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Waterloo man charged in alleged romance scam worth more than $2 million

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Police in Waterloo, Ont. have arrested a 49-year-old man they say posed as a CSIS agent and pursued romantic relationships with dozens of women, ultimately defrauding them out of more than $2 million.

The scam stretched over 15 years, Waterloo regional police said in a news release on Wednesday.

After establishing a romantic relationship, “the victims were convinced to make fictitious investments and support the male’s lifestyle,” police said.

Police did not specify the exact number of victims or where they lived, but said dozens of woman were defrauded out of more than $2 million combined.

Investigators explained the man used a “variety of methods including online-dating websites to meet many of the victims.”

They added that “many of the victims are from Waterloo Region, however there are others from outside regions in Ontario and in other countries.”

Investigators also believe there may be more victims and are asking anyone with information to contact them at 519-570-9777 ext. 8255.

On Thursday, Nov. 23, officers executed two search warrants, one in Waterloo and one in Halton, and arrested the 49-year-old Waterloo man.

He’s been charged with fraud over $5,000 and possession of stolen property over $5,000.

The man is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 8.

EXPERT REACTS

The director of cyber market intelligence and financial crimes at Interac, Rachel Jolicoeur, said romance scams became even more popular during the pandemic, when connecting virtually was normalized.

“It was the perfect excuse for not meeting their love interest in person,” added Jolicoeur.

She said people should flag suspicious behaviour and excuses for not meeting face-to-face.

For those who have fallen victim to a scam – speaking up is key.

“Report it to the police. Report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. And if you've given away any personal information contact the credit bureau, Equifax or TransUnion and flag that with them and also contact your financial institution and let them know,” Jolicoeur said.

CANADIAN ANTI-FRAUD CENTRE TIPS

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s website said scammers will try to use any means necessary to convince you that their requests are legitimate.

“The majority of fraud is not committed by amateurs and they will use technology to their advantage,” their website reads.

Red flags to lookout for include:

  • When someone you haven’t met in person professes their love for you
  • If the person wants to quickly move to a private or different mode of communication (email, text, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts etc.)
  • If they always have an excuse not to meet in person
  • If you receive poorly/oddly written messages, sometimes even addressing you by the wrong name
  • If the individual claims to live close to you but is working overseas
  • If they act distressed or angry to guilt you into sending money
  • If the individual discourages you from discussing them or their situation with your friends and family (attempting to isolate you from those who may be suspicious of the relationship) 

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