Out in the Open

No one is safe from being scammed

From a fake cancer claim to romance fraud, two people caught up in different scams reflect on their conflicted feelings of being taken advantage of... and how it can happen to anyone.

In 2011, Lindsay Shedden and others in the tight-knit Calgary music scene held a fundraiser for a friend who said he had cancer. They raised a lot of money, about $7,500.

But it turned out that friend, Kristopher Cook, wasn't sick at all. 

After close friends confronted him, they went to police. In the end, Cook was sentenced to six months in jail.

Shedden says recently finding out another friend who is dying of cancer is in hospice reignited the anger she felt toward Cook. 

"I'm so mad again…[H]ow can you prey on people like that when people's friends are dying everyday? What an awful thing to do to your friends, to lie about having cancer.

"A lot of people thought we were very stupid for being duped. When the news came out there were a lot of people saying that we should have known."

Though Shedden now has a checklist when fundraising for someone in need, she says she didn't lose trust from Cook's cancer scam and that there's nothing shameful about wanting to help others.

"I don't think that there's anything super embarrassing about that. I think it shows a beauty side of human nature."

'When it happens to you, you get sucked in very slowly'

For Wayne Cook (no relation to Kristopher Cook), being involved in a romance scam deeply affected his trust.

Wayne Cook (Courtesy of Wayne Cook)

"If you ask me to loan you $10, I wouldn't. I just can't," says Cook.

Cook met a woman online back in 2013 and communicated with her for six months before meeting her in person. When they finally did meet, Cook describes it as easy and comfortable. 

After a year, Cook says he fell in love and asked her to marry him.

"If you're asking for red flags, even if there were some, I would just basically ignore them. I was too committed to the relationship."

One of those red flags was receiving a message from a total stranger - shortly after Cook and the woman started corresponding online - that read, 'Don't give her any money.'

Cook says he confronted her about it and she said it was a message from a spurned ex-boyfriend.

Cook claims that throughout the course of their two year relationship, he gave her $5000.

He discovered she was scamming him when she asked him to pay her for sex. 

"At this point, I just went into shock."

Cook says it took him three or four days to come to the first of various realizations that this was a scam.

"The whole thing, two years, was a lie. This was a plan," Cook says.

"I remember watching a TV clip one time about a man in Halifax who had been scammed by a lady. He'd sent her airfare so she can come to Canada. And, we all know that's a scam. I looked at it and said, 'How can someone get involved in that kind of thing?' 'How can someone be so stupid?'

"Yet when it happens to you, you get sucked in very slowly. You think you're in a relationship because you've actually met the person and you feel safe. Don't feel safe."

This story appears in the Out in the Open episode "Untruth Be Told".