January 1, 2019 7:00 pm
Updated: January 1, 2019 7:40 pm

Romance scam costs Ontario senior $140K

WATCH ABOVE: A woman who lives west of Toronto has lost about $140,000 in a romance scam. Thieves targeting the lonely made $17 million in 2017, making it one the most lucrative scams in the country. Sean O'Shea reports.

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She lost her husband then lost most of her life savings in a romance scam in 2018.

Margaret, whose full name Global News agreed to withhold, lost about $140,000 last year after becoming the target of a fake suitor who stole her money.

“It was comforting to have somebody tell me these wonderful things about myself,” she said, describing an 11-month online relationship.

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She never met the man, who called himself Bruce Alan and claimed to live in the United States.

READ MORE: B.C. senior swindled out of $300,000 in online romance scam

After her husband’s death, Margaret, age 75, said she was lonely and joined the dating site match.com on the advice of a friend.

She had in-person dates with two men, but she said neither captured her interest. Then, she said Alan began his aggressive pursuit online.

“He started getting very romantic, writing me poems, telling me these things I hadn’t heard in years with my husband so ill,” said Margaret.

They talked on the phone frequently, sometimes at great length. Margaret said she enjoyed his company and thought they would eventually meet.

READ MORE: BBB issues reminder about online romance scams ahead of Valentine’s Day

Alan described a business trip he took to India. Margaret said he then called for money, claiming he had been arrested and needed money to bribe officials to get out. She said she paid US$12,000 at his request.

Later, Alan asked for money again. In all, Margaret said she sent him about $140,000, believing he would return the money. He did not.

At the time she was making large withdrawals, her financial adviser warned against releasing the money — and so did her bank.

“My bank manager said, ‘This is a scam, you don’t want to do this,’” said Margaret, a youthful senior who keeps fit by riding a bicycle, swimming two times a week, and using an exercise trampoline.

READ MORE: Peterborough woman loses $187,000 in ‘romance’ scam, police say

But she withdrew the money anyway, wiring it to the man’s account in North Bethesda, Maryland.

When the man called again in early December to ask for more money, she realized she had been duped. She called police and Global News.

In 2017, romance scams cost Canadians an estimated $17 million. Police and consumer agencies say it’s the second-highest money-maker for online scammers.

Margaret said she believes she fell victim because she was lonely and solitary after her husband’s death. She said her doctor believes early dementia may be another factor.

READ MORE: Victims of scams involving Western Union wire transfers eligible for refunds

As a result of the scam, Margaret said she had to sell her car and will be moving from her rental condominium at the end of January to save money.

“It really affected me at this point in my life. I worked so hard and it was taken away so quickly,” she said in an interview, adding her relationship with her daughters and grandchildren had been hurt too.

She said she wanted to speak out about her experience to warn others about the pitfalls of online dating. She said she learned an expensive lesson that you should never send away sums of money to a stranger, like she did.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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