Fraud is not a victimless crime. “Petty “scams and frauds have consequences and the case of the deaths of Renee Holland, her father and husband are a stark reminder to all of us how bad those consequences can be.
The Renee Holland story is typical of many “romance” scams although this was all about friendship rather than romance. Renee, a married middle-aged lady was befriended by an “American soldier” via a Facebook message. The message came with a picture of a good-looking soldier just looking for someone to communicate with while stationed overseas.
Renee admitted herself that she was a bit bored with life and found it quite exciting to be online chatting with someone as exciting as a soldier on active duty. The chats and friendship developed over several months. When you read the transcripts of these conversations its striking how nice and low key the tone of the conversation is. The fraudsters express an opinion on something such as Anthony Hopkins movies or find a subject that the victim is interested. The victims enjoy discussing their favourite topics and it seems quite innocent.
Over time the fraudsters learn more about their victims and simultaneously share more about themselves, their lives, families etc. They do this because sooner or later they started asking for money to help their sick mother, buy body armour etc. In Renee’s case she had sent over £3,000 and found herself waiting at the airport when he came to visit. Nobody turned up and the penny dropped, she had been duped.
It turns out the photo was of a real soldier who had their identity stolen but everything else was fake. Renee was brave enough to go public with her story to help others avoid her fate. Unfortunately, this story didn’t end happily, on the 23rd December Renee’s husband shot her, her father and himself, they all died. There can be no justification for the husband’s reaction, but we can point a finger at the sick fraudster who perpetuated this crime and created this mess.
Facebook estimates that there are 120 million fake profiles on their platform and although they are taking actions against this the risk is still very much there.
We have highlighted this story because it reminds us all how severe the non-financial consequences of being a victim of fraud are and that we all need to protect ourselves. Please read the Reassura Guide to Romance Scams and stay safe.
Thanks to Jack Nicas New York Times for his excellent work on this case.