At Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on 6th February 2019, Alan Clarkson (42) pled guilty to a £60,000 fraudulent scheme and has been sentenced to 42 months imprisonment.
Clarkson tricked his victim and her parents into believing he was working with the Financial Services Authority (now FCA) to deal with his own financial difficulties. He was then able to persuade them that he would deal with the FSA on their behalf. He effectively took over their finances, taking possession of their income and claimed to be paying bills and trying to improve their financial situation.
Police enquiries found that Clarkson had no involvement with the FSA and was simply retaining the money to fund his gambling habit. He tried to legitimise his scam by assuming the identity of various other officials in emails to his partner, including Police, FSA staff and a Sheriff. Clarkson met the victim online dating and perpetrated this fraud during a 4 year relationship. The scheme was only discovered when Clarkson was imprisoned for a separate offence and the victim and her parents began to receive mail and phone calls regarding outstanding bills.
The actions of Clarkson have caused a family with no financial difficulties to encounter significant financial harm and led to the repossession of their family home. His sentence should serve as a reminder that romance fraud, and indeed any fraud, will not be tolerated and will be investigated and prosecuted robustly.
Police will continue to target the threat posed by ‘romance fraud’ and work with partners to highlight the dangers of meeting and engaging with people remotely where their identity or true intentions are unknown.
- Women represent 63% of the victims of romance fraud.
- 43% said it had a significant impact on their health or wellbeing, and 18% were at risk of bankruptcy or had received medical treatment as a result of romance fraud.
- Recorded instances suggest that females aged over 45 were more likely to be victims of romance fraud than males.
- The disposable income of single/widowed/divorced females over 45 is a significant driver, their reluctance to tell their friends and family of such a relationship due to their pride is also a major factor in targeting this group.
Below are a few more examples of romance scams which have been dealt with by Police Scotland:
- A Swedish victim met the suspect on dating website, and over a three or four moth period, an intense on line relationship involving personal information and trust was built. The suspect claimed to be an Australian born male who currently resided in Manchester and had a house in the US. He claimed that he owned a construction company and was currently constructing a bridge in Manchester. He convinced the complainer that his company was having financial difficulties and she sent him £16,300. In reality the money was received into a bank account owned by a suspect in Edinburgh.
- The victim was contacted via a dating website and met with the suspect for a first date. The suspect claimed financial difficulties from the outset and quickly moved in with the victim. The suspect was able to control and manipulate the victim and remain in the relationship for four years. During this time, he convinced the victim and her family that he was working with the FCA to help them with debt problems, and essentially took control of all their finances. As a result, he was able to obtain circa £150,000 over the 4 year period and the victim's parents’ house was repossessed as a direct result.