"Dating and romance scams try to lower your defences by appealing to your romantic and
compassionate side," according to the Competition Bureau Canada's little black book of
Most victims are divorced, widowed, retired or disabled women over the age of 45 who
are eager to connect with a friendly face online, according to the Australia-based
Fraud Watch International. That makes them vulnerable to a seemingly random friend
request from a handsome, 50-something soldier on Facebook. Virtual scams, real victims
Mertie Telford, of Jacksonville, Texas, says someone tried to scam her using a photo
of Sgt.-Maj. Raymond F. Chandler, a top advisor to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff. The
scammer reached out to her on Facebook and claimed after a few months that he was in
love with her.
Eventually, he asked for $4,200 to secure his leave from Afghanistan. Telford figured
out she was being scammed when she looked up his fake name, "Francis Chandler," on
Google and discovered the real Chandler's Wikipedia page. She never sent him any money.
"I wish I had known what I know now - it would have saved some heartbreak," she said.
Diana Chromey, of Minnesota, says two men defrauded her of $15,000 over two years. One
claimed to be a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. The other said he was an oil and gas
Diana Lynn Chromey
"Money is not love Diana. But money makes love get stronger and sweeter," the fake
soldier once told her via text message, after she complained about sending him money.
Chromey eventually confronted the suspected scammer, but he did not cut off contact.
Instead, he started to harass her, calling her in the middle of the night to insult
her and sending her cruel photos and videos.
"He pushed me to the point where I was going to take my life and I had a nervous
breakdown," Chromey told Global News. She says a friend helped her get through the
personal crisis, but it took her over a year to recover. She also reported the incident
to police but has not been able to recover her money.
"It's been hell," she said.
Canadians have also fallen prey to these scams, including 622 victims in the last year.
One Toronto victim lost $1.9 million and another lost her home and $450,000 over seven
years to a Nigeria-based military romance scam.
Romance scammers tend to have a lot of success posing as soldiers, says Det. Sgt. Ian
Nichol from Toronto Police Service's financial crimes unit. Nichol's office receives
several complaints about romance scams every week.
"Your typical thing is a senior ranking officer in the United States military who's
stationed overseas and he's run into some sort of predicament," Nichol said.
He added that it's extremely difficult to chase down these scammers, many of whom work
in organized groups to move money through bank accounts around the world.
"By the time police get involved ... the money is long gone," he said.
Nichol says it's not uncommon for victims to lose more than $1 million in such scams.
"The numbers, in terms of losses, are obscene," he said. "They're very challenging to
investigate, and most of the outcomes are not good."
He added that most scammers work in teams to deceive their victims and move the money
through several bank accounts so they can't be caught. They'll usually start by asking
a victim for small amounts of money, then work up to larger transfers over the course
of weeks, months or years.