Borders mum hit by £3,500 online scam warning others to be on their guard

Gail Astin. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS
Gail Astin. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

A Borders mum is warning others to beware of telephone and internet fraudsters after being tricked out of £3,500.

Gail Astin sent that money as a loan to a man she believed to be a friend she met online but she has now given up any hope of getting it back.

The 44-year-old, of Ancrum, was duped by a fraudster claiming to be a US widower and dad called David Williams working as a marine engineer in Nigeria.

Over a period of four months, they exchanged WhatsApp messages, emails and phone calls, and she was tricked into sending him £3,500 he claimed he needed for food and bills.

However, when she refused to send any more cash, he threatened to send her family and friends a semi-naked photo of her allegedly stolen from her phone by hacking.

One such message asked for £2,000 to be sent within an hour, saying: “I wonder how your family will think of you when your pictures get viral.”

It was then that Gail called in the police and confessed to her husband of 16 years, Simon, also 44, that she’d been conned.

The fraudster used photos of a Portuguese businessman called Pedro Hipolito, 46, and he too is furious the trickster is using his image to exploit vulnerable women.

Gail is now speaking out to warn others, saying: “At first, he asked for £200 for iTunes cards so he could buy data for his phone.

“He started asking for more and more, but he promised he would get the money back to me. I honestly believed him.”

“We have just had to accept that the money is gone.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said inquiries into the scam are ongoing.