Romance Scams

Toronto woman loses life savings in romance scam, warns others to ‘be careful’

‘Unfortunately, this type of crime isn’t uncommon,’ Toronto police say

Paula Duhatschek · CBC News · Posted: Feb 13, 2022 5:00 AM ET | Last Updated: February 13

Cindy Browne says she wants to warn others after she lost her life savings in a romance scam. (Submitted by Cindy Browne)

When a handsome stranger started chatting with Cindy Browne on TikTok, she was intrigued. 

They quickly took their courtship to WhatsApp and bonded over their shared difficulty in love: He told her his wife had died of cancer. She told him her first husband had also died and she’d recently found out her second husband was cheating on her. 

“[He] WhatsApped me every day, so nicely talking,” said Browne. 

“I fell for him.” 

Less than a year later, Browne says the man she thought she was building a life with had scammed her out of about $26,000 in a type of scheme the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says is on the rise. 

In a statement, Toronto police confirmed they’re investigating, and said “unfortunately, this type of crime isn’t uncommon.” 

‘Drastic’ increase in romance scams

Jeff Horncastle, a unit supervisor with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, agreed. 

“It’s a story that we hear far, far too often,” said Horncastle, who noted that romance scams have seen a “drastic” increase in recent years. 

In 2020, the fraud centre registered a reported loss of nearly $28 million due to romance scams in Canada. In 2021, that number more than doubled to more than $64 million – though Horncastle believes that may be an underestimate, as people are often reluctant to report this type of crime. Last year, romance scams accounted for the second-highest amount of dollars lost to fraud in Canada, the centre said. 

Horncastle said some warning signs that could point to a potential scam include: 

  • A social media or dating profile that seems too good to be true. 
  • If the person confesses their love quickly, without having met in person. 
  • They want to quickly move to a private form of communication, like email or text. 
  • They always have excuses why they can’t meet up in person. 
  • They encourage you to avoid talking about your relationship with friends or family. 
  • Their messages are poorly written, or if they call you by the wrong name. 

Learn more about her story by clicking here…