Charlottetown police are investigating a complaint from a woman who said she lost thousands of dollars to someone she met on social media.

The woman made the complaint in late December.

Charlottetown deputy police chief Gary McGuigan

Romance scams are very old, but the internet has made it a lot easier to engage victims, says Deputy Chief Gary McGuigan. (CBC)

The woman had assumed she was communicating with a man who was romantically interested in her, said Charlottetown Deputy Chief Gary McGuigan. She told police they met on social media, and he told her he was an oil company investor.

After gaining her trust, said McGuigan, the man sent her cheques and asked her to send the money to different Western Union addresses.

But the cheques were fraudulent, and the woman lost more than $20,000.

Old-style fraud on new media

McGuigan said this style of fraud is a very old one, pre-dating the internet, but social media has made it much easier to engage victims.

"They're called romance scams," he said.

"These fraudsters can be very convincing. They're very patient and these relationships can go three, four, five months, into years, and all the while the fraudster is gaining the trust and confidence of the victim with the end result to gain access to her money or credit cards."

McGuigan warned that while this scam started on social media, they have also been known to start on dating web sites.

The investigation is ongoing, but McGuigan said tracking fraudsters through social media can be very difficult.