Real life ‘Tinder Swindler’ cons mum out of her life savings and job after meeting online

Sunita Brittain thought she had met the love of her life but was conned out of her life savings by a fraudster she met online dating

A mum was conned out of her life savings and lost her job after falling for a real life ‘Tinder Swindler’ she met online.

Sunita Brittain, 51, said she thought the man, who called himself Michael Anderson, was the love of her life, but he duped her into sending him thousands of pounds.

Sunita Brittain was duped into sending thousands of pounds to a man she had never met (Photo: Sunita Brittain / SWNS)

Michael told her he was a successful businessman and multi-millionaire working as a global engineer and cryptocurrency analyst.

The pair exchanged thousands of messages and photos, and he told her he loved her and wanted to spend his life with her, despite having never met in person.

However, in echoes of the hit Netflix show The Tinder Swindler, which follows the story of a man posing as a wealthy diamond mogul who cons women out of millions of dollars, he began asking her for money.

‘I was so vulnerable’

Michael told her he needed £9,000 to get him out of a jail in Northern Cyprus following an ‘accident’ at his engineering project there.

Ms Brittain said he pleaded with her for the money in so many phone calls that she lost a job as a teaching assistant for keeping her phone on during work.

She sent the money to an account for what he said was his lawyer and he told her he would use it for flights to the UK.

She later realised something was wrong and called her bank fearing she had been scammed.

The bank told her they had frozen the account, but Michael then began harassing and phoning her and making threats, telling her he would find out where she lived.

The mother-of-two, from Harworth, Nottinghamshire, said: “My story parallels with The Tinder Swindler, it is crazy.

“I was so vulnerable, I had just come out of a loveless marriage, was going through a divorce and was just craving some kind of attention to make me feel wanted again.

“He started talking to me in a very intimate way and made me feel like the only woman in the whole world.

“He was telling me things that you imagine in a fairytale, with that happily ever after ending.”

Michael told Sunita he needed £9,000 to get him out of a jail in Northern Cyprus (Photo: Sunita Brittain / SWNS)

Pair met online dating

The pair began speaking after meeting online on 9 January on the Facebook dating site, Facebook Dating.

‘Michael Anderson’ initiated a conversation with Ms Brittain and swiftly asked for her number, which led to thousands of exchanged messages on Whatsapp, with Michael initiating “heavy conversations”.

He told Sunita who was born on the exact same day as her and, like her, was adopted by his parents from Zurich.

On 13 January, the pair spoke on the phone for the first time and she was convinced of his feelings for her.

Ms Brittain admits that she did spot a few ‘red flags’, including his refusal to show his face on a video call, but said she dismissed them because she had fallen for him.

She explained: “I found it strange why he never wanted to Facetime.

“He said he was camera shy – the one time I tried, the image from his side was blurry and he looked about 20 years older than his pictures.”

Michael conjured up his elaborate ruse on 17 January, just over a week after they started speaking, when he told her he needed to go immediately to one of his engineering projects in Northern Cyprus.

She said: “Michael told me he had to rush out there as there had been a ‘tragic accident’ and he had to provide a huge pay-out of £160,000 to one of the families.

“Three days later, he told me the Cyprus Police are holding him in custody.

“He continued to say how much he loved me and how we will be together when this is all over.

"He called himself ‘The King’ and me ‘The Queen’ and told me how much he felt the connection of great love.”

Michael instructed her to make three separate bank transfers to his lawyer, from his offshore bank account.

When she logged on to the fake account on ‘HorizoGlobal’ she could see he had more than £7million in his bank.

He told her to transfer three separate sums of money to his lawyer - two of £60,000 and one of £40,000 - which got rejected.

She said: “I could see the money in his account going down. It was so realistic and didn’t even cross my mind that it was a fake website.

“He kept telling me the lines were down and there was no WiFi, so I had to keep transferring the money in instalments because he was unable to do it himself.”

On 26 January, she received a fake email from HorizoGlobal saying Mr Anderson cannot transfer any more money because of “security reasons”.

The email claimed Michael’s assets had been frozen until the bank could see him face-to-face in their Head Office in Los Angeles.

“I got calls from Michael and he was starting to stress out, saying he would have to sell his bitcoin and borrow money off his lawyer,” she said.

““He told me to send the bank my ID and lie saying I was his finance.

“He said he would rather pay the compensation rather than lose his trading business licence and needed to buy flights to come home back to me.

“He started guilt-tripping me, begging me to help him, saying he would pay me back.”

Ms Brittain said that was the moment she made the transaction of £9,000 to Mr David Gana’s bank account in Coventry, who was allegedly Michael’s lawyer.

However, she has now not heard from him in several weeks and is unsure if she will get her money back.

Sunita said she wanted to share her story to prevent the same thing happening to someone else (Photo: Sunita Brittain / SWNS)

‘I was blind-sighted’

On 28 January, Michael sent her screenshots of his flights back to Doncaster where she was planning to pick him up before travelling to Los Angeles on Sunday to “prove [his] identity for his offshore bank account”.

Ms Brittain said: “My suitcase was packed and I was so excited.

“I couldn’t get hold of Michael all afternoon, and suddenly I received a call from one of his ‘lawyers’ saying Michael was arrested by police officials on his flight home for ‘tax evasion’, his phone had been taken away and he was stuck in Police Custody.

“I rang my best friend, telling her about everything that happened and how I was supposed to be going to America.

“She asked me how much I had given him so I told her.

“That is when she said, ‘Sunita. Wake up. You’ve been scammed – you have kids to think of, he could’ve killed you’.

“She could tell right away and that is when the penny dropped and I knew that I had been scammed.

“The whole thing may seem desperate but when you’re on your own, these scammers play with your mind and people don’t understand that.

“When you isolate yourself from people, you can be blind-sighted by somebody getting into your head.”

Ms Brittain, whose children are 13 and 11, immediately notified her bank and her account was frozen.

She then contacted the Action Fraud Police Unit.

Michael has since been harassing her and phoning her to ‘unfreeze her bank account’.

She added: “He suddenly turned nasty and started threatening me that he would find out where I live.

"He’s been calling me on different numbers and shouting, it’s terrifying and just horrific.

"On Feb 1st I opened my blinds and saw a suspicious van parked right outside my house so I immediately called the police.

"I have two children and nowhere else to go and just want to stop this from happening to anyone else."

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