Saskatoon

Love lost: Romance scam artists stole $730K from 25 Sask. victims, RCMP say

In a very non-traditional Valentine's Day prelude, the RCMP is tallying up the number of victims of romance scams and how much they've lost in Canada in the past year.

More money lost in romance scams than any other type of fraud: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says “romance scams,” also known as catfishing, have become very common, with victims in the U.S. and Canada reporting a total loss of nearly $1 billion over the last three years. (The Better Business Bureau)

In a very non-traditional Valentine's Day prelude, the RCMP is tallying up the number of victims of romance scams and how much they've lost in Canada in the past year.

The number comes in at 760 victims reporting losses of $22.5 million, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, from "romance scams," also known as catfishing, which is more than any other type of fraud.

One of Canada’s big banks should have protected a senior from a romance scam, his son tells CBC Go Public. The son says the bank should have seen red flags when his father wanted to move his life savings to an offshore account. 3:39

As far as RCMP know, 25 of those victims were from Saskatchewan and they lost more than $736,000.

"Scammers are capitalising on the vulnerability of those looking for love or companionship to extract significant amounts of money from their victims," the RCMP wrote in a news release.

Not that an enticing profile on an online dating website or social media app is a red flag, but it is a method fraudsters use to start building up trust with their victim, the RCMP says.

Over time, the scammers start asking for money under a wide range of pretences.

Marlene Johnson says a scammer used these photos of a innocent man to pretend he was a Los Angeles resident named Ben. She said over the course of three months, the scammer convinced her to send him $15,000. The photos have been blurred to protect the man whose identity was stolen. (Submitted by Marlene Johnson)

In Saskatoon last year, 62-year-old Marlene Johnson was wooed by a man on Facebook who she believed was her soulmate.

He said he was overseas for business dealing and needed help, squeezing $15,000 out of Johnson before her children found out what has happening and stopped her -- because she'd been trying to figure out how to get the fraudster $125,000 from her retirement fund.

"The greater the trust gained by the fraudster, the greater the losses suffered by most victims," the RCMP release says.

The RCMP has a few tips to avoid falling prey to online romance scams:

  • Be skeptical when chatting with an individual who claims to live nearby but is currently overseas for work (this can be a set-up to ask for money later).
  • Be suspicious if they refuse or continuously cancel video chats and in person meetings.
  • Be wary when someone you've never met in person professes their love.
  • Scammers may also ask for help covering the cost of an emergency situation, such as a sick family member. Protect yourself by never, under any circumstances, sending money for any reason.

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