Ontario woman caught up in romance scam puts life savings into Bitcoin machine
TORONTO -- Romance and investment scams are on the rise due to people being stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, police say.
A York Region woman kept putting thousands of dollars in a Bitcoin machine, giving it to a man she never met thinking he might be her true love.
"Every time she did it she knew something felt wrong, but she did it again and again until she used up all her life savings," York police Sgt. Andy Pattenden told CTV News Toronto.
York Regional Police say they've seen a spike in the number of romance scams being reported and it has to do with more people self-isolating at home due to the pandemic.
Fraudsters are targeting victims through social media, e-mails and dating websites.
“People being at home more often now with COVID-19 has definitely been a contributor to the rise in the number of instances we are seeing," Pattenden said.
Criminals often run romance scams out of internet “boiler rooms” and may have several potential victims on the go at one time. Typically they try to create trust , profess their love for someone and then ask them to send money.
The fraud department says criminals are very good at creating the illusion of someone that a person might fall in love with.
“The pictures are fake, the names are fake, the contact information is fake and even where they are residing is fake," Pattenden said.
It’s not just romance scams as more people stay home, they’re also getting caught up in investment scams.
The Credit Counselling Society in Toronto said that as CERB and other government assistance programs come to an end and interest deferment programs on credit cards and mortgages wrap up, more people are facing financial difficulty.
“These are complicated investment schemes, but they make them seem simple and they make the returns look too good to be true, or at least too good to pass up and that’s how they pull people in" Anne Arbour, with the Credit Counselling Society, said.
Police warn no matter what the scam is, if you send money using a cryptocurrency it's difficult to track.
“Once you pass on that money through any kind of cryptocurrency, once it’s in that crypto world it’s pretty much gone," Pattenden said.
It’s also advisable to be cautious of e-mails or texts promising government payments and seeking your banking information.
People should reach out to reach out to family and friends who may be on their own and lonely due to the pandemic and share information about ongoing scams to prevent them from becoming a victim of fraud.