Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
A German woman who thought she was having an online relationship with Fast and Furious star Vin Diesel has complained to the cops after transferring money to help him get back home when he was mugged while filming in South Africa.
Katja Lorenz, 45, from the German capital Berlin, a mother of three, said she had not been surprised when the star contacted her online.
She said: “I work with actors, and I met Vin Diesel years ago at the Berlinale and follow him on Instagram. Sony wrote to me, I didn’t think it was unusual, as we vaguely knew each other.”
She did admit that she was wondering why the Hollywood action hero had not contacted from his official Instagram account, but when she asked was told by the fraudster pretending to be him: “I can’t write to strange women via my official account. My management team would notice that immediately.”
The fake Vin Diesel then carried out an extensive campaign of contact with the 45-year-old, joining in Google hangouts, sending Instagram messages, and calling her “babe” and “darling”.
He told her that he wanted the relationship to develop, and to send her money. Sometimes he would call her from exotic locations, for example in a taxi in London talking about a shoot he had just finished that day, and what his plans were for the future.
He also sent her manipulated YouTube videos changing the words to make it seem personal for her.
She told German newspaper Bild: “We wrote to each other every day. I felt trapped and desired.”
Among the chats the fake Vin Diesel sent her were pictures of money and a safe that he was supposedly going to send her.
Towards the end of their contact, he told her was off to South Africa for a secret photoshoot that was not known to the media.
He called her several times, and then at one point told her he had been attacked, and his briefcase been stolen, saying she was his only hope to get back to the US.
He even sent another video making out that the man next to him was the hotel manager, and when she agreed, the demands for money kept coming.
She said how she would drive through the city buying up gift cards with a value of between 50 and 200 EUR and sending the fake Vin Diesel the codes, in total sending 5,500 EUR (4,980 GBP).
She admitted: “I took out a loan for it, and didn’t give my children anything for Christmas.”
Only when she finally realised that she had probably been scammed, she wrote to the crook saying: “Just tell me who you really are?”
The crook then wrote back: “I am 23 years old, a medical student, and I finance my studies this way. I’m sorry.”
Local cops declined to discuss the investigation specifically but warned people about the con.
Spokesperson Katrin Gladitz said that in the fraud, also known as romance scamming, “the users of singles exchanges or Internet chats are the victims”.
She added: “The perpetrators write to the victims with fake profiles and build up a relationship over days, weeks and months. Pictures and videos are also used, but these are taken from completely different people (e.g. from public profiles on social networks).
“Correspondence takes place very quickly via the private e-mail account, instead of the actual Internet platform. Phone calls and video chats may follow. Often foreign videos or still images are used. If requested, the conversation partners will promptly provide explanations for low picture quality or non-functioning chats.
“At some point, the new partner suddenly needs financial support and asks the victim for help in the emergency. If the victim is willing to pay the high costs of this emergency (e.g. illness or surgery of the child), the flight to the victim or similar, the victim is given a recipient to whose bank account the money should be transferred.
“The victims are from all educational backgrounds. Women and men are equally affected.”
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