This Blog was written by Lara Besharat
A romance scam, also commonly known as “catfishing”, is a fraudulent scheme, generally accomplished via social media or through an online dating platform, wherein a scammer feigns romantic interest in a target, develops a “relationship” with that person, and ultimately swindles them for money. Seniors in particular are at high risk of being preyed upon in this way. While this is a growing concern, there are ways to avoid falling victim, and things you can do to limit the consequences, should you already be involved in one.
In 2019 alone, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 972 complaints about romance scams, including 682 victims who, collectively, lost over 19 million dollars, with an average of $28,000 per victim. These scammers often live in another city or country, but maintain that they plan to eventually come live with their victim so that they can be together in person. They use this story to avoid face-to-face contact, and ultimately con their victim out of money.
How to Spot a Romance Scam?
The scammers committing these cons often follow a similar pattern of behaviour.
Look out for red flags, such as:
- They won’t meet you in person, or even video chat.
- They profess their love and move the relationship forward very quickly.
- Their online profile is bare, with very few interactions with others, and few friends/followers.
- There are inconsistencies between what they post on their online profiles and what they tell you.
- They ask for personal or financial information, or intimate photos or videos. These can be later be used for blackmail.
- They ask for money for things like medical bills, education expenses, their phone bill so they can keep talking to you, or even their bus or airplane fare so that they can come and see you. Be especially wary of any “urgent” requests for money.
If you suspect you may have fallen victim to a romance scam, stop all contact immediately, and alert the proper authorities. Provide your local police with as much information as possible, and report the incident to any financial institution you may have a compromised account with. Immediately put a stop to any outstanding payments.
Additionally, file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. This can be done through their confidential online reporting system, or by calling 1-888-495-8501.