Police on the Semiahmoo Peninsula are advising residents to be wary of those who play on people’s need for companionship this time of year, citing one incident in which a woman lost “a couple hundred thousand dollars.”
“This one was particularly significant,” White Rock RCMP Sgt. Joel Glen said Thursday, describing the scam as having “a relationship element.”
The victim, a woman in her 50s, met the scammer through a dating site; the funds were sent overseas.
The file was one of four online-dating frauds investigated in White Rock last year, Glen said. Three other victims each lost “a few hundred dollars.”
Glen said that while the actual number of victims of such scams is low, the impact can be devastating. The perpetrators “take advantage of your feelings and take advantage of people when they’re at their lowest.”
In Surrey, “several” complaints associated with this time of year – Valentine’s Day – were reported last year.
In a news release titled “Beware of fraudulent love this Valentine’s Day,” Cpl. Scotty Schumann cited two recent tactics police have seen: a “fake flowers” fraud, in which recipients of gift baskets are told they must pay a surcharge for the delivery; and ‘catfishing’, in which people troll online dating sites and build fake romantic relationships in order to obtain personal information and/or money from their victims.
Fraud reports as a whole jumped significantly in both cities last year, with White Rock recording a number nearly triple that seen in 2014. In White Rock, police dealt with 213 reports last year, up from 78 the year prior. In Surrey, there were 3,662 fraud reports last year, up from 2,693 in 2014.
Glen and Schumann agreed the majority of files were the result of scammers purporting to represent the Canada Revenue Agency, in which victims are told they owe money to the CRA, and threatened with criminal proceedings if they fail to quickly pay up.
Anyone targeted is advised to call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, 1-888-495-8501.