York cops say victims lost between thousands of dollars to more than $1M
York Regional Police are warning the public about a new romance and investment scam they say primarily targets the Chinese community.
Investigators from the Financial Crimes Unit said there has been significant increase in these incidents being reported, with victims losing thousands of dollars to more than $1 million.
There have been at least 15 victims in their 20s to 50s, police said in a statement released Thursday.
The scammers contact the victims — primarily women — through social media, WeChat or dating apps, and strike up a conversation of “a romantic nature.” As the online relationship flourishes, the fraudsters recommend “an exciting investment opportunity for the victim to participate in, promising large returns,” police said.
The scammers often claim to be, or work closely with, experienced traders or investors. In some cases, they set up the victim with access to a website where they can view what they believe is their account and the investment funds within it.
“Typically, the suspect will continue to encourage victims to invest more money until eventually, they become suspicious,” police said. “In most cases by that time, the money is gone and recovering it is extremely unlikely.”
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Police said the victims are then left defrauded and with a broken heart.
“These scams have many variations and suspects go to great lengths to appear legitimate. Fraudsters work to build trust with the victims and use a number of psychological techniques to convince a victim to agree to their suggestions,” police said.
“Citizens are encouraged to be exceedingly cautious in developing online relationships with strangers and do not invest money in something you do not fully understand or with people or businesses that you cannot confirm are legitimate. If the situation feels suspicious, trust your instincts and avoid it.”
Anyone who has information or who believes they may have been a victim of fraud and lost money can report the incident to police by calling 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6627.
To report frauds where no money has been lost, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.