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Police warn of online romance scam

Police are warning residents to be wary of an online romance scam that has already defrauded some people out of thousands of dollars.

“It has been brought to the attention of the Financial Crime Investigations branch that an online scam is being perpetrated on persons who are deceived into believing that they are in relationships,” police said.

“These victims are eventually defrauded out of thousands of dollars by the fraudsters after having gained their trust.”

Police said the victims are being contacted via social media by individuals they do not know.

They engage in conversations, police said, adding that the victims often develop feelings and enter relationships after “numerous” conversations. 

“Sadly, though, the perpetrators are using false identities and stolen photos to pretend to be someone else (military personnel, etc.),” police said.

“Eventually the fraudster would ask for assistance with funding for various reasons to which the victim complies. In one instance, the fraudster pretended to be military personnel stationed overseas and claimed that he needed money sent to his base to have him released.

“The money is usually sent using local money transfer agencies to various foreign countries.”

The fraudsters are “very smooth and convincing”, according to police.

Police were unable to say how victims are chosen.

“However, it would appear that an ideal victim would be someone who is either single, divorced, widowed or in search of some form of companionship,” police said.

“In some instances, persons in these positions are distracted by their desire for happiness and companionship and are unable to recognize that they are being scammed. In certain cases, there were commitments made to marry each other which can further justify to a victim that their actions were for a worthy cause.”

Police encouraged the public to be cautious when talking to people via social media, especially when talking to strangers.

“You should be very suspicious of anyone who asks you to forward money to them, especially when the destination is a foreign country,” police said.

“We encourage persons to report any suspicious online activity to the police so that the matter can be properly investigated.”

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