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Fresh romance scams warning after senior conned out of $700,000 life savings

Fresh romance scams warning after senior conned out of $700,000 life savings
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At $22.5 million, romance fraud was Canadas number 1 scam in 2018 in terms of money lost, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says -- and they only believe that about five per cent of Canadians report being victims. (Designecologist/Pexels)

Published Friday, March 22, 2019 11:16AM EDT

Police and fraud officers have issued a fresh warning about online romance scams after an elderly Ontario man was conned out of more than $700,000.

Recently widowed senior Robert Hogg, now deceased, transferred money 19 times from his local bank in Whitby, Ont., to an account in Malaysia, according to the provinces Serious Fraud Office.

The victim believed he was sending his money to a woman who he had met online, Ontario Provincial Police wrote in a press release.

The suspect claimed she was from the Toronto area, but was in Australia on business. The perpetrator had coached the victim on what to say to the bank and further told the victim not to tell anyone about her, as she wanted to surprise everyone with their relationship after she returned to Canada.

The victim hid the relationship and the money transfers from his family, resulting in the loss of his life savings and debt totalling more than $700,000.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 376 romance scam complaints in 2018, with 275 victims in Ontario losing almost $12 million. This was almost half of the total Canadian loss.

The actual number is likely greater as police estimate 95 per cent of such crimes go unreported.

Police said emotional embarrassment reduces the number of reports and that the scams cause victims severe financial hardship and take an emotional toll.

Victims are generally single or recently unattached people including seniors, OPP said in the press release.

In some cases, prolonged interaction leads to a feeling of love with individuals that has cost some victims hundreds of thousands of dollars before the relationship ends, usually without ever meeting in person.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued a series of tips to help avoid becoming a victim of a romance scam.

It warned against giving out personal information in an email or when chatting online and to check the name, job information and address the person used.
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