Hello dear reader, I am a Nigerian woman who really wishes to meet to you, all I need is $10,000 in Canadian funds and I will travel to you shortly. Please wire to First Lagos Bank Nigeria without delay.
Sounds a bit suspicious, doesn’t it?
It’s hard to imagine that people are still falling for terrible Internet scams from African strangers, but love and loneliness apparently do strange things to a person.
This week, the CBC reported on a New Brunswick man who had his heart and bank account broken by an online romance scam. William Reid sent $10,000 to “Jane” so she could travel from Africa to Canada and live with him.
Unsurprisingly, she didn’t show up.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the fraudsters then called Reid posing as police, saying they’d detained Jane due to immigration problems. They’d let her walk for just $500, so Reid, who’s on social assistance, borrowed money from friends and wired it to the fake officer.
And then his love showed up! No, we’re kidding.
Reid is out over $10,000 with no Jane to show for it. And while police can investigate online scams, it’s difficult to bring anyone to justice; the scammers could be operating anywhere in the world. Ghana and Nigeria are particular hotbeds of online scamming, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Romance scams are a booming industry, ripping off lovelorn Canadians to the tune of $13.3 million in 2014 alone, and more than $50 million since 2010.
Reid’s experience is typical: a scammer uses social media or a dating site to lure people in. They build a relationship and say they want to meet but, since they live in some faraway spot, need financial help to travel.
Particularly slick criminals will even send gifts to their targets as a way to show their devotion and build trust.
Emergencies like Jane’s immigration problem tend come up during their “travel.” In 2013, Ontario resident Rosanna Leeman connected with “Marc” in Florida, but he had a big business trip to Dubai before he could come and meet her. While there, he contacted her and said he’d lost his wallet and ID. He needed emergency cash, so Rosanna sent $7,000. Marc and the money disappeared.
These types of emergencies — lost documents, immigration problems and sick relatives needing urgent, expensive care — are among the most common tricks to suck money out of victims.
The Anti-Fraud Centre provides tips and warning signs to protect yourself from a scam. Most importantly though: just don’t send money for any reason!
It won’t buy you love.