'I was scammed by my online lovers'

AS TOLD TO DANIELLE COLLEY
Last updated 13:37 24/08/2014
Ben Ivey
NO BED OF ROSES: Loneliness led to Ben Ivey being repeatedly scammed in his online quest for love.

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I met a girl through a website calledbenaughty.com, and she was amazing. She was an actress living in London and within a few days I felt a deep connection with her.

We chatted for hours online and, as we had so much in common, before long I started to feel like I was falling in love. When her handbag got stolen and she asked me if I could send her money to help her out, I didn't think twice. I hated the thought of her in trouble.

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Within two weeks of "meeting", she had booked a flight to come to see me in Sydney and I was thrilled - I could really see a future with her. Her plane was delayed, there were other mishaps, then she requested I send her some more money. Seventeen days - and $2000 - after we first met, I realised she was a love scammer. My parents encouraged me to cut all communication and I was heartbroken.

Three months later I felt ready to search for love again, so I joined a Facebook dating group where I met a girl called Belinda who lived near me. We communicated via Facebook and email and spoke on the phone. She had an online business and travelled a lot for work, so we were unable to meet in person.

A week after we started chatting, she needed to fly interstate but there were excess costs as she needed to travel with her dog. When she told me she was having cash-flow problems, once again I didn't hesitate to help. It didn't occur to me it might be happening again. Who could be that unlucky?

Within a space of three weeks I had given her in excess of $11,000. I went to the police, but there was nothing they could do. I closed down my Facebook, bank and PayPal accounts, as they were no longer secure.

A year and a half later, I met a lady after I placed a classified ad online looking for a partner. Her name was Amy and she was living in London, but after long phone chats and emails she wanted to move to Australia to be with me.

Ten days after our first communication, Amy inherited a property but she was lumbered with large legal fees, which she asked me to help her with. I explained I had been scammed twice and was sceptical, but she promised she would return my money soon. She also told me how much she cared for me. I trusted her, so I gave the money to her.

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Three times unlucky.

You may find it difficult to understand, but the bottom line is I'm lonely. My last relationship ended 10 years ago and I've been single ever since. The end of that relationship deeply affected me; she was my first love. We met at university while I was studying agriculture and I've had trouble meeting someone special ever since.

The scammers all told me they loved me and wanted to marry me, and I believed them. I know I'm gullible, and I feel so stupid. I just really want to get married and start a family and that made me vulnerable.

I felt ashamed about looking for girls online, so I kept it a secret. It wasn't until things got out of hand that I told a friend from church, Peter. He made me realise that this was a problem, almost like an addiction. Peter had a talk with my parents and they staged an intervention. I'm no longer allowed to make any major financial transactions without their consent. I run everything by them before I spend a cent.

A year ago I was playing with a dating phone app when I met a girl from the Philippines whose fiancé had died in an accident. I was very scared that she was a scammer, but she promised me she was legitimately looking for love. We video-chatted a few times, she showed me her home and I could see she was the same person as her picture, so I grew to trust her.

I was terrified about telling my parents, but my Dad has spoken with her and they finally gave us their blessing.

We now plan to marry, although we've not yet met in person. I'm hoping to travel to the Philippines to see her soon, but at the moment my finances won't permit it. I know she's the one for me.

-Daily Life

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