New Brunswick

Man loses $10K in online Valentine's scam

A Campbellton area man is warning about an online Valentine's scam after he lost more than $10,000 in his search for love.

William Reid warning others after being duped into sending money to woman to fly from Africa

A Campbellton-area man lost more than $10,000 in his search for love, the victim of an online Valentine's scam.

William Reid sent the money to a woman who called herself Jane and said she lived in Africa, so she could buy a plane ticket and come to live with him.

William Reid, of the Campbellton area, says he's still chatting online, but is only looking for friendship now, not love. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
"She made it to Montreal and needed money there. She left Montreal and went to Moncton, but never showed up there because I was there," he said.

Reid received a telephone call from someone pretending to be a police officer, saying Jane had been arrested and detained because of immigration issues, and that he needed to send another $500 for her to be released.

So Reid, who is on social assistance due to a leg injury, borrowed money from friends and wired the money to the fake officer.

But instead of a romantic reunion at the airport, Reid was stood up, leaving him lonely and with no way to recover his money.

Reid reported the incident to the RCMP and is now speaking out, in hopes of preventing others from getting duped.

Cpl. Pierre Laviolette, of the Campbellton RCMP, says such scams are common and on the rise, despite increased computer literacy.

$14M lost to romance scams 

Many cases go unreported because people are too embarrassed, but romance scams still rank among the top 20, with nearly $14 million in losses in 2014 alone, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Fraudsters steal photos and use dating sites and social media to lure potential victims into sending money for various reasons, ranging from travel costs so they can meet, to emergencies, such as a sick family member.

Laviolette says his office sees at least one romance scam every week.

"A lot of people are lonesome and they're alone and they want to find a friend and that's a new way," he said.

"Instead of going to a bar, they go on the internet to a chat room and they … can find more people from far."

The best way people can protect themselves from fraudsters is to never give money online to someone they don't know, or provide any personal information, such as an account number or credit card number, said Laviolette.

People who suspect they're being scammed should call police, he said.

Reid says he has learned the lesson the hard way.

He's still chatting online, but now in search of friendship, not love. And he's holding onto what little money he has left, he said.