018 ABI AGM in Brighton . . . “It was very opportune!” said Peter, who was at the time researching this very book. He followed it up with a visit to Jack’s offices in Surrey. Such is the devastation which this crime causes, Jack told Peter, that some of his clients, who ultimately came to the bitter realisation that their love-life had evaporated along with their life savings, admitted to being close to suicide.
“I think this is going to come as a shock. The lady you are waiting for does not exist!”
Sussex Police appear to be at the forefront of warning the public of the dangers of Romance Fraud; the website https://www.sussex.police.uk/romance-fraud offers up essential advice for those who use dating agencies.
On the bookshelves now!
The fifteenth in the ‘Roy Grace’ series, ‘Dead at First Sight’ continues to capture the reader by being believable. Peter James’ meticulous research gives this gripping tale authenticity, at the same time vividly describing the consequences of falling in love with an online scammer. Supt Grace takes on these scammers with his usual zeal and enthusiasm, despite the reservations of his boss, the odious Assistant Chief Constable, Cassian Pewe . . . one of those officers “scared of putting a single politically incorrect foot wrong.”
The Audible Audiobook is also available . . . the text adeptly read by actor, Daniel Weyman.