A woman has told how she lost £80,000 in an inheritance scam after being targeted on Facebook by a “terminally ill” woman promising to leave her a £35m fortune
Bina Ravat, 43, from Leicester, told i she feels “ashamed and guilty” after paying the fraudsters, getting herself into debt by taking out loans and using her mum’s life savings.
She says she was taken in as the scammers sent her “genuine-looking” documents and preyed on her while she was vulnerable.
Ms Ravat now has been awarded an £18,000 partial refund by her bank.
She said: “A woman added me as a friend on Facebook and then messaged me saying she didn’t have long to live and wanted to leave me her £35m estate because she liked my Facebook profile and the charity work I’d done.
“She gave me a number for her barrister and said she only had a day or two left to live.”
When Ms Ravat called the “barrister”, the man told her that the woman had died and left everything to her in her will. But he said to get the inheritance, she had to pay various fees and expenses.
“He sent legal documents and got me to sign into a website and everything looked so genuine and professional,” Ms Ravat told i. “I was having mental health difficulties at the time for things like depression and was vulnerable and they took advantage of that.
“They kept asking for more and more fees and coming up with all sorts of excuses for not delivering the money. They were very persuasive and kept saying, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll have all that money soon.’”
Ms Ravat continued to send money to the fraudsters over several years, with payments dating back as far as 2017. They gave her details for various bank accounts, some in the UK and some abroad, to send the fees to.
“I took out six or seven loans including student loans to pay the scammers and got myself into debt,” she said. “I used my mum’s life savings as she offered to help me as she believed it and got duped too.”
After fully realising it was a scam, Ms Ravat contacted Halifax bank to try and get a refund, but was only reimbursed a small percentage before seeking legal advice.
Liverpool-based law firm Angelus Law took on her case and has now managed to secure an £18,000 partial refund from Halifax. The total amount was not refunded as the bank did not take full responsibility for the transfers.
Ms Ravat said: “I’ve never been scammed before and it affected my physical and emotional health. The scammers put so much pressure on me, it felt like a form of bullying. It was humiliating and I felt so guilty about my mum’s life savings.
“People feel embarrassed to share their scam stories, but I want people to know it can happen to anyone and there are some horrible people out there.”
Larissa Ellis, head of legal operations at Angelus Law, said: “We are delighted to have reached a settlement for our client, bringing her some much-needed relief from the financial burden imposed by this intricate fraud.
“This is not only a victory for her, but also a clear message that financial institutions must play a vigilant role in protecting their customers from professional scammers.”
A Halifax spokesperson said: “Keeping our customers safe from fraud is our priority and we have a great deal of sympathy for Miss Ravat as the victim of a scam.
“We carefully review the individual details of each case reported to us in line with the industry code, and consider a number of factors including whether the bank could have taken any additional steps to help prevent the scam taking place, and if our customer took reasonable care when making payments.
“Sadly, in this case our customer continued to make payments despite expressing concerns this was a scam.
“When we looked at the case, we agreed to provide a partial refund, as we assessed that we could have intervened at the point the pattern of transactions became more unusual.”