Police warn of ‘Romance scams’ just in time for Valentine’s Day
Scientists found that people whose online name began with a letter in the top half of the alphabet -- A to M -- get the most 'looks' from others. (doomu / shutterstock.com)
Published Wednesday, February 14, 2018 11:06AM EST
You may think you're the apple of their eye, but police warn it could be a faux beau who's just after your money. In 2017 alone, Canadian victims lost more than $17 million to scammers pretending to be in love, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Essex County OPP is reminding residents to be vigilant when looking for a romantic relationship on the worldwide web. Most of these scams are believed to begin on social media or online dating sites.
A romance scam involves any individual with false romantic intentions toward a potential victim in order to gain their trust and affection for the purpose of obtaining money or access to bank accounts and credit cards. Police say in some cases, the suspect will even try to get the victim to commit a fraud on their behalf – often unknowingly – by having them act as a money mule.
Police suggest you enter any interaction with a stranger suspiciously – especially is this person you’ve never met professes their love for you. Police also suggest if you’re going to meet someone who you connected with online, you should tell a friend of family member where you’re going and meet in a local, public place.
The typical victim is between the ages of 50-59 and 60 per cent are women. They meet the fraudster on social networking or an online forum. In 2017, 1066 scams were reported and it's estimated that only five per cent of all victims report, according to the OPP.
Here’s a list of other useful tips to safeguard yourself from being victimized, as well as steps to take if you believe you’ve been duped by a fraudster:
- Be wary when someone you meet on social media wants to quickly move to a private mode of communication (email, text).
- 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
How should you respond?
- If you did send money or shared financial information, report it to the financial institution used e.g. your bank, Western Union, MoneyGram.
- Gather all information pertaining to the situation, including the scammer's profile name, how you made contact, social media screenshots, emails, etc. and contact your local police.
- File a report with the CAFC toll-free at 1-888-495-8501 or online.
- Notify the dating website or social media site where you met the scammer. Scammers usually have more than one account. Be pro-active; tell family, friends, coworkers and neighbours about your experience to warn them about romance scams.=
Police strongly suggest you report the incident for the following reasons:
- If you've sent money or transferred money or goods on behalf of a scammer, the police and financial institutions need to be aware in order to properly investigate, recover stolen funds and/or goods if possible and work towards preventing further criminal activity.
- Reporting romance scams helps fraud authorities to warn other people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible.