Nova Scotia woman bilked out of $10K by online romance fraudster
Amherst police say woman told them she had met man through PlentyOfFish website
An Amherst, N.S., woman has paid a steep price to learn that not everything online is legitimate.
The woman called town police last Thursday to say she'd been bilked out of $10,000 by a man she met on the dating website PlentyOfFish.
Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department said the scammer talked to the woman for about a month through the website before going to emails and even phone conversations.
"This one is quite rare where it actually has some phone calls into it," Wood said.
"A lot of times we're seeing these scammers, they will make excuses that they can't talk to you in person. Because a lot of times they might be impersonating a westerner and the person, the scammer, might have a thick accent so they don't want to have that voice conversation."
Wood said the woman told police the man claimed to be from Cape Town, South Africa. He told her he was having trouble cashing a cheque and asked for her help.
He sent her a $10,000 cheque, which she deposited in her account. She then sent the man the same amount of money through the MoneyGram transfer service.
"What happens is the person puts it into their bank account, it shows up that they have $10,000," Wood said. "But it usually takes up to seven to 10 business days before the cheque is found out to be counterfeit."
The woman told police she didn't have a romantic relationship with the scammer.
Halifax officer issues warning
Wood said similar scams also appear on Facebook, where fake profiles pop up and then disappear almost as quickly. He said Amherst police get about one call a month for such romance scams. But in most cases, Wood said the caller has caught on to the scam before sending any money.
Earlier this week, a police officer with the integrated financial crime unit in Halifax took to Twitter to warn the public about romance scams that were cropping up.
"If you meet someone on a dating website and after awhile they ask you to send them money, you might become a victim of a scam," Det.-Const. Dave Comer warned his followers.
"They say they were injured, need money to pay for flights/need it to get a large settlement etc."
The Canadian Anti Fraud Centre and the federal government's Competition Bureau devote entire sections on their websites to warning people about romance scams, which are sometimes referred to as "catfishing."