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Romeo 419ers take Canadian women for $300k

Lonely hearts, empty wallets

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Nigerian fraudsters have relieved a number of Edmonton women of a total of $300,000 in what the local Sun describes as "an online dating scam".

One unnamed middle-aged divorcee - who admitted to losing "a lot" of money - was baited last September by a text message purportedly from a US businessman buying antiques in Nigeria. It read: "You know, you're a very pretty lady, I like your profile."

The victim, who was presumably identified on an online dating site, said: "You feel very flattered."

The romance blossomed via text messages, emails and instant messaging, and the scammer faithfully promised to fly to Canada to marry the lovestruck mugu. She explained: "You can't wait to get home from work, to message them. They're not like your partner in life - they're always there. And it's always good things [they say], right? It's never bad stuff. It's what everybody wants to hear."

Once firmly hooked, the woman then fell for a classic fleece. Requests for cash quickly "flooded in", including a claim that the con artist's son was in a NIgerian hospital and "needed money for three surgeries".

She said: "I had so many friends tell me, 'don't send money'. But you love that person, you believe what they say. You don't want to stop."

After five months, during which other scammers also moved to extract cash from the unwitting victim - including one who offered unspecified Nigerian "police help" in return for wonga - the woman finally called the Canadian police.

She said of the Casanova crook: "How could you do this to me? Take away my money, my self-esteem. They took my life, basically."

The victim concluded: "You think you're smarter than [the crooks], but you're not. It can happen to anyone."

Detective Mark Johnson of Edmonton police explained that the woman was "not alone in getting duped by the same elaborate scam". He admitted cops would "have to rely on Nigerian police to find and arrest the crooks", but stressed that the victims could probably wave goodbye to their cash due to a "patchy foreign court system". ®

Bootnote

Thanks to Dale Harris for the tip-off.

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