Online dating websites and smartphone apps have become a leading way for people to find their next romance. But, as with any interactions online, whether it's buying and selling items, social media accounts or even banking, users need to understand the risks that can be associated with online dating.
When it's online:
- At the beginning, keep the personal details that you share to a minimum
- Don’t use your real name as your username
- Don’t reveal details about where you live, work, or places you’ll be going
- Message over the app or website instead of giving out your personal phone number.
- Do not share images if you don’t feel comfortable with them being public
- Remember that people are not always who they say are. If you are suspicious of someone report them to the app or website.
- Do not feel pressured to meet someone if you aren’t comfortable.
- Look in to a person’s online presence. If they have other social media accounts, be sure the details of these accounts match up with what they have told you about themselves. Ask yourself questions- do they have the social media presence you would expect?
When/if you decide to meet someone:
- Be clear about your expectations and ensure that you are both on the same page.
- Meet in public, stay in public.
- Do not meet for the first time at the person’s home, or invite the person to your home.
- Meet at the public location instead of accepting a ride from the person you are meeting.
- Tell someone you trust where you are going and who you are meeting.
- If you become uncomfortable with the date or the person, leave.
- Always trust your gut.
In 2018 the Edmonton Police Service investigated 11 incidents of romance scams totaling an overall reported loss of $1,115,219.74, compared to 2017 which had 10 incidents with an overall reported loss of $396,698.00.
The internet sites identified by the victims were:
• BigChurch.com - online dating and relationships for Christian singles
• DatingForSeniors.com - meet single seniors in Canada
• EliteSingles.ca - online dating site
• LinkedIn - professional networking for business and employment-oriented services
• Match.com - online dating site
• Shaddi.com - Matrimonial Service with online Matchmaking service
• Single to Mingle - online dating site
Fraudsters are putting a lot of effort into their romance scam. 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.
- Be suspicious when someone you haven’t met in person professes their love to you. Ask yourself – would someone I’ve never met really declare their love after only a few emails?
Be wary when someone you meet on social media wants to quickly move to a private mode of communication (email, text).
If trying to set up an in-person meeting, be suspicious if they always have an excuse to not meet.
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 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.
- 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
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.