Waterloo Regional Police have issued a warning about online romance scams, revealing that multiple people, both men and women, from the southern Ontario region have been victims of this type of fraud.
Police say one woman from the Waterloo area lost $1 million over four years and one man was scammed out of US$500,000 over a three month period. According to police, both individuals said they had never met the recipient of the money in person but they communicated regularly online.
This comes after a CBC News report that an Ontario senior lost $732,000 in a romance scam. The man went to his local Whitby, Ont. TD Bank branch over 19 times in an eight-month period to wire money to Malaysia. His son has accused the bank of not doing enough prevent this sort of scam.
The fraudster will be very charismatic, charming, manipulative and aggressive with you in many aspects of your life.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), a romance scam is defined as a situation where an individual communicates with someone with false romantic intentions, in order to gain their trust to obtain money, or access to their bank account or credit card.
In 2018, the CAFC received 1,261 reports of romance scams, involving 887 victims and totaling close to $25 million in reported losses. Of those reports, 1,075 were made by Canadians totaling over $22.5 million in losses. In 2017, the fraud centre received 1,269 reports of romance scams, with over $21 million in reported losses.
Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu with the Toronto Police Service is reminding people that not all romance scams are reported to police. It is estimated that less than 5 per cent of mass marketing frauds, including romance scams, are reported to the CAFC, according to a statement Yahoo News Canada received from the fraud centre.
When these scams do occur, it’s the emotional trauma that makes this kind of fraud particularly upsetting for victims.
“In rare cases, a fraudster will target a victim with a more elaborate scheme that involves in-person meetings,” Sidhu wrote in a statement to Yahoo News Canada. “The fraudster may attempt to isolate the victim from their friends and family and siphon their money away.”
Police recommend that individuals be cautious and look for the following warning signs:
- Be wary of people who profess their love for you, but you haven’t met in real life
- Do an image search of any photos received from an individual to confirm it’s not a stock image
- Look for inconsistencies in online profiles that counter what people tell you about themselves
- If someone expresses they are in distress or severely struggling, recommend help, but do not send any money
According to Sidhu, the fraudster will share intimate information about themselves and will encourage you to do the same, including asking for your full name, date of birth, address, phone numbers, banking profile, credit availability, and closeness to family and friends.
“The fraudster will be very charismatic, charming, manipulative and aggressive with you in many aspects of your life,” Sidhu wrote in a statement.
Anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of a romance scam should contact police or file a report with the CAFC.
Have you ever been victim of a scam online? Vote in the poll above and let us know in the comments below.