Be Careful With Online Cupid

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 9:27 a.m. February 13, 2014

Online love can be pricey and heartbreaking.

Hearts of different colours distorted
Valentine's Day card distorted

With Valentine’s Day upon us,  Financial Crimes  Detective Gail Regan (@ReganFCU), issued a warning to unsuspecting victims to be wary of scammers professing love.

“Every year, Canadians fall victim to this scam,” she said, of romance scams. “Although it’s impossible to determine how many scams of this type are committed, our investigators all-too-often deal with victims who are traumatized.”

Regan offered some tips to the public to make them understand how to identify and avoid online romance scams.

“The majority of romance scams normally start online through a social networking site,” she said. “The fraudster will immediately offer personal information in the hope the victim will then do so. The comfort level then rises,” she said. “Information such as date of birth, addresses, social security and phone numbers, bank and credit information, believe it or not, are exchanged online to unknown persons between each other. Early in a relationship, the fraudster will then profess a love for that person and the victim usually believes that.”

Regan says that, shortly after meeting their online companion, a request will be made for money to help with a family emergency.

The majority of romance scams normally start online through a social networking site

“The victim believes that and immediately the fraudster will request that the money be sent via a cash transfer, using Western Union, MoneyGram or other money-transfer services. In rare cases, the fraudster will target the victim with a more elaborate scheme in which he or she may ask to live with the victim and make constant requests for money while they are in a difficult spot,” said the veteran detective. “Be aware that, in a relationship, the request for money is not a sign of love.”

Regan said that, in most instances, the victims are lonely and elderly and she warned they should not offer personal information online.

“So often, we will tell people not to do this and they still end up giving information to an unknown person through social networking websites,” she said.

Staff Inspector Mary Lee Metcalfe said education is key to driving home the message to the public to be aware of romance scammers.

“We have seen far-too-many people get befriended and then bilked out of their personal savings,” she said. “It’s very tragic when we have these stories.”

People who have been approached, or know someone who may have been the victim of a romance scam, are asked to contact their local police, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook. Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App.

Strategies to Identify Romance Scams:      

On February 13, Financial Crimes Detective-Sergeant Cam Field (@cfieldfcu) will be on Zoomer Radio AM740 discussing romance scams at 11:15 a.m. He will also host a #FraudChat on Twitter from 9 to 10 p.m. on the same day to discuss the phenomenon.

He points to a study by the University of Leisceister,The Psychology of the Online Dating Scam, as a resource to understand the phenomenon.
TPS crest watermark