Elena is a smart and accomplished woman in her 40s. She has worked hard throughout her life. She graduated from university with a degree, and began her professional career. She worked hard and had a very respectable job which entailed a lot of responsibility.
In her free time, Elena enjoys spending time with family, socializing with friends and entertaining herself online. She keeps up with world news, social networks, and has even joined a few chat rooms where she can discuss her interests with likeminded people.
It was in one of these chat rooms that she met James. James is a 45 year old man from Canada. He’s divorced with a young son, and he shares a lot of common interest with Elena. Eventually Elena and James began to speak daily and added each other on Skype. The conversation was always interesting and Elena began to look forward to her conversations with James – eventually her evening chats with James became the most important part of her day.
Elena started to develop romantic feelings for James, and he felt the same! They spoke over and over again about their plans to meet. It became clear that it made more sense for James to come to Malta because it would be easier to Elena to accommodate him, and he had always wanted to visit the island either way.
Unfortunately, each time they would plan a date for James to come to Malta, some great expense would come up in his life. After some 6 months of chatting daily, it became clear to Elena that James needed help. When he finally asked her for some money, it was only natural that she would say yes. There were about 4 or 5 occasions over the next few months where James asked Elena for money – all undoubtedly for noble and just reasons; once it was to send his son on a school trip, another time it was because he was behind on his rent, yet another time it was to settle a medical bill, and so on.
James eventually confided in Elena that his financial issues would soon be sorted – he inherited a large sum of money, but it would be frozen for a couple of months due to issues with the will. With the reassurance that she would be paid back shortly, Elena took out a loan from the bank in order to help out James. He requested that the money be sent in his friend’s name.
After this all was fine for a while, and it seemed that James would finally be able to travel to Malta. However, James and Elena started to speak less and less. James got a job during the day so he wasn’t available to speak to Elena as often as he used to, he was online less and less. After being unable to connect with him online for over a week, Elena tried to call James to find that his number had been disconnected. It was only then that she started to put the pieces together.
James’ online profile didn’t contain any real pictures; friends very rarely shared anything with him over social network sites. Whenever Elena sent James money, he always requested that the money be sent in a friend’s name, as he would never be able to collect the money himself due to car issues, issues with his son, or issues with his ill father. Elena got worried and contacted the police. She eventually found out that all of the contact information she had for James was fake. She doesn’t even know if James was his real name!
The police are currently looking into the situation. It is likely that Elena was not James’ only victim. But how does Elena feel today? When she came to Victim Support Malta, she explained that she felt a lot of shame. She lost her job as she was unable to concentrate because of the stress of the situation, she doesn’t feel that she can tell her family because she feels ‘stupid’, and she lost contact with most of her friends because she invested all of her time in ‘James’. She doesn’t feel like she can establish relationships with people because she is scared that she will be judged if she opens up.
Victim Support Malta helped Elena by offering emotional support. Elena has now begun to strengthen her social networks and make friends; she is learning to trust once again.