The holiday season is a busy time for so-called romance scams, when the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says lonely seniors log on to dating websites and fall for a fraud artist.
The centre reports these scams rise by 15 per cent at this time of year.
In Sudbury, 74-year-old Mimi Renaud is single, but also savvy.
She said she’s not about to fall for a sweet-talker.
“They say you’re nice and you’re lovely,” she said. “I watched a program the other night on this show, and they got taken for. All their security money was gone.”
While Renaud may seem to fit the profile of a victim — older, single and female — she isn’t lonely like they typical victim.
But the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in North Bay said this time of year is bleak for many.
‘More than they can bear’
Daniel Williams, a senior call-taker and supervisor at the centre, said some seniors seek relationships through online dating sites, a place he said experienced fraudsters troll for victims.
Many email exchanges later, a relationship has been established — and that is when Williams said the perpetrator asks for money.
“We’re looking at in excess of $15 million a year being reported to us from victims in Canada,” he said.
He said organized crime is behind these sophisticated ploys and some victims have lost millions.
Williams added in some cases, the emotional damage can be worse than the financial damage.
“We’ve had several cases where unfortunately … we’ve ended up hearing from the local police later on that it ended up in suicide,” he said.
“When the victim finally comes to terms with the fact that this love of their life is a gang of thieves, it can be more than they can bear.”
Despite the loss, Williams said only about one per cent of cases like this are reported.
Sudbury Police report they investigated half a dozen cases last year.