Romance Scams Added to Local Fraud Crime Spree

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Guelph Police Service is warning the general public about romance scams, fraudsters who try to gain the trust of their victims though romantic circumstances in order to rob them blind. This is the latest scam to make the rounds in the Guelph area in the last month in what has been a veritable scam-palooza in the Royal City. Let’s consider all the potential fraud going on…

Romance Scams

In a release on Tuesday, the Guelph Police Service warned residents about falling victim to romance scams, which the FBI defines as a fraud scheme where “a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.”

Among the warning signs that you might be the victim of a romance scam is that the object of your affection is never able to meet you in person, but they’re always available to talk online. Once they think they have your trust, they’ll ask you for money, but phrase it like an emergency; either they or their relatives will need money for a medical expense or unexpected travel. You will be asked to send a wire transfer, or they will offer to send you money to get your account information.

If you feel like your being scammed, police recommend that you stop all communications at once and do not send them any money, and if you have sent them money, get in touch with your financial institution to stop the transaction and then call the police.

Fake iPhone Scams

On January 22, the Guelph Police Service released a media statement about a Markham woman who bought a fake iPhone from a seller in Guelph. A similar scam was reported in Waterloo Region the month before where another victim believed that they bought an iPhone 12 Pro Max for $1,500 from an online seller, which is the same fake phone and price tag as the Guelph scam.

What’s curious in this case is that the victim tried to do their due diligence, and checked the IMEI number on the phone to make sure it wasn’t stolen before completing the transaction. The iPhone checked out, but when the victim tried to start using the phone, they found that they could not download apps from the Apple store since the phone was not an Apple product. In other words, the iPhone was a fake.

The suspect is described as a White woman approximately 35 years of age.

Bitcoin Scams

On January 14, a 71-year-old Guelph woman received several phone calls from a number she didn’t recognize. When she eventually answered the call, the person on the other end of the line said that they were a police officer, and that her SIN number had been found at a crime scene and she was potentially facing charges.

After hearing that shocking news, the “officer” told the woman that she had to move the money from her bank account in order to protect it. She ended up withdrawing $9,000 from her account and took it to a Bitcoin machine downtown where her money went into the digital ether and is likely never to return.

This circumstances around this con are not unfamiliar. By now, many of us have gotten a call from someone that identifies themselves as a police officer, or a government representative, who tells us we’re in trouble, in danger, or are about to get arrested. Police don’t phone you in advance to tell you that you’re about to get arrested, and the Government of Canada will not ask you to pay off a fine with Bitcoin or gift cards. If someone official does ask you for an payment, that should be an immediate red flag.

Puppy Scams

You read that right. On January 18, Guelph Police shared information about a father and daughter who were defrauded of $4,400 when they were trying to buy a puppy from an American breeder. After sending a money transfer worth $850 USD to buy the Weimaraner dog and ship it from Ohio to Toronto, there were follow up emails asking the family for more money to cover vet bills and additional expenses.

The final straw was when the father and daughter were on their way to Pearson airport intending to pick up their dog, but the breeder said it was stuck at the border and required another $3,000 to get it through. At that point, the family realized that they were scammed, and they got in touch with the police who are of the opinion that there was never a dog and that the breeder’s website is fraudulent.

To learn more about commonly used scams, and to get tips on how to protect yourself, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s website here.

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