.NExT Web Security - Fighting 419 (Nigerian Advanced Fee Fraud) and other internet scams. Providing International Law Enforcement, investigators and anti-scam specialists with effective tools to combat internet crime.
Serving International Law Enforcement, Investigators and Anti-scam Specialists
Countries visiting Next Web Security - 419 Nigerian Advanced Fee Fraud

Scam & Fraud News

Married mum is blackmailed by Instagram scammer after sending naked selfies

Lonely and depressed Gail Astin, 44, fell for a scammer posing as a 55-year-old hard-up widower from Texas

Nicola Small - The Mirror - 19-03-24
Click here for original article       Back to Articles

Gail Astin
Gail Astin was a scammed by a man posing as a 55-year-old hard-up widower from Texas (Image: SWNS)

A married mum had to confess all to her gobsmacked husband when her Instagram sex scammer blackmailed her over naked selfies.

Lonely and depressed Gail Astin, 44, fell for a conman posing as a 55-year-old hard-up widower from Texas.

The pair exchanged thousands of WhatsApp messages, emails and phone calls over four months.

Swept off her feet, Gail even sent him naked selfies behind her husband Simon’s back and secretly loaned him £5,500 by maxing out two credit cards.

But when the conman called David asked for even more money and she refused to send it, he tried to blackmail £2,000 out of her in a terrifying series of messages.

Gail and Simon Astin
Gail had to admit everything to husband Simon Astin (Image: SWNS)

He told her: “Do not f*** with me… You will listen to what I have to say and you will listen good. You have one hour. Get the cops involved and everyone will know.”

A sobbing Gail felt suicidal – but took the right way out. She called police and then plucked up the courage to tell her husband of 16 years Simon.

And, astonishingly, he forgave her.

“I was so scared. I was a complete mess,” says Gail. “I phoned Simon and told him to come home from work because the police were at our house. I said I’d explain everything.

“He was angry and struggled to understand why I did it – because I felt lonely and needed someone to talk to.

"I feared for my marriage and told him if he wants me to go, I will leave.”

Gail Astin
Lonely and depressed Gail, 44, fell for the scammer (Image: SWNS)

But once his initial fury subsided Simon, 44, a health and safety advisor, felt overcome with guilt himself.

“When I was told everything I was just speechless. I’d had no idea what was going on,” he says.

“But then I thought I hadn’t been paying Gail enough attention and felt completely inadequate.

“I asked Gail if I wasn’t enough for her. At one point I thought it would break us. I didn’t know if we would get through it. But I never considered leaving her.”

Now Gail wants to tell her story as a warning to other vulnerable women.

She and Simon had moved from Burnley in Lancashire to Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders.

“I was going through a bad time. I was away from all of my friends. I suppose I felt isolated.

"I just wanted someone to talk to. I wasn’t looking for a new man,” she says.

Text Messages
Blackmail messages sent by scammers blackmailing Gail Astin (Image: SWNS)

“Simon was struggling with how to deal with my feelings. It’s hard to talk to him sometimes. He’s not an emotional person, so for a long time I bottled my own emotions up.”

Sinking into depression, the council costing assistant, who has two teenage sons, was signed off work with stress and put on anti-depressants.

Then, out of the blue in June last year, she was contacted on Instagram by a man calling himself David Williams – a false name.

He sent several messages asking her how she was before she finally responded in August and they began chatting on WhatsApp.

“He caught me at a low point,” says Gail. “He told me his wife had died and he had two boys. I felt sorry for him. He pulled on my heart strings.

“My marriage was fine and I was happy, but I wanted friendship.”

Text Messages
Gail said she was left feeling suicidal over the messages (Image: SWNS)

The scammer claimed he was working as a marine engineer on a three-month contract in Nigeria – a country notorious for online scams. But Gail was in such despair the penny still didn’t drop.

“He always came across as caring and sympathetic towards me. He took an interest in what I was going through,” she says.

“At first he asked for £200 for iTunes cards so he could buy data for his phone,” says Gail.

“He seemed so desperate and just kept asking me. He started asking for more and more but he promised he would get the money back to me. I honestly believed him.

“I knew in my head that what I was doing was wrong but I still did it. I can’t explain why.”

She says she sent the money to different bank accounts in the USA, Nigeria and the UK, under the names of Maria Lopez and Victor Ajemide.

The conman had told her these people were collecting the cash on his behalf as he didn’t have a Nigerian bank account.

Fake Profile Picture
Innocent Pedro Hipolito, whose profile picture is being used by scammers (Image: SWNS)

Gail even bought the line that he needed money to travel back to America at the end of his contract so he could see his daughter.

“He said he couldn’t get home if I didn’t send it,” says Gail.

“By this point he had made me feel special, I felt nice. I fell for him. I was getting more and more suspicious but he always promised to get the money back to me when he got back to America.”

She was so flattered by his attention she catastrophically even agreed to send him naked selfies in October.

“I’m ashamed of what I did,” she says. “I didn’t want to take the photos but he wouldn’t stop asking for them. He always told me to trust him, and I did.”

By the end of November, Gail had maxed out her credit cards and told him she couldn’t afford to send any more money. Then the messages from ‘David’ became menacing.

One, asking for £2,000 within an hour, said: “I wonder how your two lovely boys will think of you when your nicked pictures get viral.”

Another added: “Do not f*** with me I am not here to play games. The tough girl act is just going to make things worse for you.”

On December 5, a terrified Gail dialled 999. Then she phoned Simon. “Gail rang and said she had been stupid and told me to come home straight away,” he says. “She said the police were there and I panicked.

Blackmail texts
Gail has since changed her phone numbers, email addresses and social media accounts and says she never wants to talk to someone online who she doesn’t know (Image: SWNS)

“When I was told everything I didn’t know what to say. I wondered how she didn’t twig that it was a scam.”

Simon paid off Gail’s debts by dipping into an inheritance left by his late father Keith.

“I just wanted to put it all behind us and move on,” he says. “I wanted to forget it ever happened. We are moving on as a family now.”

Gail says: “I feel guilty because we have lost so much money. I hate myself for what I’ve done. I’m so grateful Simon gave me a second chance. I will never hide anything from him again.”

Gail has since changed her phone numbers, email addresses and social media accounts and says she never wants to talk to someone online who she doesn’t know.

She says: “I want people to know that this can happen to anyone. I want to help stop people from being as stupid as I was.”

A Police Scotland spokesman confirmed: “Police in the Borders are investigating a report of an online fraud offence.”

We discovered the fraudster set up a fake profile using photos of married Portuguese dad Pedro Hipolito, 46, who owns an international business development firm.

Mr Hipolito told us his staff have found several bogus social media accounts using his photos.

He said: “It’s not the first time it has happened. It’s terrible that lonely people are the victims. It’s up to these big corporations to stop it from happening.”


 

Tags: Victor Paul Ajemide, blackmail, Instagram, scammer, naked, selfies


 


Please visit our sponsors

Wounded Warrior Project