They prey on emotions and insecurities, say all of the right things and sweep you off your feet. Then, when the timing is right, they begin asking for cash.
“He made me feel like a real person, you know, by telling me he loved me and I was beautiful and my ex never said stuff like that,” says Michelle Boyer, an Ottawa woman who fell victim to an online romance scam.
“It was small amounts, and every time, he’s like, ‘Thank you, babe, I love you.'”
About a decade ago, Michelle Boyer fell victim to a romance scam. She met a man online and was swept off of her feet.
Billy Brown (she doesn’t know if that really was his name) claimed to be from Florida and was working in Nigeria for an oil company. He made grand plans to move her to the Sunshine State when all of a sudden he needed money, the reasons ranging from food to medical bills. It was only when her family started noticing inconsistencies in his story that Boyer realized she was being conned.
By then, it had been about a year and she’d been bilked out of $3,000 dollars, the 48-year-old says.
“I was on a pension so I didn’t have a lot of money, and near the end, when I said I just don’t have anymore money, he said, ‘don’t you have some jewelry you could sell to get me money?’ and I figured at that point something is wrong.”
This type of story is unfortunately common. Last year alone, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported losses connected to romance scams totaling more than $22.5 million, which surpasses all types of fraud.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it really is,” Norfolk County OPP Const. Ed Sanchuk. “You’re going to find love; it’s just going to take time and unfortunately we have individuals that take advantage of vulnerable people in our communities.”
Last week, a senior in Norfolk County was conned out of nearly $300,000, police say. Between July and November, the victim wired more than a quarter of a million dollars in what police allege was a romance scam.
“Several of the victims I have spoken to felt like they have never been loved before, that they’ve never been loved like this before in the world and that’s what their job is to do,” adds Sanchuk.
READ MORE: Romance scam costs Ontario senior $140K
The OPP is fielding these types of calls more than ever before, cyber-criminals using the web to victimize Canadians.
“The majority of these suspects are people that are taking advantage of our seniors, they’re not in our own backyard, they’re across the sea, they’re across different areas of the provinces and you know what? They’re not in Canada.”
Boyer has spent the last three years as a crime prevention ambassador in Ottawa, sharing her story in hopes of helping others.
“I’m ashamed of what happened but I want people to know so they can see the red flags. Don’t send money.”
Anyone falling victim to such a scam is being asked to report it.