Love, Romance and Money (Yours)

Did you hear the one about the dishy German, Norwegian, Scottish, American (you name it) widowed oil rig worker who needs $300,000 to fix his equipment, get it out of customs or finish his contract (whatever)? Goes by the name of Lt. Frank Paul, Joe Cross, Richard Lambert, Hans Dorst, Dorst Hans, Joe Cross (what, again?). His multiple victims did. They’re sharing the details, and photos, online (photo by Sammy-Williams/Pixabay).

Scammers Are ‘Just Looking for Love’

Romantic scammers are “just looking for a good woman to love,” according to Almost suckered. Almost reports: “His father left him millions. He can’t get money unless he is married. His fiancé cheated on him with his best friend and stole his money.” Not born yesterday says her Miami hunk works on a Liverpool oil rig: “…lol he needs 2500 to get off rig to come visit and get married.” Cautious’ widowed Scottish petroleum engineer was attacked by Turkish pirates who took his wallet and passport. iTunes cards anyone?

The Oil Rig Worker Scam

Jodi of Kelowna met her oil rig engineer in person. She went on a few dates and in no time, was convinced it was the real thing. Her friends and family liked him too. As Chatelaine reported, by the time he borrowed $500 to travel to a job in Edmonton, they were already planning their future together. As soon as he got back, they’d go to Vietnam, where he kept his wealth in gold bars.

Love Bombing to Get Your Trust

Recently divorced, Jodi loved Mexican food. So did Andre. They shared the same favourite song, “Meant to Be”. Mirroring, or pretending to have common experiences, is a tactic seen all too often by psychologists and investigators. So is “love bombing”, overwhelming a victim with affection to build dependency. 

$45,000 in Debt

But within weeks, Andre had Jodi cash a $19,000 paycheque to prevent Canada Revenue Agency from collecting unpaid back taxes and shorting his payroll. Soon, her debit card was being rejected by Kelowna stores. Jodi, who had already booked time off for the trip to Vietnam, owed her bank $45,000 for the bounced cheque and other money he’d borrowed.

Extorted and Threatened, Victims Speak Out

Romance scams cost Canadians $22.5 million in 2018, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Beyond just the money, they can be a personal nightmare. Many victims report being threatened with death when they refused requests for money. Only five to 15 per cent of victims report being defrauded to police or other authorities.

Held Against Will in Nigeria

A retired U.S. government employee was held against her will in a Lagos hotel for a year after meeting a scammer online and going to Nigeria to marry him. He allegedly forced her to extort money from associates, used her credit cards and collected her pension. A Filipino woman rescued from Nigeria was also lured there by an Internet romance scammer. She was confined, sexually abused and extorted for over six months.

Profile of a Romance Scammer

Romance scammers meet their victims online on WhatsApp or Facebook, at networking events, on vacation, in gyms or through “modelling” photo shoots. Victims often report their online love looked like a model, “too good to be true” (photos may be taken from popular Instagram or Pinterest sites). Using fake social media or dating profiles, scammers use phony affections and cheap flattery to play on vulnerable emotions. Eventually, they get to the point. They need money for travel or a sudden medical emergency. You could be asked to cash a cheque that bounces, leaving you to repay it. You may even be charged with laundering money for your romantic confidante.

Four Most Common Romance Frauds

1.  Internet Relationships

Internet scammers ask romantic partners to send money for medical or legal expenses. The fraudster often lives abroad, or so they say, and asks to have money sent electronically. They may request iTunes or streaming cards that can be traded for quick cash. Or, as Jodi was, victims could be asked to cash a counterfeit cheque and wire the scammer the money.

2.  Escorts

Escort frauds play victims by convincing them they love and want to live with them. They may request money via e-deposit or wire service to buy passports, airline tickets, real estate or pay for wedding expenses. The scammer then concocts a reason to end the relationship, such as having a third party tell the victim they died. 

3.  Workplace Romances

Workplace fraud involves a co-worker who is convinced to invest in a business deal or give their romantic partner money. The funds are used for personal expenses or to fund addictions. 

4. Vacation Romance

A love interest who suddenly materializes on a vacation may be out to steal your money or reputation. Your new partner may volunteer to tour you around or find excuses to accidentally run into you on the beach, at dinner or while shopping. In fact, they are stalking you, their intended mark. Watch out if your partner loses their wallet on a dinner date. Or begins making plans for your new life together, in Canada. 

Being taken by a romance scammer is embarrassing. Short of hiring a fraud recovery specialist, there’s not much you can do when love and emotions get in the way of logic and common sense.

Legal Advice on Romance Scams

Axess Law Ontario family lawyers can advise you on investigating and stopping a romance scam. Video conference online 7 days a week, day or evening, by calling 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto 647-479-0118 for an appointment or using our online booking form. In person meetings with licensed lawyers are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.