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Jul. 5, 2020 | Sunday
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NOTLer lost $232K to ‘romance’ scam in 2019
A female resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake was taken for $232,145 in 2019 as the result of a romance scam. (Sourced image)

In 2019, NOTLers were taken for more than $250,000 by scam artists, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The majority of that total was from one person, who lost $232,145 in a “romance” scam.

According to the fraud centre’s list of scams, in a romance scam, the scammer “convinces you to enter a virtual, online relationship so the scammer can gain your trust and affection.”

This can occur through email messages or fake profiles on social media and dating sites.

“Eventually the scammer asks for money for travel, a medical emergency or family assistance. They might also ask you to receive money for them. By doing so, you might unknowingly commit a crime,” says the centre’s website.

Niagara Regional Police said the victim was a woman in her 60s.

“In May of 2019 our uniform officers met with a woman in her 60s from NOTL. She had befriended a person over social media in October of 2017. Detectives from our Central Fraud Unit took over the investigation as it was determined that the woman had sent in excess of $230k to the person. The funds had been sent via deposits to bank accounts and via gift cards with monetary value,” said Const. Philip Gavin in an email response to The Lake Report.

Gavin said police identified a person of interest, but suspended the investigation at the request of the victim.

He said privacy laws prohibit police from identifying the victim, or providing detailed information that may cause her to be identified, but did say the investigation “determined that the funds left Canada.”

Last week, The Lake Report published a front-page story detailing NOTL resident Pauline Charlton’s concerns about the “psychological terrorism” caused by the proliferation of scam-type telephone calls she and many other residents receive daily. 

Subsequently, the newspaper contacted police authorities for statistics on fraudsters targeting people living in NOTL.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it takes threats to economic integrity “very seriously” and has been engaged in ongoing, complex investigations into various scams, including a Canada Revenue Agency scam, a bank investigator scam and a tech support scam “since reporting and financial loses started to increase.”

“Just in February of this year, we arrested and charged two Canadian-based co-conspirators in connection to all three of these transnational phone scams, causing a significant disruption to criminal operations,” the RCMP said in an email reply to questions from The Lake Report.

“Previous investigative success included the disruption and takedown of illegal call centres in India, effecting a decrease in reported losses to the CRA scam.”

The RCMP says the investigations are complex as a result of scammers using Voice over Internet Protocol, auto-dial, call forwarding applications and spoofing of telephone numbers to mask their identity and location.

Additionally, there are complex jurisdictional issues with international investigations.

“Further to investigations and enforcement, the RCMP works closely with government and domestic and international law enforcement partners to raise awareness and share best practices on these types of crimes, because public awareness and vigilance is a key strategy in preventing the victimization of Canadians and combatting fraud.”

The RCMP is a joint operator of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

“The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre routinely issues educational bulletins, provides scam alerts and has developed partnerships with financial institutions, telephone companies and courier companies.”

The RCMP said it does not comment on specific tools or techniques when safety, or the integrity of operations may be compromised.

“However, we can tell you that (telecommunications companies) have undertaken specific efforts to aid Canadians by blocking fraudulent calls.”

The RCMP and fraud centre encourage people to be aware of current scams.

For specific statistical data and awareness materials, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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