A married mum had to confess all to her husband when her Instagram sex scammer blackmailed her over naked selfies. 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.
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.”
Now Gail wants to tell her story as a warning to other vulnerable women. She and Simon had moved from Burnley in Lancashire, England to Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders.
The scammer claimed he was working as a marine engineer on a three-month contract in Nigeria – a country notorious for online scams.
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.”
“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.
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.”
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.