Fraudsters posing as online love interests have scammed multiple residents living in the Yukon out of their life savings, and a Whitehorse lawyer is now warning of the severity of the “romance scam.”
Carmen Gustafson, executive director of the Yukon Public Education Association stated “It’s absolutely devastating to the people who have lost this money.”\
The RCMP define romance fraud as scams by people who create fake profiles on social media and online dating websites with the intention of luring potential victims into online relationships. After creating a false sense of intimacy with their victims, the scammers make a financial request. They often say it’s for an emergency medical bill, or for travel to visit the victim. The money is never repaid.
Gustafson has warned residents of fake social media accounts as professional fraudsters build elaborate profiles that seem real and intriguing. Scammers will often communicate via messaging services and even text message but will refuse to meet in person.
Gustafson says scammers often claim to be from a western country and say they are working abroad. She says the problem with trying to press charges is that it’s almost impossible to find out the person’s real identity.
Also in the past year and a half, Gustafson talked to several men and women in Yukon who have lost tens of thousands of dollars in romance scams. She says none of them have recovered a cent. She also warns residents to check their bank accounts before ever sending any money, to make sure there’s a chance that the money is recoverable.
Whitehorse RCMP don’t have stats on the number of Yukoners who may have fallen victim to such scams, but the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre says there were 700 reported victims of romance fraud in Canada in 2016, representing $17 million.
Read the full story over at the CBC north.