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Finnish girl falls victim to cruel online hoax
Thought she had online relationship with non-existent London man
A Finnish teenage girl has fallen victim to an exceptionally extensive case of online fraud.
For three years, the girl, who is under 18 years of age, thought that she had been in an online relationship with a Finnish-born man living in London. In reality the man did not exist. He had been made up by a woman in her 20s living in the Helsinki region.
The ruse spread rapidly, until finally the woman was playing the roles of at least seven different personas, who all seemed to be connected in one way or another with the life of the man. The woman used e-mail and instant messaging services in the hoax.
The woman and the girl met once when the woman appeared at the girl’s door, pretending to be the man’s half sister. The girl was to have travelled to London two days later to meet the non-existent man, but the “half sister” said that the man had died the previous night.
Although the woman was trying to put an end to the hoax, she was unable to do so, and the scheme took on increasingly twisted characteristics.
The underage girl had fallen in love with the man, and was crushed by news of his death.
A few months later, the girl was contacted by a “Finnish friend” of the allegedly deceased man, who said that the man in question was not dead, but rather in a coma. The “friend” would not say where the man was.
The woman had developed several identities to support the hoax, some of whom were real people.
The scheme was unmasked last week when a unit of the Helsinki Police Department started to look into the matter after being contacted by the girl’s mother.
The perpetrator of the hoax was not able to give a reason for her action.
“She knew at some point that she was doing the wrong thing, but was not able to stop. She made really great efforts. This is not the work of a healthy person”, says Marko Forss of the Helsinki police.
The woman has admitted to being behind all of the different characters. Police do not suspect that any crime is involved, because there was no indication of seeking economic gain. Without such a motive, identity theft in itself is not a crime in Finland.
“Identity theft should be criminalised. It would be a clear message from society that this is not acceptable”, Forss says.
Forss says that under the circumstances, the victim of the deceit is doing fairly well.
“She has taken a mature attitude.”
The matter has been moved from the police to social and health officials.