Charges laid after extensive OPP investigation into romance fraud, resulting in $27K lost

If you believe you have been the victim of an online romance scam, the RCMP and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre are urging you to contact them immediately. (Negative Space/Pexels)

Ontario Provincial Police have released details on a man that has been arrested and charged following an extensive investigation into a romance fraud, in which tens of thousands of dollars were lost. 

Police say on June 6th, 2022 a victim contacted the Grenville County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment and reported having fallen victim to romance fraud, losing approximately $27,000 after beginning an online relationship with someone they had met via an online dating platform. 

During the investigation, OPP investigators received assistance from several organizations including, the Forensic Accounting Management Group (FAMG), the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). 

Then on October 25th, 2023, following an extensive investigation, a 37-year-old resident of Toronto, Ontario, was arrested and charged with Fraud Over $5,000, and Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Over $5,000, contrary to the Criminal Code. OPP say the accused was released from police custody and is set to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Brockville in January 2024. 

OPP additionally, gives information on this type of fraud. They say in romance frauds, fraudsters will gain the trust of the victim by carrying on a relationship over a period of time. This can include displays of affection, such as sending gifts, flowers, and tokens to prove that their feelings are genuine. In many cases, the fraudster will claim to be professional businesspeople or military personnel so are travelling or stationed abroad. Once trust is gained, fraudsters will begin to ask for financial assistance for reasons like urgent situations (e.g., a sick family member or to complete a business transaction) or to return to the country (e.g., plane ticket, lawyer fees, or duty & taxes).

Police give some tips to avoid being victimized in a similar way:

- Never, under any circumstances, send money or cryptocurrencies to someone you have never met.
- Protect your personal and financial information. Do not share personal or financial information with anyone you have only met online and review your social media privacy settings.
- Never send intimate photos or videos of yourself. They could be used to blackmail you.
- Do a reverse image search of any photos you are sent to see if they have been taken from a stock photo site or someone else's online profile.

If you do fall victim to fraud or know someone who has, police urge individuals to contact your local police service and the CAFC by phone at 1-888-495-8501 or online by way of the Online Reporting System, even if a financial loss did not occur.

With files by CFRA's Connor Ray