Huron County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), including members from the Huron County OPP Crime Unit are currently investigating a scam that has victimized a Huron County resident for an astounding $700,000.
Investigators became aware of the incident yesterday afternoon through the victim’s daughter. Investigators have since learned the victim, a senior, met the scammer online in 2018 through a popular social media messenger service.
The scammer, claimed to be a surgeon working for the United Nations and at one point used a ruse that he had been abducted by a terrorist entity and needed some money to pay off his ransom. The scammer was also sent money to help with surgeries, medical treatment, international flights and other emergencies.
As is the case with many victims of this type of fraud, the victim will often develop a strong emotional attachment to the scammer and emotional triggers will often prevail over sound judgement. The online bond these scammers form with their victims is very real. In many cases victims are in complete denial and will continue to send money until there is nothing left to give even though they have been warned by family, banking officials and even police.
Falling in love is a beautiful thing. Falling victim is not.
According to statistics collected by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), in 2020, 899 complaints were received related to romance scams which included 620 victims who lost over 18.5 million dollars to scammers pretending to be in love.
The romance scam involves an individual with false romantic intentions toward a victim in order to gain their trust and affection for the purpose of obtaining the victim’s money or access to their bank accounts or credit cards. Scammers often steal photos and use dating sites and social media to build their profiles with the intent of luring potential victims into sending money for various reasons. The scammers often use background stories to mimic the victim’s, common examples are the person is a successful business person, works in the military, works for a charity and works overseas.
The scammer will gain the trust of the victim through displays of affection and will communicate via phone, skype, apps and email for months, if necessary to build trust.
The scammer usually requests money to visit the victim, usually to pay for a visa and airfare, but then suddenly runs into other unexpected difficulties. The closer the date appears to be getting to the victim, more unexpected events occur and more money is requested by the scammer to cover the costs.
Scammer’s may also claim that there is a medical emergency with a sick family member. They will then ask for money to cover the medical expenses.
The scammer may also tell you about a large amount of money, gold or some other treasure they need to transfer out of their country, and offer you a share of it. They will tell you they need your money to cover administrative fees or taxes.
How to Protect Yourself?
· Be suspicious when someone you have never met in person professes their love to you
· If trying to set up an in-person meeting, be suspicious if they always have an excuse not to meet
· Do not share personal or financial information with anyone you have just met online or in person
· Be cautious when conversing with an individual that claims to live close to you but is working overseas
· Never under any circumstance send money for any reason
· Never send intimate photos or videos of yourself as they may be used to blackmail you
Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Recognize it! Reject it! Report it!
Should you need to report a scam/fraud please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) by using the reporting system at https://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/report-signalez-eng.htm or by calling 1-888-495-8501.