A convicted fraudster is trawling online dating sites looking for unsuspecting victims he can con out of cash.
Michael Higgins uses Tinder and Bumble looking for love, claiming to be a high-rolling businessman with multiple high-end properties and luxury cars.
But the Record can reveal he was convicted for conning people into buying cheap electronic goods – then swiping the cash and failing to deliver the items.
Police are now probing fresh claims he is doing the same to women he meets on dating sites.
Unsuspecting Fleur Brand told how she fell for the 39-year-old after seeing his profile on Bumble.
But she was left fuming after handing over cash for electronic goods that never showed up – and had to demand her money back.
The Record has also spoken to a victim from his previous conviction, who warned people to steer clear of him on dating sites due to his scams.
Fleur, 32, met Higgins after seeing his Bumble profile in October 2020, believing she had finally met a “lovely guy” who lured her in with “generous” treats and the appearance of a lavish lifestyle.
But weeks into their relationship, Higgins convinced Fleur, from Edinburgh, to send him hundreds of pounds for an iPad from the electronics company he claimed to work for.
Fleur never received the tech and spent almost a year fighting to get her money back.
After taking to social media to name and shame Higgins, Fleur was sent dozens of messages from other people targeted by the conman, many reporting that he is continuing his deceit on Tinder.
Fleur told the Daily Record: “This man will say everything you want to hear. He told me he was looking for a relationship and told me he had a bad past experience with an ex he called a ‘psycho’.
“He had a really nice car, he dressed really well and he always came over to my place with fancy takeaways and wine. He seemed to be very generous.”
But things turned sour when Fleur, who had hoped to gift the Apple iPad to her parents for Christmas that year, began to question why the goods she had paid for never turned up.
Higgins turned “nasty”, accusing Fleur of harassing him and being bitter “just because he didn’t fancy her” in dozens of messages.
He sent Fleur excuse after excuse as he dodged her requests, mostly blaming issues with online banking. And when she told him she would have no choice but to contact the police, he threatened her with “pals” he claimed to have within the force.
Fleur kept in contact with Higgins over the next year in a “push and pull relationship” hoping to find proof of deception.
After she threatened to go to the cops in January 2022, he quickly transferred some cash but continued to provide excuses over the rest.
It was only after a chance meeting with him in an Edinburgh restaurant in February this year, where she seized his phone and refused to return it until he coughed up the cash, that she finally got the rest of her money back.
But the experience has left her “beside herself” as she has struggled to come to terms with his behaviour.
Fleur said: “I didn’t eat for about two weeks and lost a stone. He made me feel so upset with myself for accusing him. I was beside myself.”
In messages seen by the Daily Record, dozens of women have contacted Fleur saying they were also targeted by Higgins since she outed him on social media in March.
An emotional Fleur added: “I wanted to warn others because of the mental impact this had on me. This man made me feel like I was going mad.”
A previous victim told how shameless Higgins scammed her out of cash for electronic equipment that never came – and he was convicted for the scam in 2018.
She said he lures people in with his flash lifestyle and charm before he casually lets drop he can save them hundreds of pounds by sourcing tech including iPads and mobile phones.
She told the Daily Record how Higgins will target anyone – male and female – he thinks is gullible enough to trust him. The woman, who we are not naming, was duped twice by the conman and revealed he even convinced a mourner at a funeral to give him money for the non-existent phones.
She said it was the death of a mutual school friend who reunited Higgins and other people from the village they grew up in, Balerno near Edinburgh.
She said he was active on social media and they exchanged messages to catch up and to discuss a fundraising night in memory of their friend.
She said: “I tried to warn people years ago on selling sites not to believe a word he says. Many people have lost money because of him.
“I feel strongly that people should know this man is a fraud and will say anything to get you to back off when you’re chasing him for the phone or your money back.”
The woman said Higgins promised her a new mobile phone costing £230 but when it came to handing it over, he came up with a series of excuses.
She added: “I felt bad for harassing him. Then the excuses got more elaborate, such as the courier company were coming that day, then when nothing appeared he would blame them. He even claimed to have refunded us using a banking method that doesn’t exist. He had the cheek to get offended when I said he was scamming us and didn’t seem too fussed when I said police were getting involved.”
Higgins did eventually refund her the money, which led her to think he was telling the truth, so months later she gave him more cash for another mobile and went through the same process.
She added: “He sounds plausible and friendly, so I can see why people would be taken in.”
Several people, including the woman, complained to police and Higgins pleaded guilty to fraud in January 2018. He was ordered to pay compensation to victims.
The Daily Record contacted Higgins for comment on his current mobile phone number but he did not respond to calls or online messages.
He also deleted his Instagram account yesterday after we attempted to contact him over social media. It is understood he lives in a property in Livingston.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report on Friday, February 25, 2022, raising concern about the activities of a man in the Edinburgh area. No criminality was established and suitable advice was given.
“A further report was received on April 4 and officers are carrying out further inquiries.”
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