"Kevin’ truly led me to believe he loved me. I was in a vulnerable state then, having lost Ian, and I wanted and needed to be loved," the woman said.
After her loving husband's death, Di Pogson was at an extremely vulnerable state and all she wanted was a friend. And when she was at one of her weakest points, a group of strangers swooped in and made her believe that she was falling for someone by the name of 'Kevin Thompson' who didn't actually exist.
The online fraudsters, under the guise of charismatic and rich 'Kevin', managed to scam over $48,000 (£40,000) from the 57-year-old widow. "For a long time, I felt so stupid. I’m a grown woman – how on earth had I been conned like this?" Di said.
When her husband, Ian, died after 29 years of a happy marriage, Di was devastated and lonely. She was bereaved just months before the couple was to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. In July 2014, Ian was taken to the hospital after experiencing difficulty walking. Tests showed that he seemed to be fine. But within hours of leaving the hospital after being told he was fine, Ian's health quickly began to deteriorate.
Soon, Di got a call from the hospital asking her to come back to the hospital. “By the time I got there, Ian was dead..." Di said, according to The Sun. "It was horrendous. The scan being fine had almost lulled me into a false sense of security.”
Full with grief but determined to go find a way to move past the pain, Di started seeking companionship on an online dating site in 2016. She thought she met someone named 'Kevin', who told her that he, too, had lost his wife.
“It wasn’t necessarily about relationships. I just wanted a friend," Di said. “'Kevin' wasn’t what I’d call drop-dead gorgeous, but he seemed like a nice, normal guy. He told me he had a daughter, and that he had also been widowed when his wife died very suddenly."
Finding common ground with a man she was yet to meet, Di started feeling a connection with him, owing to the enticing web of lies she was told. "I felt comfortable opening up to him and telling him about Ian," she went on to say. "He sent me all these photos of him on holiday, and I even spoke to him on the phone. He was well-spoken and sounded completely normal – there was nothing to ring any alarm bells."
Di Pogson handed over the money after falling for “Kevin’s” web of lies - here she shares her story and the signs to look out for.https://t.co/yomxV1Ul0S— Vanda Gibbons (@VandaGibbons) August 12, 2019
They had been chatting for a few weeks when the first seemingly innocent request for money came in from 'Kevin'. “He said he was stuck abroad and his card wouldn’t work, but that he needed £450 for an emergency vet’s bill as his dog was very sick," Di said.
It's believed that they figured out her likes and dislikes, and used them to pull her strings. “I’m an animal lover myself and he made me feel so guilty. In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Would a vet really demand money upfront like that?’ But he was so convincing," she adds.
That was just the beginning of the string of requests that came her way. He would give reasons like he's stuck on a business trip with a blocked card. “Each time, the amount was around £1,000,” said Di. And if she ever questioned him about it, 'Kevin' was able to talk his way out of it. She said, “I feel stupid I fell for his con. If I questioned too much, I’d get, ‘Why don’t you trust me?’ or ‘You can’t possibly love me if you aren’t helping’.”
The fraudsters behind this scam had painted a picture of 'Kevin' in such a way that the money she sent her didn't mean much. "He’d talk about his flash lifestyle, how he had a Ferrari and spent summers in Italy. He told me it was degrading that he even had to ask for money," she said. "He even said he had written me a cheque for £60,000 (more than $72,000), which is more than I lent him, to thank me."
She was duped into thinking that they would end up together. "Kevin’ truly led me to believe he loved me. I was in a vulnerable state then, having lost Ian, and I wanted and needed to be loved," Di said. 'Kevin' even convinced her that they would soon be off to live a life together.
'When I said I physically hadn't any more money to give ... there was just nothing. No contact, nothing.'— This Morning (@thismorning) August 9, 2019
Di was conned out of £40K after online dating 👇 https://t.co/IGBZn1ADBA
“He led me to believe we’d be together and have this idyllic life. We’d talk on the phone and he’d say he loved hearing my voice, and would ask when my birthday was, so he could send a present," she said, according to StokeonTrentLive. “He even sent me flowers – some red roses – and would tell me he was going to get me a diamond ring. He said he loved me, and I said it back. Now, I don’t think I did, but at the time, I genuinely believed I could."
They finally set up a meeting and Di traveled all the way to London from West Yorkshire in December 2016, so that they could meet at the hotel she was staying in. "I sat in the foyer, waiting and waiting, but he never came," she said. "It was horrendous, I felt like such an idiot. Eventually, I lost my temper and left an angry voicemail."
As expected, 'Kevin' had an excuse for not showing up. “I didn’t hear back until the next morning," she said. “He said he’d been on a delayed flight from a business meeting in China then fallen asleep at home, but had to go straight back to China as something had gone wrong. He called me heartless, saying he couldn’t believe I would speak to him like that."
She even took a loan after 'Kevin' talked her into it, and gave him money until there was finally nothing more left to give. When she involved the police into the matter, they eventually found that 'Kevin' was a mask for a fraud gang who had also conned another victim from a large sum of money.
Di said, “Now I can see the messages were written by different people. You can tell by spelling mistakes. But at the time, I was convinced I had found love.”
What crushed her further was seeing the gang in court, "but I am refusing to let them win. Life is too short," she said. “Yes, I may not have the money I would have, but I’m getting by – and I’m happy, which is something you can’t buy," Di adds, concluding, “I am in a great place with my partner now. After all these frogs, I have finally found my prince.”