RCMP seeking suspect in Internet romance scam

Posted Feb 15, 2017 by Arthur Weinreb
The Coquitlam detachment of the RCMP used Valentine’s Day to issue a warning about a man wanted for running an Internet romance scam. The Mounties are asking for the public's help to find the man who defrauded at least four women in the Vancouver area.
The man is described as “charming” and it is believed he has scammed at least four women living in the Metro Vancouver area. One woman met the man online on Jan. 1 after he responded to a personal ad she placed on a website. The romance began quickly and he moved in with her within a very short period of time. A few days later, on Jan. 7, he suddenly disappeared as quickly as he seemed to have appeared.
Cpl. Michael McLaughlin said there were many red flags associated with the suspect. Although the woman spent nearly all her time with the man during a period of six days, she never saw where he lived or his vehicle. He drained the woman’s bank account and left with her keys and bank cards.
McLaughlin also noted all the information the man had given to the woman was a lie. His phone number was changed after he left and the address he had given her was false. The email address the woman had for him was not working.
The wanted man is described as about 45 years of age, six feet three inches tall and weighs about 250 pounds. He has dark brown hair he sometimes wears as a ponytail and has blue eyes. The wanted man has gone by the names of “Richard Harvey Silver,” “Jack Harvey,” “Don Whelan” and “James Whelan.” He is believed to have accessed several websites in order to contact his victims.
Millions lost in online romance scams
CTV reports Canadians lost about $17 million through online romance scams last year. During 2016, 750 Canadians fell victim to a romance scam and some were taken for hundreds of thousands of dollars. After the fraudsters formed an emotional bond with someone online, the person claimed they needed money for any number of reasons. Sometimes they claimed they lived far away and needed money to travel in order to meet the victim in person. Or they said they were in financial or legal trouble and needed money to bail them out. Often they claimed they have a close relative like a child who needed expensive surgery.
A common version of the scam is for the fraudster to say he is in another country and then asks the victim to cash a cheque for him. The cheque is cashed and money sent to the scammer before it is discovered the cheque is no good. According to police, many victims are duped into paying money in instalments so by the time their suspicions are aroused, it is too late to get any of the money back. And many of the con artists live in foreign countries that makes it extremely difficult for police to apprehend them.
Coquitlam RCMP say although the suspect is wanted for four scams, there may be more victims. Some people who fall for this and similar scam are too embarrassed to call police.
Police warn the public to be very wary of falling in love with someone online who they have never met in person. Although it can sometimes be legitimate, it could be a scam to deprive them of their money and assets. Coquitlam RCMP have released a picture of the suspect and are asking anyone who can help them with their investigation to contact them.