With Valentine’s Day approaching, the RCMP is warning Canadians to be cautious when swiping right because online “romance scammers” will be out in force.
The RCMP say as many 760 Canadians fell victim to romance scams and reported losses of more than $22.5 million to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre last year, surpassing all other types of fraud.
There were 109 cases of romance scams reported in B.C. alone with losses totalling $2.2 million.
“Scammers are capitalizing on the vulnerability of those looking for love or companionship to extract significant amounts of money from their victims,” the RCMP said in a release.
The scheme works with the scammers creating enticing profiles on well-known dating websites or social media platforms to lure victims into online relationships.
As the cyber relationship grows and a trust develops, the scammers then start asking for money.
“Sadly, the greater the trust gained by the fraudster, the greater the losses suffered by most victims,” the RCMP said.
The RCMP warn people to be wary when someone you’ve never met in person professes their love and they advise the public to never, under any circumstances, send their cyber love money.
Quebec had the largest number of scams reported with 376 in 2018, but Ontario, with 366 reported scams, had the highest total of losses at $11.9 million. Losses to romance scams in Quebec totalled $4.5 million.
RCMP tips to avoid falling prey to online romance scams:
• Be skeptical when chatting with an individual who claims to live nearby but is currently overseas for work (this can be a set-up to ask for money later);
• Be suspicious if they refuse or continuously cancel video chats and in person meetings;
• Be wary when someone you’ve never met in person professes their love;
• Scammers may also ask for help covering the cost of an emergency situation, such as a sick family member. Protect yourself by never, under any circumstances, sending money for any reason.
If you believe you have been a victim of this scam:
• Contact your bank and place a stop payment on any cheque or money transfer;
• Report it to your local police;
• File a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).