Heartbreak isn't the only risk you face when meeting someone online. Although online dating is a popular, and often successful, way to make a love connection, it is important to also be aware of potential dangers that may come with it.
Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in online dating scams. Scammers convince their victims that they are in love with them and persuade them into sending large sums of money for a variety of invented reasons. Most commonly, the scammer will make up an emergency, often health related, that concerns either themselves or a family member.
Since the beginning of this year, 56 individuals have reported being victims of romance scams in Alberta RCMP jurisdictions. This accounts for a total net loss of over 3.6 million dollars. Romance scams are typically under-reported due to the substantial embarrassment often felt by victims. This means that it is likely that the number of victims and losses is much greater that what is actually being reported.
"Romance scams are a serious crime that can cause irreversible financial and emotional ruin for the victim," says Cst. Scott Noseworthy. "This is the type of crime that can completely destroy a person's life, especially for individuals over 50 - the most common age group targeted - who have less opportunity to rebuild and recover from the losses."
Here are some red flags to watch out for from someone you meet online:
- Claiming to be from your area but is living or travelling abroad. (Get Cyber Safe)
- Expressing strong feelings for you after very little time. (Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre)
- Saying they can't meet in person due to a tragic event. (Get Cyber Safe)
- Making plans to meet but then coming up with excuses at the last minute.
- Asking you for financial help, regardless of circumstance.
The Alberta RCMP remind everyone to always exercise caution when looking for love online. It is hard enough to judge others' intentions in person – online it is even harder. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself and, most importantly, never send money to anyone you meet online.
If you believe you or someone you know have been a victim of this scam:
- Report it to your local police.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre 1-888-495-8501 or report online at http://www.antifraudcentre.ca.