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Romance scams: How they start, what can happen, how to avoid them | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans


Reporter Noah Brennan breaks down what you need to know about romance rip-offs.

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Ontario Provincial Police say they’re investigating a reported romance scam that cost someone in Elgin County – they don’t say whom – more than $2 million. A staggering loss, it’s far from the first in the region involving such a scam. LFP reporter Noah Brennan breaks down what you need to know about romance rip-offs.


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WHAT ARE ROMANCE SCAMS?

Romance scams are frauds committed by people who claim to have fallen in love with someone, typically online and often after only a short period and without even meeting them. From there, things escalate. The fraudster may claim to be far away, for example working on an oil rig or even overseas. They may promise to visit but ask their intended victim for financial help, for example for a sudden emergency that’s come up. They may also try to entice a victim into an investment, or to help them access their own money – when they’re really after the victim’s money.

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HOW THE SCAMS WORK

Romance scams often begin on social media or on online dating sites, London police say. The fraudsters are looking to gain people’s trust and affection, in a bid to get them to turn over money or personal information. They’ll ask for a private way to reach you, such as a text number or email address. They’ll ask for money, citing various desperate straits. “When someone you don’t know starts to confess their love for you, this should be your first warning sign,” police say.

Another red flag to watch for?  The fraudster “always has an excuse for why they can’t meet in person.”

Scammers often begin by studying their potential victims online, including their social media posts, to develop “a tailored strategy” to improve their odds of getting money, the RCMP warns. Some even send money to the victim to build up trust, or to hook them into becoming go-betweens – “money mules” or couriers – in illegal transactions. Cash, cryptocurrency, gifts or investments can be the vehicles for the frauds. After the victim finally realizes they’ve been taken – “many times, after they’ve handed over thousands of dollars” – the fraudster stops communicating with them.

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HOW MUCH MONEY IS INVOLVED

It’s not clear whether the more than $2 million reportedly lost over four years by the London-area victim, in Malahide Township, is anything like a record. Still, it dwarfs many losses area police have reported in recent years. Seven years ago, in a case flagged on the website of one of Canada’s big banks, a Toronto woman lost her condo and more than $450,000 in a romance scam that drained her of her assets over seven years. Earlier this year, citing figures compiled by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), the RCMP said nearly 800 Canadians lost almost $42 million to romance scams in 2023. One in four victims was in their 60s.


NEW TWISTS

The CAFC, a national anti-fraud call centre and fraud data base, has flagged an increase in romance-investment scams known as “pig-butchering,” in which victims are contacted on dating apps or social media and enticed into “get-rich” schemes. Fake online trading platforms are used to convince victims to transfer money or cryptocurrency to an address controlled by the fraudster. The victim might even be able to withdraw a small amount they’ve invested, to persuade them to put more in. Victims eventually learn they’ve been had when they try to withdraw money but can’t.

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HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Key tips from police and the anti-fraud centre:

  • Don’t give out personal or banking information; don’t accept online friend requests from strangers.
  • Don’t invest money in platforms provided by people you don’t know.
  • Protect your online accounts; never send money to someone you’ve never met.
  • Don’t respond to texts from numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Watch out for poorly written messages, sometimes even with the wrong name.
  • Be wary of online professions of love, and pressure to shift exchanges to email, texts or messaging apps.

For more information, visit antifraudcentre.ca.

[email protected]

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