A deaf man handed over £26,000 life savings after fraudsters targeted him on Facebook and convinced him he’d won the ”deaf lottery”
Devastated Kenneth Newman, 50, empted his bank accounts, took out six loans and even re-mortgaged his home after conmen told him he’d scooped £600,000.
Kenneth was born deaf and uses Facebook to keep in touch with his friends without the need for an interpreter.
But thieves identified him as a vulnerable target and used the social networking site to contact him and tell him he’d won £600,000 in a special deaf lottery.
He was then told to pay “government fees” before he could collect his winnings and first handed over a cheque for £300.
But the gang convinced him he needed to give more money to claim the prize and he took out six bank loans and remortgaged his home.
The crooks even hacked into his Facebook site so it looked like he was telling his deaf friends he had won a lottery – and encouraging them to join.
Kenneth, a hospital technician of Plymouth, Devon, is now being forced to sell his flat to pay back the £26,000 he gave away.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said: “I want to warn people, both deaf and hearing, not to be taken in by these scams. Say no to them, don’t contact them and remove them from your Facebook page.
“About £26K is gone from six loans. My flat has been remortgaged and I now have to sell my flat. I hope I will be able to find another place.
“For the last three months, it was hell. I’m doing better now, thanks to the support of my friends, but it will take me years to pay off these debts.”
The scam started in January when a woman calling herself Sandra Owen befriended Kenneth on Facebook claiming she was deaf and had won £1.2million on the “United Nations Deaf Lottery”.
She then forwarded Kenneth the email address of the supposed lottery organiser, Harry Thomas, who then contacted him.
Kenneth passed on his bank account details and was told he had won £600,000 and was urged to forward £300 via Western Union to an address in Lagos, Nigeria.
But he was then told he needed to find around £30,000 for ”government fees” before he could receive his full winnings.
Kenneth took out a number of loans, secured against his flat, but ”Harry” would text him each time explaining he needed more and concocting various stories.
The scam was only discovered after Kenneth went to his bank for a meeting about life insurance and staff asked him what he’d spent the money on.
PC Michael Loveys said police investigators are trying to track down the crooks but there was ”little hope” of retrieving the money.
He said: “He has been sucked in by these people and they went on to try and target friends of his. What is most appalling is that these criminals are specifically targeting vulnerable people.
“There’s no such thing as a deaf and disabled lottery. there are a number of scams like this out there. Lots and lots of people have been scammed, but if you haven’t entered a lottery, then you haven’t won.”
Kenneth’s friend, and British Sign Language interpreter Helen Doyle, added: “We keep telling Kenneth to stay positive. If I wasn’t here, I think he would be gone by now.
“Kenneth wants to warn others, to save them the same fate. He hopes he can save others by revealing what happened to him.”