This year, 1 in 900 Canadian men and women will be defrauded of an average of 15,000 Canadian dollars by romance fraud. The scammer will probably use dating websites to make an electronic connection with the victim but will quickly request changing to cellphone and email contact. The scammer will send photographs and a personal profile to appear to be someone legitimate looking for a relationship. All this information will be fictitious. Private telephone conversations usually occur late at night time, in order to physically tire out the victim, and will take place regularly for weeks to months. The victim will spend increasing periods of time “sharing information”. When the offending scammer has gathered the victim’s personal information, the conversations become more intimate with personal details and shared likes. Claims of attachment, adoration and love are used to convince a vulnerable victim that the relationship is real and serious.
When the relationship is considered close, requests for small amounts of money are made by the scammer. Once the victim begins to send money, the scammer may describe sudden personal health problems and/or financial difficulties. The scammer will request increased sums of money be sent through the mail or wire service to another country. The scammer may request the victim to cash a cheque or offer to repay by cheque. The scammer’s cheque will be returned to the victim indicating insufficient funds. The money requested gradually increases with requests for assistance with urgent medical bills, money for an airplane ticket or assistance with payments in order to purchase the “house of their dreams”. The love struck victim may initially be unable to accept that the acquaintance is really a scammer until substantial money has been lost even though in most cases they have never met one another in person.
Prevent such romance scams by only using reputable dating websites. Use Google to check personal information given to you. Do not ever send money or give bank account or credit card numbers to people you meet online. Personal information and photographs should not be exchanged with online acquaintances. The sooner the victim identifies the signs of a romance scam, which almost always occur in the phases described above, the less money will be lost and the loss of the relationship will be less emotionally devastating. Take heed of the warning signs highlighted in the above scenario. Keep all emails, messages and receipts. Block anyone you do not wish to contact.
If you or someone you know may be being scammed romantically, contact your local police to report what has happened to you, AS WELL AS the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Scammers can break you financially and emotionally. A good website to visit for more detailed information is www.romancescams.org. Seek professional assistance and support, if needed.
Guest blog by: Dr. Steven Rubin
Victimology Graduate Certificate Program, Algonquin College