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Police investigate 'romance scam'


The alleged crimes Canby Police recently investigated are similar to the classic “sweetheart swindle” or “romance scam,” said Canby Police Chief Bret Smith.

They have been around a long time and will stay around. They make money.

The National Consumer League’s Fraud Center says victims, on average, report losing more than $5,500 in 2011, making it the single costliest type of scam for its victims.

The perpetrators are confidence women and con men, who prey on the loneliness of others. They do it by email, letter, phone and up close and personal.

They romance their victims, gain their love, their trust and use that to swindle and steal. They gain control or access to the victim’s money, bank accounts, credit cards or get the victim to commit financial fraud on their behalf.

The lonely, any age, make the best prey. People who are depressed, who recently lost a spouse, who need other people make ripe targets.

The scammers are willing to take the time to set up and cultivate their victims. They use the powerful emotion of love to manipulate, to extract large sums of money from their victims.

They say and do whatever they think the victims want. They make empty promises, spin lies to extract more money or property. Until the money is gone, and then, so are they.

All too often the victims do not call police, Smith said. The crimes often come to light after the victim’s family discover the scam and report it against the victim’s wishes.

These cases can be difficult to prosecute. Victims may be reluctant to prosecute because they are in love, scared or embarrassed. Or the victim’s advanced age or poor memory make them poor witnesses for the prosecution.

This investigation is ongoing. If you or anyone you know is a victim of a “romance scam” report it to the police department at 503 266-1104.