#CyberFLASH: Life after an online dating scam

internet-privacy.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxSelena Ramirez knows how hard it is to make a romantic connection these days. The single, 53-year-old marketing manager, who works long hours at an Edmonton technology company, is unsure where to meet someone and is finding the dating scene a lonely place. Having already had two failed marriages, on the advice of a friend she decided to give online dating a try. “I’m a dreamer at heart and hadn’t given up on finding a soulmate,” says Selena. “I was excited.”

But last spring, she found out the hard way that not everyone on Internet dating sites is looking for love. (We’ve changed names to protect privacy.) In fact, her dating site hooked her up with someone who was only looking to scam her out of her life savings—and, sadly, he succeeded. “Maurice, the man I met online who passionately said we were meant to be together, gave me a sob story that I learned too late was complete lies,” says Selena. “He told me he was a retired dentist travelling to the United Kingdom to finalize a sales contract in Iran for a new business he was setting up, supplying dental equipment to clinics across Canada. But sending his equipment here required my help. He wanted me to pay $49,000 for the package of equipment to clear customs. When I got a call from a so-called ‘courier company’ I foolishly believed it, but it was just a trap.”

Maurice told Selena that he would buy a house in Edmonton for the two of them once his business was up and running. “He said giving him the money to clear customs was an investment in our future. Now, there is no future, and the money’s gone, too.”

After the second wire transfer to Maurice for another $40,000 ($15,000 of which was an advance on her credit card), and more conversations with her bank and eventually the police, reality set in. “I had almost emptied both my RRSP and Life Income Fund (LIF) and had taken on debt,” says Selena. “Then I realized I wasn’t going to be getting any of it back. I had been swindled. I so wanted a genuine romantic relationship in my future. I was easy prey, and I’m crushed.”

All in all, Selena lost $89,000—almost all of her life savings. Now, only a dozen or so years away from retirement, she has set her mind to starting over financially. “I’ve made it my mission in life to make sure others don’t fall for these scams.”

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