How a B.C. woman lost nearly $1M to a romance scam, and the tragic consequences that followed

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Romance scam leads to family tragedy'
Consumer Matters: Romance scam leads to family tragedy
A B.C. woman who lost her sister to a romance scam is hoping her story will prevent other tragedies. Anne Drewa reports – Mar 25, 2019

A Calgary woman is sharing the tragic consequences of a romance scam after her sister took her own life.

“She just couldn’t find a way out and she ended her life,” said Karen Ringham.

WATCH: Feb. 12 — Consumer Matters — Valentine’s Day warning about romance scams

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Valentine’s Day warning about romance scams'
Consumer Matters: Valentine’s Day warning about romance scams

Ringham said her sister, who lived in B.C., met her lover on a popular online dating site in 2016.

Story continues below advertisement

His name was Ryan and he said he worked overseas on an oil rig in Kuwait.

The relationship escalated quickly.

“All of a sudden he was the love of her life. Within days and weeks they were going to get married. They were going to travel the world. He was going to look after her. She just fell for it all,” Ringham said.

Soon after meeting online, Ringham said Ryan told her sister he was having money problems. His bank accounts were tied up and he needed help.

Ringham’s sister started giving him money.

“He was on an oil rig out in the ocean somewhere and he was expecting payment for jobs he had done in Kuwait,” Ringham said.

READ MORE: Romance scams are on the rise. Here’s how to avoid them

Throughout the course of their 22-month relationship, the couple never met in person, nor did they correspond via video – all warnings signs of a romance scam.

However, Ryan kept requesting money and the romance turned into intimidation.

Ringham said it’s likely other people were involved in the scam.

Story continues below advertisement

“They threatened her with jail. They threatened her all the time that the police were going to come and get her. She was terrified about that,” Ringham said.

Her sister fell deeper into debt, eventually selling her home, she added.

“She got a lot of money for a very average home and not a penny was left over.  She owed all that money to various places wherever she was borrowing money, wherever she was trying to get money, a line of credit on her home and this kind of stuff,” Ringham said.

The romance scam ended up losing Ringham’s sister $960,000. She took her own life at the age of 61.

“She took her life because of all of this,” Ringham said.

WATCH: Feb. 13 — Valentine’s Day romance scams

Click to play video: 'Valentine’s Day Romance Scams'
Valentine’s Day Romance Scams

The reported loss from romance scams in Canada was just under $25 million in 2018, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Story continues below advertisement

The spread of online dating sites and apps has made this fraud easier to commit, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has said.

The BBB reports that romance scam victims in Canada and the U.S. have lost nearly $1 billion over the last three years.

“Be curious. Have a skeptic mind and ask questions. If someone is genuinely interested in you, but doesn’t want you to share details that would make you feel comfortable with them that is a red flag,” said Karla Davis, Manager of Community and Public Relations for BBB serving Mainland BC.

READ MORE: Romance scams take top spot of 2018’s top 10 scams, Better Business Bureau says

Ringham hopes that sharing her sister’s story will warn others about this scam.

“If you see somebody or you know somebody that may be involved in a scam, tell my sister’s story. My sister lost almost $1 million and she took her life because of an invisible man named Ryan,” she said.

For tips on how to protect yourself from a romance scam:

To report a Romance Scam:

Sponsored content