Richard Little drove to Victoria International Airport all the way from Tofino to pick up the woman he’s been dating online for the past three years. But she wasn’t there.
“It’s three years of my life that’s been wasted I think,” Little said.
Little met Christina Williams on Facebook and their relationship quickly evolved.
“She said she was an heiress of her late father’s fortune but she can’t have it until she’s married,” he said.
Soon they were texting every day and made a plan to get married.
She sent him photos but when Little asked to video chat she always said her phone was broken. Then came the requests for money.
In July alone, Little sent her $9,800. Over three years the total reached $160,000. On Thursday at the airport, the reality hit. It was all a scam.
“I’m at a loss for words right now, I can’t explain what I’ve done, I know it’s wrong,” he said.
Little isn’t alone — Canadians lose millions to romance scams each year.
“These scams are very elaborate, they’re well planned they often involve various photographs, storylines, typically involving some type of a hardship,” said Saanich Police Sgt. Damian Kowalewich.
And they are successful because they play on people’s emotions.
“Romance or love can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do,” Kowalewich said.
The red flags to watch for are stories that appear too good to be true, relentless messaging, a relationship that moves very quickly, someone who won’t meet face to face, and anyone who asks for money.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. If you’ve lost money you should also call your local police department.