Good Samaritan minister duped out of nest egg

Arthur Rowley
Arthur Rowley

An 84-year-old Baptist minister rushed to the rescue of a friend in distress – only to become a victim of a sick fraud.

Caring Arthur Rowley did not hesitate when he received an email from a long-standing friend saying he and his wife were stranded in Turkey after being mugged and robbed of their luggage, phones and bank cards while on holiday.

The Coffee Hall pensioner immediately sent his nest egg of £2,000 cash via MoneyGram as a loan to the pair, who were fellow members of the city’s Third Age Players theatre group.

But when another email arrived requesting MORE money, even kind-hearted Mr Rowley became suspicious.

He called the couple, only to find they had not left their Bletchley home and knew nothing about the emails.

“Some fraudster had obviously hacked into my computer, found my email contacts and used the name of one of them to dupe me,” he said.

“Because the email seemed to come directly from my friend, I didn’t query it at all. Now I feel really stupid.”

The scam happened almost two weeks ago, and Mr Rowley, who studied to be ordained when he was 65, has been trying ever since to persuade police to take action.

“The police didn’t seem to be interested,” he said. “They passed me to Action Fraud, but the online form just didn’t seem to apply to this kind of fraud,” he said.

Mr Rowley’s bank, Metro, said it could not help, and his plea to Western Union also fell upon deaf ears.

“I’ve had to give up trying. I feel really upset that I’ve lost my money. It’s demolished me,” said the pensioner.

He had saved the cash specially to take his daughter to visit Cape Town, a place where he and his late wife Ruth spent several happy holidays during their 54-year marriage.

This week the Citizen persuaded ActionFraud to talk to Mr Rowley to see if the rogue emailer, thought to be based abroad, could be traced.

Meanwhile investigations have shown that other members of the theatre group, which is part of the University of the Third Age, received the same plea for help – but they checked with the friend and realised it was fraudulent.

Mr Rowley said: “I want to warn people to beware of these emails. It’s upset me dreadfully and I’d hate it to happen to anybody else.”