Edmonton man loses $143K in romance scam, police renew warnings
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV Edmonton's Nicole Weisberg
Published Tuesday, March 19, 2019 10:28AM EDT
An Edmonton man looking for love was defrauded of $143,000 after he became the target of a years-long “romance scam.”
Three years ago, an individual who police are identifying as Con, said an American woman claiming to work overseas as a computer civil engineer contacted him after seeing his online dating profile.
The 64-year-old man said the woman claimed she was a single mother with a nine-year-old son and she wanted to chat.
“Shortly after that, she sent me a bunch of really nice pictures,” he told CTV Edmonton on Monday.
After several months of chatting online, Con said the woman asked him to send her $650 so she could repair the camera on her phone.
“Why do you need me to send you money if you’re working?” Con said he asked.
In response, the woman told him she was having trouble accessing her bank accounts in the U.S. Although Con initially refused, he eventually sent her $100 to go towards her phone.
The woman said the money wasn’t enough and she stopped communicating with him.
Nearly a year later, the woman reached out to Con again.
“She comes back, the first thing she says is ‘Do you still love me?’” he recalled. “And I say ‘Yeah.’”
The couple began texting regularly again and Con said the woman’s requests for money returned too.
More requests for money
She told him she had been laid off and she couldn’t afford a plane ticket to return home to the U.S. He gave her $1,500 to cover her travel expenses.
It wasn’t long before the woman again asked Con for more money. She said her son had been diagnosed with malaria and they had been in a car accident. The woman sent him copies of X-rays, her passport, and even her banking information.
Con agreed to help her cover the cost of the medical bills with the understanding she would pay him back when she returned to the U.S.
“It’s to the point now, about $140,000 gone,” he said.
It was around this time, Edmonton police became involved in Con’s situation. They determined the woman’s name, her photos, and her passport were all faked.
During a news conference on Monday, police said Con had been defrauded of $143,000.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking that these scammers are taking someone’s desire for happiness and using it against them,” Det. Linda Herczeg of the economic crimes unit said. “They commit all of their time into these scams because it’s their job and it’s lucrative.”
Although the lost money has been difficult, Con said the betrayal by someone he thought he loved has been the hardest part.
“I’ve been single all my life. I’ve met a few women that had kids, but to have someone promise that they’re going to give you that… that is the really tough part,” he said. “Money isn’t important. This is. Having someone else in the house besides me.”
Signs you may be a target:
In Edmonton alone, police said $1.1 million was lost through romance scams last year. In Canada as a whole, the Better Business Bureau reported that Canadians were defrauded of more than $22.5 million in romance scams in 2018.
Here are some warning signs that you may be the target of a romance scam:
- They ask for money.
- They shower you with compliments and profess their love early on in the relationship.
- They will groom you for days, weeks, or months before they ask you for anything.
- They are always available to respond because it’s usually a group of individuals involved.
- They use stole images taken from the internet for their profile photos.
- They always have excuses for why they can’t meet you in person.
- They will rarely have a voice or video conversation with you.
- They will always find more reasons for you to send them money.