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Alberta woman fights for justice after late mom is conned in romance scam

Click to play video: 'Daughter fights for justice for late mom targetted by romance scam'
Daughter fights for justice for late mom targetted by romance scam
Abstract: An Alberta woman is fighting to get the people who scammed her late mom stopped and caught. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, the woman was targeted in a romance scam – Dec 18, 2023

An Alberta woman is seeking justice after she said her life was ruined and her mom’s life was “taken” by a romance scam.

“These people took everything from my mother,” Chantel Westguard told Global News.

Westguard is referring to several people involved in an elaborate and long-lasting romance scam, including a man claiming to be a U.S. sergeant, who contacted her mom online.

Throughout two-and-a-half years, the man allegedly told Jarmila Westguard he loved her.

He also said if she helped him “escape” — they could be together.

Jarmila Westguard. Courtesy: Chantel Westguard

That’s when she said, the asks for money started pouring in.

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“My mom was the type of woman that if you were good to her — she opened up her heart,” Westguard said.

“This person convinced her to sell her home. She then started wire transferring him significant amounts of money. My mom was giving everything to this person.”

The 74-year-old even tried to send an envelope with $36,000 in cash across the border.

The payment was stopped, and she was fined. Police were called in, the banks were notified and many cut her off and the family even had her institutionalized.

But Jarmila Westguard continued to send money to the scammers, going without food and medicine. She ended up homeless and hospitalized and eventually on Oct. 14, she died — just days before she was set to leave Ontario and join her daughter in Canmore.

“She starved herself, ” her daughter said. “My mom didn’t even look like my mother when she passed away.

“My mom was a beautiful woman and when she passed away, she looked like she was 100 years old.”

Jarmila Westguard. Courtesy: Chantel Westguard

Chantel Westguard fights back

Chantel Westguard told Global News this tragedy has broken her — but it also gave her the strength to fight back.

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Westguard attempted to “scam the scammers,” pretending to be her mom following her death. She sent texts to the fraudster, promising more money. She said she then got an actual, physical address to send that money.

She’s recently heard from police in Illinois, who went to the address on her text. A woman was questioned but not arrested, denying she knew anything about what happened and claiming she too was a victim.

Westguard said police told her the woman will be investigated for money laundering.

The rise of romance scams

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) is noticing an increase in romance and investment scams which are often referred to as “pig butchering.”

That crime involves scammers trying to get as much money out of a victim as possible before they discover or catch on to the scheme.

The CFAC said from Jan. 2023 to the end of Sept. 2023, it received 650 reports of such scams, targeting 532 victims across Canada.

The total dollar loss is estimated to be upwards of $29.8 million.

In Alberta, there were 70 reports of romance scams made to the agency representing 60 victims and losses of upwards of $2.6 million.

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The CAFC said in these scams, victims are contacted on dating apps or social media by a fraudster who is attempting to develop a relationship with them. Once that relationship and trust are established, the requests for money then come in.

The warning signs include:

  • Someone you haven’t met in person professes their love to you
  • Friend requests from people you don’t know or profiles that seem too perfect
  • Requests for remote access to your device to “teach” you how to invest
  • Investment opportunities with higher-than-normal returns
  •  Requests to transfer your crypto investment to an alternate crypto address

The CAFC suggests people not accept friend requests from people they don’t know, never send money to someone they haven’t met, and don’t give out any personal or financial information.

Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of cybercrime or fraud should report it to their local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system.

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