St Albans woman unlucky in love after being targeted by catfish scam

Joan has been catfished

Joan has been catfished - Credit: Archant

A St Albans woman’s search for love has left her heartbroken after she was targeted by a romantic fraudster out to get her money.

About two months ago Joan Kelbie, 65, of Oysterfields, was contacted by a man claiming to be a friend she met while living in America in the 1980s - Gen Mjr Paul Smith.

He told her he was part of the US Army and deployed in Afghanistan.

After numerous online chats Joan fell head over heels in love with Paul, and last week the couple got engaged.

She said: “To be honest, I know it seems quite quick in two months, but I had fallen for him. I was happy, like a normal couple. I felt like I was at home with him, it was something I had never felt before.”

She only became suspicious when Paul asked her to send £1,400 to Ghana or £2,200 to Virginia, supposedly to allow him take holiday leave for their forthcoming wedding.

She contacted the US embassy in London and it confirmed there are no such fees and no-one had deployed in the armed forces under his name for the last eight years. Joan has been entrapped by a catfish - someone who lures another person into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona.

Most Read

“There’s a lot of women around, like me, but there are some around who are not as strong as I can be. This sort of shock could kill those who are weak and I think women should be warned of this scheme.

“He has run away with the idea that I am weak and vulnerable but I am not weak or vulnerable like he is taking me for. I want him caught.”

She added: “I feel terrible, but if I give in to it he will win and I can’t afford to let him win. It’s like losing someone, you go through the phases and the only thing that keeps me going is that no scammer is going to get away with this again.”

A Herts police spokesperson said the case has been passed to Action Fraud: “Police received a report from a woman explaining that she had been in contact with a man online whom she believed she was in a relationship with however, suspicions were raised when he requested that she pay money so that he could take leave from the army to allow them to get married.”

Action Fraud said the report “was taken as an information report and therefore will not be disseminated to a police force for investigation”.