How a grow­ing num­ber of scam­mers want to steal your heart — and your money

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - News - Kash­mala Fida

If the date you met on­line is ask­ing you to trans­fer them money, it’s time to see other peo­ple.

Ac­cord­ing to new num­bers from the RCMP, 56 Al­ber­tans in their ju­ris­dic­tion were conned out of a to­tal of $3.6 mil­lion this year by peo­ple they met on­line, and of­fi­cials say these scams are on the rise.

“They say that they are in­fat­u­ated with these peo­ple and madly in love when they don’t even know each other, they haven’t even met each other and they are ask­ing for money for a fam­ily emer­gency or that they are hav­ing dif­fi­culty in their life,” said RCMP Spokesper­son Sgt. Jack Poitras.

He said some vic­tims feel em­bar­rassed about fall­ing for an on­line scheme, but said they’re of­ten con­ducted by ex­pe­ri­enced fraud­sters.

“They use fic­ti­tious names and they have sites that the money gets trans­ferred to and from and it be­comes a real chal­lenge for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to fol­low all this money across the coun­try so it’s re­ally tough to get your money back,” Poitras said.

Kathy Mac­don­ald, an Al­berta cy­berse­cu­rity ex­pert, said she has dealt with sev­eral of these cases over her 20-year ca­reer, in­clud­ing peo­ple who gave away thou­sands of dol­lars, and one woman who mort­gaged her house in or­der to hand the cash over to a would-be part­ner.

“They want so much for this re­la­tion­ship to suc­ceed and to work out. They be­lieve this per­son and they are so highly in­vested in the re­la­tion­ship,” she said.

She said scam­mers are ex­perts at us­ing emo­tion to ma­nip­u­late peo­ple.

“They can be re­ally ro­man­tic, se­duc­tive, they can be re­ally charm­ing, they may send flow­ers,” she said. “They will spend as much time as re­quired but at some point in the re­la­tion­ship they will have some sort of hard­ship, typ­i­cally it’s a fi­nan­cial hard­ship and they will ask for money.”

Mac­don­ald points out that as peo­ple in­creas­ingly turn on­line to find their next date, more peo­ple will be left vul­ner­a­ble to scams.

“(On­line dat­ing) can be very at­trac­tive to preda­tors and scam­mers,” she said.

“They use what we call so­cial en­gi­neer­ing tech­niques ... that they have per­fected, and have been able to use through rep­e­ti­tion and trial and er­ror.”

The RCMP say there is likely more vic­tims who have not re­ported the crime, and ask them to con­tact of­fi­cials with in­for­ma­tion.

Kash­mala Fida/metro

Tin­der night­mares come to life for some as they are scammed out of large sums of money.

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