Cupid’s arrow weapon of choice – Winnipeg Free Press | #datingscams | #lovescams

Loneliness made him do it.

A farmer says prolonged isolation, coupled with his kind-hearted nature, made him fall victim to scammers who posed as potential lovers on four occasions in the last decade.

“It would be very important to me (to find an intimate partner). I live on the farm in this big house all alone and it’s very lonely… all I do is have supper, watch TV and go to bed; nobody to talk to,” said Mike, who didn’t want his last name used.


Lianne Tregobov, owner of Camelot Introductions, says scammers know how to play on lonely people’s emotions.

The 61-year-old Saskatchewan man is among a growing number of people targeted by sophisticated “romance scams,” in which criminals adopt fake identities to gain a victim’s affection and trust so they can ask for money.

The Winnipeg Police Service and a local matchmaker are holding a seminar this weekend to alert people to online dating scams.

Mike admitted he shelled out a total of $60,000. The perpetrators included people he knew and anonymous fraudsters he met on the internet.

In the last year, he was taken for roughly $7,000 by someone who claimed to be a widowed mother from Salt Lake City, Utah. She convinced him to pay for her daughter’s medical expenses and in exchange, she promised to move to Canada to pursue a romantic relationship with him, Mike said.

Despite the knowledge the relationship is likely not on the up-and-up, Mike continues to communicate with the person online. It’s something Winnipeg matchmaker Lianne Tregobov said is not uncommon.

“These are experts who have learned the art of manipulating vulnerable people’s hearts,” said Tregobov, who is working with Mike to help him break the habit of falling for fraudulent flames.

“The damage that occurs is horrific … because they were in love with a fictitious character and all of a sudden that is taken away from them, as well as thousands of dollars.”

Tregobov, owner of Camelot Introductions, and Winnipeg police have hooked up for the weekend seminar, the first time the force has partnered with a matchmaking service to help members of the public protect themselves against fraud.

In contrast to online dating platforms, Tregobov verifies the identity of her clients and conducts criminal record checks on all suitors who sign up.

Tregobov stressed that Mike’s situation is not unique. She has dealt with clients who fall into a kind of “trance” in which they continue to be susceptible to deception.

Such scams often begin with a period of “love bombing” in which a lonely person is identified and then showered with praise and affection. Victims include everybody from blue-collar workers to highly educated professionals, she said.

The latest data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre shows 47 Manitobans fell victim to romance scams in 2023, for a collective loss of $1.6 million. In total, 1,009 Manitobans were tricked out of $9 million by all forms of fraud last year.

Winnipeg police Sgt. Trevor Thompson estimates the data captures just 10 per cent of actual victims since many people never report the crime to police.

“We see them almost daily,” Thompson said. “We could have every police officer in the Winnipeg Police Service working on fraud 24/7 and we would never solve it all. It’s just that prevalent.”

Romance scams are commonly perpetrated by “professionals” who operate on behalf of large criminal organizations. Scammers claim to be in a desperate financial situation and need help urgently. They often encourage victims to keep the online relationship a secret from friends and family, Thompson said.

Such crimes are becoming increasingly difficult to trace due to technological advancements such as cryptocurrency.