New Romance Scam Bilks Calgary Woman Out of Nearly Half a Million

Romance Scam

Calgary Woman Falls Victim to Romance Scam on Zoosk Dating App

It seems that every few weeks there is a story about a new romance scam that preys on someone simply trying to find love in this world of online dating. The reality is that getting scammed online is a lot easier than one would think. Scam artists are often quite deceptive and very good at what they do. 

This latest story comes from Calgary, Canada. A 60 year old woman looking for love online was carefully groomed by a scammer pretending to be someone else. Over time, trust was built before the scam artist spend months slowly bilking the woman out of nearly half a million dollars in funds. 

Setting the Stage for a Romance Scam

Shelley Smith joined the online dating site Zoosk with the goal of finding love, like many others. Little did she know at the time that she would ultimately fall victim to a romance scam that would cost her much of her savings. 

When she met the scam artist pretending to be a wealthy 62 year old online, she was quickly smitten. He was handsome, had a good career, and seemed very polite. They quickly came close over conversations online. 

Looking back, Smith noted that it was probably not a good time for her to enter the world of online dating. She had recently lost her only sibling as well as her father while her mother had been diagnosed with dementia. Smith was also suffering from her own health issues. These situations left her feeling very emotionally drained and allowed the scam artist to take advantage of her vulnerability. 

Romance Scam

Building the Romance Scam

As the two of them continued to chat online, the scammer carefully built trust, making Smith feel like she was in love. He also made excuses whenever Smith suggested they meet in person (the scammer stated that he lived in another country). 

In December 2021, the scammer claimed to have traveled to Turkey in order to start a luxury hotel project. He confessed to Smith that his laptop had broken upon arrival and asked her to access his bank account in order to transfer money to contractors. When she logged into his bank account, she saw that he had over $1 million in funds, a covert way of letting the victim know he was rich. 

However, a few weeks later, he told Smith that his bank accounts had been frozen, leaving him unable to make payments to contractors and other arrangements. She offered to loan him money, but he initially declined, another covert way to build trust. However, a week later, he took her up on the offer. 

The Romance Scam Is Activated

By this point, trust had been built to the point that the scam artist did not have to ask for money. It was freely offered by the victim. Smith began frequently sending cash or laptops to sell overseas. This continued for months. 

Romance Scam

There was always a new reason why money was needed. An employee got injured on the job, court costs were required, the scammer himself was in the hospital … the excuses kept coming in. However, the scam artist made the victim feel like repayment was right around the corner each time. 

Ultimately, it was the family of Smith that came to the rescue. They conducted a reverse image search and found the real identity of the person from the Zoosk photo. When he was contacted, he stated that he frequently heard from women around the world who had been scammed. At this time, Smith had sent nearly $500,000 to the scammer and was on the verge of selling her parents’ home to access more money. 

Important to Give Grace to Romance Scam Victims

There are a few lessons to be taken from Smith’s story. First, it shows how a bit of education and due diligence is important. A simple reverse image search at the beginning could have easily revealed that this person was pretending to be someone else. 

However, it is also important to give grace to victims of romance scams. When people feel a connection, it is normal to want to give people the benefit of the doubt, particularly where emotions are involved. Smith noted that this situation made her feel shunned by her family and suffer from mental health issues. 

It is essential to understand that victims of romance scams are victims. Anyone has the potential to fall for this type of scam, particularly if they are not savvy with the rapidly changing landscape of romance scams. The best step is to stay educated on how to prevent romance scams, help friends and family know the signs to look for, and work to protect one another from these dating scams.