Scam alert: Romance scams targeting Canadians isolated due to COVID-19

Elisabetta Bianchini
·3 min read
Sending I love you text message with mobile phone. Online dating, texting or catfishing concept. Romance fraud, scam or deceit with smartphone. Man writing comment. Fake profile. Internet safety.
Sending I love you text message with mobile phone. Online dating, texting or catfishing concept. Romance fraud, scam or deceit with smartphone. Man writing comment. Fake profile. Internet safety.

While Valentine's Day can be a great way to spend some time with the person you love, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) is reminding the public to stay vigilant for romance scams, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been an increase in online scams targeting people who are isolated due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, particularly scammers targeting individuals looking for "companionship or love" through social media and dating sites.

In 2020, Canadians lost more than $18.5 million to romance scams.

How to romance scams commonly work?

Romance scams usually begin when a fraudster convinces someone to enter into an online relationship through social media and dating sites, to gain trust and affection to ultimately take their money.

Scammers commonly ask for money for travel or a medical of family emergency. They also may ask the victim to invest in cryptocurrency, join a business venture or receive money for the scammer, not knowing they may be committing a crime.

The CAFC has warned that scammers may ask to move the conversation outside of social media or a dating site, including email, text messages, Whatsapp and Google Hangouts. Some of the personas a fraudster may use in a romance scams are soldier in the army, oil worker, business person, gems dealer and celebrities.

These scammers continue to make excises for why they cannot meet in person and will often discourage the victim from talking about their relationship with friends and family, in an attempt to isolate the individual from anyone who may suspect their are falling for a scam.

The messages may also be poorly or oddly written, sometimes addressing someone with the wrong name.

The CAFC has also warned that romance scams are often followed by recovery scams, when fraudsters target a victim a second time, promising to get their money back.

Scams should be reported to the CAFC and local police.