Dating and social media sites can provide an opportunity for people to meet someone amazing. However, they also provide fraudsters the opportunity to connect with potential victims. In fact, romance scams have cost Edmontonian victims millions of dollars over the last few years. Fraudsters put a lot of effort into their romance scam and what's even more surprising is that they aren't always staying online. Some build that trust with their victim by meeting in person and even going to the extent of moving in with their victim. Once this trust is built, that's when they ask for financial assistance.
If you or someone you care about is going to venture into the world of online dating, understand the signs of a romance scammer:
- They profile you and tell you everything you want to hear (they read your profile and tell you they want the same things you've listed).
- They will find out what you are looking for in a relationship and create events that will play on your emotions to get you to send money – sick children, airline tickets to come be with you/marry you so you can be a family.
- They want to move to a private mode of communication, off of the dating website, therefore gaining your personal email or phone number.
- They groom you for as long as it takes (days, months, years) to get your money by being very attentive, lavishing you with attention, compliments, and telling you that they love you.
- Your “loved one” will always have an excuse as to why they cannot meet you, or they work overseas.
- They are always available online because it is usually a group of individuals that are sending you messages working off a script
- Your “loved one” will rarely have a voice conversation with you or have a live/video conversation (FaceTime, Skype, etc.).
- Fraudulent identities are primarily military personnel or individuals working overseas in either construction or oil and gas related fields. To gain your money, they say their funds are locked, they were in an accident, they have medical bills, have to pay government fees, have to pay a lawyer, have to pay their outstanding rent, they want to get a plane ticket to Edmonton to meet you/be with you, etc.
- They will profess their love for you early on. Be suspicious! Ask yourself – would someone I’ve never met really declare their love after only a few conversations?
Online Dating Safety Tips:
- 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 videos 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. END THE CONVERSATION!
- 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 did send money or share financial information, report it to the financial institution used e.g. your bank, Western Union, MoneyGram, Equifax and TransUnion.
- 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 Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
- Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – 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 proactive; tell family, friends, coworkers and neighbours about your experience to warn them about romance scams.