Online romance has scammed a Waterloo resident out of over $1 million

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Graphic by Kash Patel

Two Waterloo region residents have been scammed out of a combined $1.5 million after they were lured in from online dating profiles, the Waterloo Regional Police Service has been investigating these two instances since last week.

The female victim was scammed out of $1 million alone over a four-year period, while the male victim’s $500,000 was taken over a three-month period. WRPS investigated 21 other cases that were related to online dating scams in 2018.

“The basic information that we can give out is essentially that the woman met somebody online, this person reportedly worked for the U.S. military and so he was constantly moving around and over the four years that they were in this relationship she didn’t meet him once,” said David Lea, a detective constable in the fraud branch of the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

“All conversations were through text message and over the phone or through email, and over the four years he asked for more and more money, and eventually it ended up being around $1 million dollars in total.”

Brought to media attention often by shows like MTV’s “Catfish”, many of these scam artists online are not who they claim to be and use fake profiles and stolen images to put off the façade they are someone else, whether for entertainment, financial or even just personal reasons.

“These people never end up being real, I mean it’s fictitious from the get-go. I can’t say we’ll probably never be able to find them, they’re most likely not in the country, at least that’s the way the scam generally works, but that being said we don’t know for sure,” Lea said.

In an age where most teens and young adults meet their significant other through Tinder or other dating apps, it is important to take caution when talking to strangers as they could be trying to deceive others with fake pictures and could potentially harm victims physically, emotionally or even financially.

“The case will be assigned to an investigator, and it will be their job to figure out whether or not the IP address links that are being used are in Canada or overseas and use partners outside of the country in necessary.”

Many different financial scams have been circulating for years through email, such as e-transfer emails from the Canada Revenue Agency, Nigerian princes asking for thousands or hackers claiming that unless they are paid in Bitcoin, they will release sensitive information. All prey on uniformed users to send money or their financial information that the scam artist will then take advantage of.

“One of the biggest or easiest giveaways is that stock photos are being used, so something that really doesn’t look genuine, something that would fit into a magazine or something along those lines. Those are the pictures that are used because they’re pulled from somewhere on the internet,” Lea stated.

“It becomes what language are they using; are they talking to you about money early in the relationship? Are they using the word love without ever meeting you?”

In the year 2017 it was estimated that Canadians alone were scammed out of $17 million from purely romance scams, not including other phishing scams like posing as banks and saying that the client must email their card numbers.

“In general, the way the scam works is that this person lives or works overseas, they run into problems pretty quickly whether it’s they’ve had legal problems and they need money or bail to get out of jail, they’re in hospital and need help that way or whatever job they’re in is in trouble and they need the fusion of cash,” Lea said.

“They get the person invested with the idea that as soon as they meet up, as soon as they’re able to come to Canada that they’ll pay them back.”

In an age where most teens and young adults meet their significant other through Tinder or other dating apps, it is important to take caution when talking to strangers as they could be trying to deceive others with fake pictures and could potentially harm victims physically, emotionally or even financially.

“Nowadays, majority of people who want to date have tried dating apps at some point or online dating and it’s become very common, so it’s just being aware that it is a possibility and just being careful; if you wouldn’t give that kind of money to somebody you know, why would you give it to somebody you’ve never met?” Lea said.

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