If you are looking for love online, be wary. In 2017, nine New Brunswickers lost nearly $170,000 to scammers pretending to be in love.
Across Canada, romance scams are breaking hearts and bank accounts. Last year, 710 victims lost over $17 million.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, the RCMP issued a bulletin to raise awareness about romance scams targeting Canadians. Check out the highlights below for tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
What is the Romance Scam?
A Romance Scam involves any individual with false romantic intentions toward a victim to gain their trust and affection for the purpose of obtaining the victim’s money or access to their bank accounts or credit cards. In some cases the suspect will even attempt to get the victim to commit fraud on their behalf – as a money mule (accepting, then transferring money or goods) often unknowingly. Most romance scams begin via social media sites or online dating sites.
How can I protect myself or loved one?
- Be suspicious when someone you haven’t met in person professes their love to you. Ask yourself – would someone I’ve never met really declare their love after only a few emails?
- Be wary when someone you meet on social media wants to quickly move to a private mode of communication (email, text).
- If trying to set up an in-person meeting, be suspicious if they always have an excuse to not meet.
- If you do actually set up a meeting – tell family and friends when and where you’re going and meet in a local, public place.
- Do not share personal (birthdate, address) or financial information with anyone you’ve only just met online or in person.
- Never send intimate photos or video of yourself. The scammer may try to use these to blackmail you into sending money.
- Be cautious when conversing with an individual that claims to live close to you but is working overseas.
- Never under any circumstance send money for any reason. The scammer will make it seem like an emergency, they may even express distress or anger to make you feel guilty but DO NOT send money.
- Should you be asked to accept money (e-transfer, cheque) or goods (usually electronics) for you to then transfer/send elsewhere, do not accept to do so. This is usually a form of money laundering which is a criminal offence.
- If you suspect a loved one may be a victim of a romance scam – based on any of the above points – explain the concerns and risks to them and help them get out of the situation.
- Do an image search of the admirer to see if their photo has been taken from a stock photo site or someone else’s online profile.
- Look for inconsistencies in their online profile vs. what they tell you.
- Watch for poorly written, vague messages, sometimes even addressing you by the wrong name – often scammers are working several victims at once.
- If you have transferred money, stop the transaction if possible.
If you’ve sent money or transferred money or goods on behalf of a scammer, the police and financial institutions need to be aware to properly investigate, recover stolen funds and/or goods if possible and work toward preventing further criminal activity. Reporting romance scams helps fraud authorities to warn other people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible.
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