A Victoria woman who was bilked out of $88,000 in a romance website scam says a man charmed her over several months, convincing her to send money for a construction project in Malaysia.
The victim, in her 60s, met the man in June on connectingsingles.com. She spoke to the Times Colonist on the condition that she remain anonymous.
The man said he was in Vancouver and wanted to meet for coffee. The woman initially declined but then reconnected with him two weeks later. He said he had left for Malaysia on a business trip but the two continued to talk via Yahoo messenger over the summer.
Claiming to be originally from Quebec, the man said he was involved in a project to build an event centre in Kuala Lumpur. He sent her pictures, contracts and other details.
Eventually, the man said he was set to come back to Vancouver but needed $3,000 to pay his supplier. When the woman offered to give him a loan, he initially said no, which made her think it wasn’t a scam. He asked that money be sent to a bank account number with a name, although it wasn’t the name he was using.
In August, the woman sent the first payment of $3,000. The man kept making excuses for why he needed more money and promised she would get it back. She sent another $4,000, then two payments of about $40,000.
On two occasions, her bank teller raised warning signals. “She said: ‘Are you sure it’s not a scam?’ I said: ‘100 per cent, absolutely, no doubt.’ But it’s not the bank’s obligation to do the investigating, it’s my obligation.”
The man even gave her an online bank account number and password so she could see there was $5 million in the account.
As he continued to ask for money, she finally did some digging and his story fell apart. The company he claimed to work for had no record of him. The man had given her a name and phone number that belonged to a Vancouver man with no idea about a Malaysian project.
She used an email tracking website that traced his email to a Nigerian address. Flowers from the man were paid for with a credit card stolen in California.
The woman, who said she is university-educated and formerly worked as a teacher, drained her pension and retirement savings. She finally went to Victoria police two weeks ago.
“I felt very low. I felt betrayed,” she said. “I felt I lost a very nice connection which I hoped would be a solid relationship for the rest of my days.”
Victoria police are chasing leads but once the money is wired, it’s nearly impossible to track, said Victoria police spokesman Const. Mike Russell.
In June, Victoria police investigated two other dating website scams, including one that bilked a victim of $50,000. The victims were asked to send information and money overseas to secure storage and shipping for a large quantity of gold.
“It’s a sad reality that frauds like this are prevalent even here in Victoria,” said Det. Mike Johnston of the department’s financial crimes section. “We’ve seen time and time again that tens of thousands of dollars are being taken from victims here in our communities.”
• If you suspect a fraud, call the police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at http://antifraudcentre.ca/ english/home.html.