An Oshawa, Ont. man, who was left heartbroken following his wife's death, was scammed $300,000 by a woman he met through online dating.
Walter Zutell, who uses a wheelchair due to a spinal injury, lost his wife of 13 years when she died suddenly due to a heart attack in 2010.
Three years later, he said he decided to try online dating.
“When they tell you have you met your soulmate? She [my wife] was definitely my soulmate,” he told CTV News Toronto.
“I knew I would never find someone like my wife, but I missed the companionship. I wanted to have someone to enjoy the good times with and the sad times too."
Zutell said he eventually met a woman online, who said she was a personal support worker and was used to helping people in wheelchairs.
After about six months of chatting online, the woman agreed to meet him.
“When you’re in a wheelchair and you meet someone that’s not in a wheelchair and they say they want to be with you, you just feel like you've hit the goldmine," Zutell said.
Over a period of four years, Zutell said they met about six times. He said it wasn’t long into their relationship when she started asking for money.
“Gradually she started asking for money for this and then money for that. It started off just for little things and then the amounts got to be more and more,” he said.
The Oshawa man said that the woman told him that she could visit him more often if he bought her a car, and so he did.
She then said she needed money for medical operations and he started writing her cheques worth tens of thousands of dollars, he said.
Zutell said that she promised him she would eventually pay the money back, but she never did.
“Overall, in total, I’m in debt $300,000. The house is remortgaged, my credit cards are maxed out and I’ve got three lines of credit,” he said. “I told her I need this money back. I said ‘I can't just keep giving you all this money.’”
He said that now he unsure where the woman is because she is no longer returning his calls and emails.
Zutell said he was financially independent and works as a dispatcher helping others get wheelchair accessible transportation. He said he is now afraid he will lose his home.
“I'm scared, I’m upset, I cry myself to sleep. All I wanted was some companionship. I’m just hoping for a miracle basically,” he said.
Canadians were scammed more than $22 million in 2018 due to romance scams, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Only about five per cent of romance fraud cases are reported, but the fraud centre recommends people to file a police report if they or a family member become a victim of romance fraud.