A woman has told of her horror after scammers used photos of a “silver fox” European politician to trick her out of $108,000.
Brit Sharon Bulmer was swindled out of thousands after a fraudster sent her a Facebook message saying he was “lonely” in May 2020.
The con artist used a fake profile with a photo of Latvian defense minister Artis Pabriks to trick his mark.
After repeatedly telling Sharon he was a US soldier who needed money to leave Syria and visit her, she discovered that he was not a real person.
Authorities in Latvia say they are aware of more than 100 phony profiles using snaps of Pabriks to scam women.
The Latvian Defense Office said they have been “facing this situation for a long time” and have reported the profiles.
Sharon, from Manchester, is still coming to terms with being conned.
The 51-year-old said: “He asked me to help him and I did, but over the time it’s got me into huge debt and because I have fallen for this person.”
“I just wanted to help him so much. I know I have been a fool but these are the things we do for love.”
The person behind the account claimed to be Murphy Townsend,” a 56-year-old man from Washington DC with a teenage daughter.
“Murphy” told Sharon he was serving with the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Base 29 in Raqqa, Syria.
But, when Sharon inquired with the US authorities, she was told there was no Murphy Townsend on their records.
She said: “He always kept things close to his chest. He doesn’t like me asking questions.”
Sharon had ended her relationship with her partner of 29 years in order to “start a new life” with Murphy.
She forked out nearly $108,000 over the two-and-a-half-year relationship for what he claimed were hospital bills and plane tickets — and is now in $50,000 worth of debt.
Sharon, a team leader at a Covid site, sent “Murphy” the cash in Bitcoin.
But not once did she video call him — as he’d told her he wasn’t allowed to at his base.
The mum wishes to share her story to stop other people getting tricked the way she has been.
Sharon said: “I wanted to take my children on holiday, I was going to take them to New York last year, but because he was constantly hammering for money I couldn’t.”
“I want to help anyone out there to not be taken by these idiots and just try and get on with my life.”
The Latvian Defense Office confirmed it was aware of the continuing issue of identity theft involving Defense Minister Artis Pabriks.
A spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, we have been facing this situation for a long time.”
“We receive information about the various fake profiles that use the name and images of Mr. Pabriks on Facebook and Instagram both from the users of the social networks themselves, and our partners and colleagues in other countries.”
“We frequently receive screenshots from people who have been contacted by fraudsters and, recognizing the official accounts of the Defense Minister, choose to report them.”
“So far, we have collected and reported to Facebook more than 100 fake accounts, but the response has been negative.”
“We feel that the security of everyday users both on Facebook and Instagram needs to be strengthened and supported in situations like these, and we encourage Facebook to pay more attention to these kinds of cases.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.