[imagesource: Getty Images]
Romance scams are nothing new.
They’re just grabbing headlines now because The Tinder Swindler has become an international sensation, encouraging (mostly) women to come forward and share their stories.
In South Africa, Amon “Amoleno” Namara, the man dubbed “South Africa’s very own Tinder Swindler”, has been in the news a fair bit. One of his victims has filed charges, alleging she was defrauded to the tune of R3 million.
Enter a man calling himself Craig Allen online, who clearly knows a thing or two about exploiting women.
IOL spoke with Sandra Smith (not her real name) about how she was duped out of millions of rands in the space of eight months, going from business owner to sleeping in a homeless shelter.
In total, the 62-year-old divorcee says she was taken for R2 million, as well as money, jewellery, furniture, and art.
Smith says Allen, who claimed to be from Camps Bay, reached out online and the two began chatting:
“We made plans to have Christmas lunch at the Joburg Country Club where we would meet for the first time. He was supposedly in Italy for the holidays and was flying back to SA to spend Christmas day with me. I believed him,” she said.
True to form, the wily scammer was a no-show for lunch. A few days later Smith received a call to say that his Standard Bank account was hacked and that he needed money. Already weary, Smith reluctantly sent R5 000 to her beau.
With suspicions raised, Smith went to the Italian Embassy to verify his passport details, which checked out.
His constant grooming via WhatsApp and email (they never once chatted via video) created an emotional attachment, and she started hiding details from her family.
By the time she came clean, the damage was done:
When Smith eventually saw the wood for the trees, Allen was long gone and she was not only heartbroken but had also lost everything she owned. Smith holds a Master’s Degree in English and French and was almost admitted to a mental institution when her troubles reached family ears.
“I was on all kinds of pills and tranquillisers. Now I am trying to rebuild my businesses. My brother pays my rent and I live off my Sassa grant. How could this have happened to me?” she laments.
Craig Allen did not live in Camps Bay.
In fact, in January, 31-year-old Fortune Nomfusi was arrested in Khayelitsha on charges of fraud and money laundering related to Smith’s case.
Hawks spokesperson Carol Mulamu said the accused was granted R3 000 bail and will appear again on March 25.
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