MONTREAL -- The son of a Quebec woman who was preyed upon by romance scammers says people must be aware of how easy—and ultimately devastating—it is to get caught in this kind of fraud.

“It will leave scars for the rest of her life,” said Sylvain Duguay.

 “These fraudsters are very, very intelligent—they’re manipulators,” he said, even describing the man who targeted his mother as “psychotic.”

Earlier this week, Quebec provincial police arrested several people in connection with the scam, which police said defrauded more than 50 people of a combined $2.3 million.

One was Duguay’s mother. A man who went by the name of Jean-Pierre, he said, dated his mother for five years and said he was in love with her.

But during the relationship, he says, other people started calling his mother, claiming to be doctors and lawyers and saying that “Jean-Pierre” had had an accident and needed money and care.

He says that on top of that, his mom’s bank and social media accounts were hacked.

The emotional up and downs involved in such a scam are extreme. Duguay’s mother was in the habit of speaking to “Jean-Pierre” every day on the phone, her son said.

Taking her money, all $80,000, was not enough for the scammer.

Finally, in 2019, the woman was out of money and she told this to her supposed boyfriend. At that point, he threatened to break up with her and to expose personal details about her family that he’d found online, including pictures of her family.

Duguay calls the relationship abusive and says his mother is now out of it. But he says it took her a while to admit that she was being scammed. This is commonly one of the hardest parts for victims of romance scams.

Duguay said that’s why he wanted to share her story--so that it might help others.