Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Deaf man sells home after being conned out of thousands on Facebook

Deaf man sells home after being conned out of thousands on Facebook

A British DEAF man is being forced to sell his home after internet scammers tricked him into believing he won a special lottery.

Kenneth Newman, 50, was born deaf and communicates using sign language.

However, thanks to the internet, he can easily communicate with friends across the globe using social networking sites.

In January, he was befriended by a woman on Facebook who called herself Sandra Owen.

She claimed she was deaf and had won £750,000 on the “United Nations Deaf Lottery”, but after paying £5,000 as a fee to receive the money, her prize money went up to £1.2million.

She forwarded the e-mail address of the supposed lottery organiser, Harry Thomas, to Mr Newman.

After contacting him, Mr Newman was told — having passed on his bank account details — that he had won £600,000.

Mr Newman was told to forward £300 via Western Union to an address in Lagos, Nigeria.

However, Mr Newman, a technical officer at Derriford Hospital, was then told he needed to find about £30,000 for “government fees” before he could receive his full winnings.

He took out a number of loans, secured against his Estover flat, but “Harry” would text him each time explaining he needed more, concocting various stories to encourage Mr Newman’s efforts.

Only after a meeting with his bank regarding life assurance was the con spotted — and Mr Newman was urged to contact police.

By this time, the crooks had hacked into Mr Newman’s Facebook site, so it appeared as if he was telling all his friends — particularly his deaf friends — that he had won £600,000 on a lottery for the deaf.

Investigators are trying to track down the crooks, but admit there is little hope of retrieving the money.

PC Michael Loveys said: “He has been sucked in by these people and they went on to try and target friends of his.

“There’s no such thing as a deaf and disabled person’s lottery. There are a number of scams like this out there. Lots and lots of people have been scammed, but if you haven’t entered a lottery, then you haven’t won.

“What is most appalling is that these criminals are specifically targeting vulnerable people.”

Mr Newman, speaking with assistance from his friend, British Sign Language interpreter Helen Doyle, said: “About £26,000 is gone from six loans. My flat’s been remortgaged and I now have to sell my flat. I hope I will be able to find another place.

“I want to warn other people, both deaf and hearing people, not to be taken in by these lottery scams. Say no to them, don’t contact them and remove them from your Facebook page.

“For the last three months, it was hell. I’m doing better now, thanks to the support of my friends, but it will take me years to pay off these debts.”

Ms Doyle said: “We keep telling Kenneth to stay positive. If I wasn’t here, I think he would be gone by now. Kenneth wants to warn others, to save them the same fate. He hopes he can save others by revealing what happened to him.”

Anyone with information about the scam should call police on 08452 777444 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 quoting crime reference number EL/10/1320.

For more information on scams, visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/watch_out/ or call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 for advice.