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
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.
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