Around six weeks ago, a Sudbury woman met a man online. He professed his love for her within days.
This week, he sent her ominous threats after she refused to send him $15,000.
“I was very naive, not thinking straight,” she says.
The woman, who CBC News isn’t naming since she’s afraid for her safety, says she’s a victim of an online romance fraud.
Earlier this summer, she joined Plenty of Fish, the online dating site. A man from Vancouver contacted her and within days, the two were messaging and texting.
“On the third day, he actually called himself my future husband, but I just brushed it off,” she says.
Favours got bigger and bigger
The man said he has a daughter studying in Oregon, and that he’s working on a project in Turkey. The two spoke for a few weeks, but it didn’t take long for the favours to roll in.
At first, he asked her for a $100 iTunes gift card so he could do his project online. She bought one and sent it to him over email.
A few days later, she bought him a new laptop for work, to replace the one he said he broke.
“He needed one immediately, and he couldn’t get one there because they weren’t in English,” she says.
‘You’ve made the biggest mistake’
Finally, he asked her for $15,000 to help save his work project, or else he would lose a contract worth millions.
“I debated on it a couple of times, and finally I said no,” the woman says.
“He threatened myself, my daughters, my grandchildren and that’s when I decided I’d better go to the police.”
The woman says he told her he knew where she lived, what her family looked like, and told her “you’ve made the biggest mistake, and you know how.”
Romance scams cost Canadians millions each year
The woman says she reported the scam to Greater Sudbury police, but didn’t press for an investigation.
Police told CBC News that cases like this aren’t technically considered a scam since the woman wasn’t under duress when she sent him gifts, and she wasn’t expecting a service or product in return.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre classifies this as a romance scam, one of their most reported scams in 2016.
Jessica Gunson, the call centre and intake manager, says romance scams cost Canadians more than $20 million in 2016.
“It’s a really intricate scam,” Gunson says.
“It’s one that we receive calls for every single day. A lot of people lose their life savings to these scams.”
Vulnerable victim pool
Gunson says these types of scams can be emotionally traumatizing since the victims are in such a vulnerable place.
“They want to find love, they want to be happy. That person is filling this void,” she says.
“In many cases, it’s difficult to convince them that the person they’re speaking with is actually someone who would steal from them.”
In total, the woman says she spent $2,725 dollars on the man. She says she hopes other online daters who are in similar situations get out as soon as possible.
“We’re vulnerable,” she says.
“You just want to be loved, and you think you are, but you’re really not.”
Online dating red flags
1) Did they ask you for money?
“The second any potential love interest asks you for a single cent up front, you’re probably dealing with a scammer,” says Gunson
“Under no circumstances should you ever send any money.”
2) Do they have a professional, stock-image profile picture?
Gunson says many scammers rip photos from modelling sites or even military sites to try and prove to online daters that they’re authentic.
3) Is the relationship moving too quickly?
The sole purpose of that relationship is to get money from you, says Gunson. Quick proclamations of love are a tell-tale sign that this isn’t a real connection.
4) Is it tough to see them?
Scammers will often claim to live nearby, but say they’re working overseas. Gunson also says there’s always an excuse why they can’t travel to see you.
5) Did you receive gifts or money?
Some scammers will send counterfeit checks to cash, then ask you send them some of that money. Gunson says when the cheque doesn’t clear, you’re the one repsonsible for the funds.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ – Jeremiah 29:11