“The suspect is a professional fraudster operating as part of a network of criminals, all with the same intent — to relieve someone of their hard earned money,” said Halton police Det. Mark Underwood from the regional fraud unit.
“They know how to manipulate, and unfortunately, they are highly skilled at what they do.”
The suspect’s whereabouts are unknown and investigators say he could be anywhere in the world.
Investigators are urging victims of this crime to recognize they’re not alone.
“Even the most experienced people can be manipulated by these professionals,” say police.
As for the cash, “the money is all gone, sent through various means to the U.S.A. and Europe,” said Underwood.
In a typical romance scam, the relationship starts with an anonymous connection, usually through a dating website or app.
Often, the perpetrator of the scam claims that their ability to meet in person is limited, due to travel, overseas business or military deployment.
The suspect will then present a problem that needs to be solved with a small loan of money, such as a lost passport or a failing business deal.
The perpetrator may then say they want to meet the victim in person but that they can’t unless the problem is solved, or until they’re back in the country.
They may say there’s an opportunity to make lots of money on a chance deal, contingent on a small investment with a guaranteed return.
Halton police offers the following tips for residents:
Never send money to someone you have never met. Legitimate businesses and business associates do not need to secure financing from random strangers.
Check your facts, and do your research. Often, the fraudsters will introduce a lawyer, in the hopes it brings legitimacy to a financial transaction. Use the internet to verify that people and businesses actually exist.
If in doubt, seek some help. A sober second look at a situation from a trusted outsider who has not been manipulated by a potential fraudster can provide clarity and make the difference.
The best weapon against this crime is awareness. When people understand how these scams work, they will be less likely to be victimized.
When it comes to fraud, victims can help other victims by speaking out. Police are encouraging victim to let people know what happened to stop it happening to others.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Det. Mark Underwood of the regional fraud unit at 905-825-4747 ext. 8738.