This is a classic example of how a romance fraud works
The messages found on Howard Clark's phone, of a romantic nature, included women asking for cash.
It is among a number of romance scams duping people in Lancashire, with victims believing that it is either for romance or investments.
David Wilding, a fraud safeguarding officer for Lancashire Police, said: “We recently dealt with a 70-year-old woman who was on a dating website and got speaking to a gentleman who said he was in the US Army but was currently in the UK as part of his work.
“He told the victim he was looking for a relationship and for someone to help raise his children.”
He explained how a rapport developed between them and he started asking for money so he could come and see her.
He added: “ After being told the leave had been granted and the car rented, the male stated he would be arriving at the victim’s address the following day. The victim awoke to a message stating the male had been in a car accident, but was OK and needed an operation immediately. He asked the victim for further money in order to pay for this. The victim sent this money.
“The victim then rang round all the local hospitals with the name of the gentleman to find out his condition but the hospital had no records, this is when the victim realised she had been the victim of scam.
“This is a classic example of how a romance fraud works. The suspect will purport to work abroad such as a US soldier or on an oil rig, develop a rapport with the victim online and send fake pictures over, purporting to be someone they are not.
“A series of situations will then arise whereby the suspect will need money for things such as flights and car hire. While waiting for the suspect to arrive, the suspect will then state that they have been in a car accident or been arrested, needing further money. This cycle continues until family intervene or victims realise they have been scammed.
“Romance fraudsters prey on the most vulnerable in society and will place themselves in environments whereby they can “phish” for victim. Dating websites are a good environment for fraudsters to exploit vulnerable victims.”