CLEVELAND – The Investigator, Tom Meyer, exposed an international scam that has been costing people in northeast Ohio and all over the country billions of dollars.
The Investigator examined a huge illegal operation in a story that you could have only seen on Action News.
A Euclid couple and their children were scammed, and what happened to them could easily happen to you.
"Everything is just falling apart on us," scam victim Andrew Becar said.
Andrew and his wife Amanda saw an advertisement in a newspaper about a loan and they called the toll-free number given to try to get a quick loan for $9,000. To get the money, however, they were required to pay a fee of $935.
"They said, 'You can trust us,'" Amanda said.
The couple applied for the loan and mailed the advance fee along with their social security numbers and other personal information. After waiting for a while, the Becars started to get nervous and left messages with the company.
"They weren't returning my phone calls or anything," Amanda said.
The Becars didn't know that they had actually sent their money to a mail drop in Toronto -- a city that is quickly developing a reputation as the scam capital of the world.
Canadian-based scam artists are targeting Americans in what is a $40 billion-a-year illegal industry.
Toronto fraud cops said that 300 scams are operating in so-called boiler rooms. With simply a phone and computer, the con artists are in business.
In the case involving the Becars, the bad guys were caught, but it rarely happens.
"You're odds of getting caught on this is like winning the lottery," Toronto Police Department spokesman Jim White said.
Canadian conmen like to target Americans, especially folks in small towns like Westerfield Center near Medina, a quaint community where people generally know and trust each other.
A businessman in that town also answered an ad in the local paper and was forced to pay a fee of $1,200 to get a $7,500 loan.
"It looked legitimate," he said. "It sounded legitimate."
Despite that, he smelled fraud and contacted authorities when his loan was approved in just two days along with a notice to wire the $1,200 to an individual. Police in Toronto said that the businessman's instincts were right.
"Nobody has ever received a loan from these people," White said. "Never.
"On average, the consumer in Canada is a more educated about phone fraud than they are in the United States."
For victims like Pat Simmons and her daughter Miranda, the conmen have made their lives miserable.
"I had a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter," Pat said.
Pat got taken for more than $1,200 and they also handed over their social security numbers and tax returns to people who they thought they could trust.
Experts told Action News that people should resist any pressure to act immediately to one of these loan offers. Check with the Better Business Bureau before you send money or share personal information.