Don’t let the romance scam break your heart

Romance scams are among the most common scams according to the Canadian Anti‑Fraud Centre, costing Canadians more than $50.3 million in losses in 2023.

Here’s how to recognize the scam and stop it from happening to you:

How does the scam work?

Typically, the victim and criminal will meet through a social media or dating site. The criminal will then try to develop a relationship with his or her victim, sometimes spending several months making the victim feel they are in a romantic relationship.

Often the scammer will say that they are another city or country and that they eventually want to meet the victim in person. Around this time, the criminal will note that they can’t afford to travel and will seek assistance from the victim in covering travel costs. A variation on this theme includes the criminal noting that there’s an emergency, a sick family member for example, and that they need financial help from the victim to visit the sick individual. The requests for help are a scam and the money wired by the victim, often in large amounts, is now in the hands of the criminal.

Tips to avoid becoming a victim

Given how common romance scams are, always consider the possibility that your recent match on a dating site might be a scammer. Here are some warning signs that your new relationship may be a scam:

  • Your new friend moves too fast. Scammers are trying to develop a quick relationship with you so be on your guard when someone professes their love to you.
  • If your love interest asks you to send money, or for payments in gift cards, cryptocurrency or through a wire transfer, be very suspicious.
  • Does your new friend have an online profile? Look for inconsistencies between what they post, and what they tell you. If you’re suspicious, post their profile picture through your browser’s reverse image search to see if it’s been stolen from the internet.
  • If you receive a message from your friend and they use the wrong name, that may be a red flag. Many of these fraudsters are working on multiple victims at the same time.
  • Scammers will claim that they live close to you but that they’re working overseas. They do this so that they have numerous reasons to ask for you for money. Be on your guard.
  • If you receive a cheque or another form of payment from someone you’ve met online and they ask you to cash it and send a portion of the funds back to them – don’t do it. This is known as the overpayment scam and you can read more about it here.

If you think you may be a victim

If you think you may be a victim of a romance scam or any other kind of fraud, it’s important to contact police immediately. Bank staff are aware of these kinds of scams and are trained to pay attention if a customer makes an unusual transaction — for example, withdrawing more money than usual. However, you are ultimately responsible for any funds that you withdraw from your bank account. That’s why it’s especially important to ask questions and be 100 per cent positive about who you’re sending money to and why.

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View the webinar recordings: Love can hurt more than your Heart : How to avoid Romance Scams

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