Romance scams are among the top reported scams based on total dollar loss, and seniors are particularly susceptible to these types of scams. Unfortunately, the late Robert Hogg fell victim to a romance scam, which was not discovered until after his death.
The facts can be found in the CBC News article, but essentially the story goes as follows:
Mr. Hogg, a widow in his mid-60’s who was diagnosed with cancer, decided to join an online dating site. That is how he met a woman, known as “Sophia Goldstein”, who turned out to be a scam artist. Not having ever met in person, Mr. Hogg and “Sophia Goldstein” formed their relationship exclusively online. Within just one month, “Sophia Goldstein” began asking Mr. Hogg to transfer her money, as she was having difficulty accessing her own funds while she was in Australia for business. He was instructed to wire the money to “friends” in Malaysia, as she claimed that would be the easiest way for her to get the money in Australia. He was even coached on what to tell the TD bank employees and how to respond to their detailed queries about the purpose of the transfers. He told a consistent story, so despite never before having transferred money offshore, the bank did not have any suspicions about the transfers.
Over an 8-month period, Mr. Hogg made 19 wire transfers to Malaysia, totalling in excess of $732,000, which completely wiped out his entire life savings.
It wasn’t until after Mr. Hogg passed away last year that his family discovered what had transpired. Investigations are ongoing, but the police are not confident they will be able to track down fraudsters in Malaysia.
The reality is that seniors are especially vulnerable to these types of fraudulent scams. Perhaps there ought to be more questions asked where there are red flags present, such as unusual transactions, in order to protect the elderly. However, striking the right balance between protecting the rights of its customers and preventing fraudulent scams is not so simple from the bank’s perspective.