A Chemainus woman who fell for a scam perpetrated by a man on a dating site is cautioning others about responding too willingly to requests for money, no matter what the circumstances.
‘Rose’ (not her real name) considers herself among the fortunate few who actually got $1,500 back that she sent to a person she’d never met. She knows women have lost far more than that to men who professed their love for them and then asked for cash to compensate for a predicament they encountered, a supposed worthwhile investment, a fundraising venture or some other reason that may have initially sounded believable.
It can work both ways, but men are more likely to be the predators.
Rose is a widow and “after five years of being on my own, I was getting pretty lonely,” she conceded.
Rose suffered from depression following the death of her husband and a friend had been on a dating site, which planted the idea in her mind.
“I got to thinking, I can’t go through this life, this journey on my own,” she said. “I’m a people person.
“Maybe I should go on an online dating site. To that point, I hadn’t thought about it.”
She went on a couple of sites and received quite a few responses on one of them. One man who corresponded with her starting in late September mentioned he had a contract to maintain a shelter/orphanage in Iraq where kids had gone through hell with festering wounds and a terrible way of life. When the shelter was built, some of them had to undergo rehabilitation.
Having adopted daughters of her own, six grandchildren and a seventh on the way, the story of the kids’ struggles there tore at her heartstrings.
“At that point, he asked me for a donation,” Rose said.
“Of course, I’ll make a donation,” she remembers responding. “It hits you like an arrow. I want to help those kids.”
The man later said he wanted Rose to meet him at the Vancouver airport, telling her he’s an orphan, had no family and was already falling in love with her.
He said he was going to make millions on another project in Germany and wanted to buy her a car, a house and go travelling with her.
“I’m flattered because somebody’s paying attention to me,” Rose reasoned. “I fell for this guy.”
He was emailing her almost every day but frequent phone calls that came from a California area code didn’t sit well with Rose.
“I started questioning everything,” she noted.
He explained the California number stemmed from a good deal he received on a phone plan, but Rose discovered he was actually in Ontario.
Alarm bells really went off for her when he made another request for money, this time for $9,000.
“I said, ‘no, I’ve got children, I’ve got grandchildren.’
“He bugged me about that money. I said, ‘no, we’re not in a relationship. I haven’t even met you yet.’”
The man said he was going to Germany, carrying on about some oil drilling project and continued to pester her about the $9,000.
“I decided I had enough,” said Rose.
Interestingly, she went to have her Tarot cards read by Andrea Dolgos Shurvell at the Chemainus Public Market. She turned over Finance, Life and Health cards.
All the cards, she felt, turned up significant details on what was happening.
“The one thing that really clinched it all, she said your husband is here, he’s got his hand on your shoulder,” said Rose.
She broke free from the man’s spell and got inspired by the Tarot card reader to stay for a few days in Victoria on a bit of a sabbatical, the first time she’d driven the Malahat by herself.
Rose purchased a Tree of Life pendant in Victoria that she considers symbolic in her second chance at life following her previous bouts with depression.
The man kept writing Rose poetry in emails and leaving phone messages.
She started to investigate where her $1,500 had gone through the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and reported the incident to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, but didn’t expect to get anywhere with it.
Remarkably, a man in the fraud department at CIBC’s head office in Toronto did track down the transaction to a bank account of a woman in North York, Ont. He said there was a good chance she’d get her money back and pointed out that last year in Canada people had been scammed out of more than $37 million.
“My little $1,500 looks like a drop in the bucket,” Rose conceded.
The woman denied being part of any scheme and said her brother — who claimed to be an orphan to Rose — got her into it. Faced with possible arrest if she didn’t return the money to Rose’s account, the woman complied.
Rose had her money back and became all the wiser for the experience.
“Be wary,” she advised. “I gave the money in good faith believing it was going to a children’s charity in Iraq.”
Rose quickly paid her good fortune forward and donated the money to a local cause.