Pam Breuer was in an online relationship for a month before she discovered the person wasn’t real.
Breuer, who is from Regina and now lives in Calgary, decided a year ago in September that she would try out dating apps. She met someone, they shared similar interests, and hit it off.
The person claimed to be in the US army, recently deployed to Afghanistan. After the relationship started to build, the person announced plans to apply for leave so they could be together. The scammers behind the fake account then asked for $300 to put towards a leave form, and Breuer sent it.
The lie didn’t last long. Breuer came home from work one day and turned on the television. The program she began to watch happened to be airing a story on romance scamming. As she watched, the victim was describing an online relationship that was very similar to Breuer’s own. Breuer began investigating.
The scammer had sent Breuer a Quebec address of the supposed mother. Breuer found the phone number for that address and called it. A woman answered who said she knew no one by that name.
Breuer finally searched the image of the person with whom she thought she was in a relationship. When it came up as someone else, she knew without a doubt she had been scammed.
“[I was] confused and angered,” she said. “But mostly I just wanted to get justice and find this person.”
Woman strings scammer along
Despite discovering the relationship was a fraud after only one month, Breuer continued to message the fake account as if she knew nothing. She wanted justice, and saw maintaining communication with the scammer as the best way to draw out information.
“I have basically come up with all my own stories and I’ve faked the entire last year,” she said.
During this process, Breuer did an IP address search on the scammer and found it traced back to Nigeria. In the past few weeks she grew tired of the game, and finally told the scammer she knew the truth. Now, she’s demanding more information from the person or people who are behind it, and is trying to get enough information that authorities will help her.
Trouble finding help
Breuer has had trouble finding a law enforcement body that will claim jurisdiction over this crime that happened online, and likely came from another country.
Daniel Williams at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says investigations of this kind can be difficult. The Anti-Fraud Centre compiles all the information made from fraud claims, and then follows the money. He says the money is most often traced back to West Africa, specifically Ghana and Nigeria.
The Anti-Fraud Centre shares the information it collects with the relevant law enforcement in each suspected country. Williams says he has little indication of what happens once the information gets to those countries, but adds that con artists are difficult to catch. It is often sophisticated gangs behind the scams. Members of these gangs often use prepaid phones bought with stolen credit cards, making the people particularly difficult to catch.
After a year of spending her time communicating with what Breuer suspects is one of these gangs, she wants closure.
“It’s not really affecting me emotionally,” she said. “It’s done and it’s over with. I can’t really do anything about it. I’m just more frustrated to the fact that I can’t get the help that I want to try to catch this person.”