A romance scam can break both your heart and wallet.
With the growth of online dating and social networking sites, incidents of romance scams are on the rise. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians lost almost $15 million dollars to romance scams in 2012. Losses for 2011 were over $12 million.
But victims of romance scams lose more than money. This scam can also cause emotional damage and embarrassment for victims, which also leads to underreporting of the crime.
In a romance scam, scammers trick victims into believing they have romantic intentions. They gain a victim’s trust, and use that trust to commit fraud or cheat victims out of money.
A romance scammer will use dating websites to find targets. They communicate with potential victims using fake photos and profiles, often claiming to be in a foreign country. For several months, scammers communicate with their victims, sharing phoney details of their lives and intentions.
Once they have gained a target’s trust, scammers will make up a story in order to ask for money. They can claim to need money for a medical emergency or to cover the expenses of a civil court case. Or, they may claim to be making plans for a visit and ask for money to cover travel expenses.
Other times, scammers don’t ask for money directly. They can ask for help cashing a cheque, for example. In this case, they will forward a counterfeit cheque to a victim in an effort to get him or her to send back cash via a wire service.
Here are some warning signs of a romance scam:
Scammers often tell victims that they are from Canada or the United States but living in a foreign country
They ask victims to quickly leave a dating site and communicate another way, usually by cellphone, instant messages or email
Scammers often claim to have fallen in love with a victim after a very short period of time – often a couple of weeks – and without ever meeting in person
A scammer may try to isolate a victim from family for friends, saying that others may not approve of the relationship and try to break it up
A scammer may also ask for provocative photos of the victim, which they may attempt to use later on to extort money
Before asking for money directly, a scammer may ask for a small gift. This is a test to see if they are dealing with an ideal target
Requests for money to be wired to another country or for cheques to be cashed are the number one sign of a romance scam.
Inform yourself on the warning signs of a romance scam and use a reputable online dating service.
Don’t send cash through the mail or wire sevice and don’t cash cheques for a person you have never met.
Use your computer to your advantage. Check a person’s name, the company they work for and their address and question if things don’t seem right.
Be wary of anyone whose phone number is not from the country they claim to be from or living in. Check country and area codes online or with your telephone service provider.
Ignore or block anyone with whom you do not want to communicate.
Keep all emails, instant messages and receipts. Reporting agencies may need copies of these as evidence.
If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and your local police.
A romance scam is nothing to be embarrassed about! Call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at
1-888-495-8501 to report it. Data provided by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre