Beware of online romance scams



In today’s technological world, people can connect in multiple ways. For most, connecting with someone on the internet is harmless, but for others, a chance encounter leaves a trail of destruction that can never be forgotten.

When you mix together a vulnerable heart, the internet, and a criminal mind, it’s a recipe for what the police call a romance scam. In 2020, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center received 1,548 romance scam complaints, which resulted in losses of more than $28 million.

How can this happen? The victim usually meets the fraudster via a social network or a dating site. Fraudsters have shown persistence and a willingness to build relationships over long periods of time to build trust. They interfere in the victim’s life to manipulate them and gain access to money, bank accounts and credit cards. Fraudsters will misrepresent themselves by sending attractive images of other people to boost their identity profile and seduce their victims. Good, trustworthy people from all walks of life, looking for companionship, let their guard down and get caught up in promises of love, wealth, and even marriage.

In some cases, the fraudster pretends to live abroad. Promises to meet the victim in person are made to maintain the victim’s interest. When it’s time to meet, they find a multitude of excuses as to why they can’t travel. Stories of family illnesses, business ventures gone wrong, or problems with government processes are just a few. At some point, the fraudster always asks the victim for financial assistance.

If the victim does not have funds immediately available, the fraudster proposes that a third party sends a check for deposit or an electronic deposit to the victim’s personal bank account. This is usually followed by instructions to withdraw the money and use a fast money transfer company to transfer the money. By the time the victim discovers a problem with the check or becomes suspicious, the money is usually long gone, leaving the victim heartbroken and, in some cases, penniless.

For more information on warning signs or how to protect yourself, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center website at www.antifraudcentre.ca

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