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From online dating to fake grandchildren: scam artists get crafty during the holidays

Scam artists get crafty during the holidays
Police are warning the public of the potential increase in scams that target vulnerable people during the holiday season. Alexa MacLean reports.

Police are warning the public to be particularly vigilant during the holiday season because scam artists tend to prey on people during a time of year where emotions can run high.

“Something that people may have heard of is the ‘holiday heart-string type scam’ where people pretend to be a grandchild who’s in need of something, in need of help or a long-lost relative who needs help and asking for monetary help and things like that,” said Cpl. Jennifer Clarke with the Nova Scotia RCMP.

“So these types of things that kind of appeal to your emotions are really common this time of year.”

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The holiday season brings a surge in spending too. In December 2016, Canadians spent $5.1 billion on food and beverages alone, according to Statistics Canada.

READ: ‘Virtual kidnapping scam’ reaches Halifax, student from China targeted

Business experts say that the increase in spending also comes with a higher probability that people will pay less attention to where their money is going and how.

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“One of the reasons why there’s an increased prevalence of scams around the holiday season is we all know how busy we are. There are just a million things going on this time of year and that’s what makes us in part vulnerable to scams because we do things before we think twice,” said Peter Moorhouse, the director of the Better Business Bureau Atlantic region.

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According to Moorhouse, recent studies show that people between the ages of 25 to 34 are increasingly more likely to lose money due to a scam because of how often these incidents take place online and through social media.

“Every single scam out there, some variation of it has existed for many, many years,” he said.

“In most cases, it’s just they’re all going online now. It’s all through social media, it’s all through the internet, it’s all through email and so that exposure happens more often than not online.”

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Moorhouse adds that scams in the online dating world happen frequently too, but is often under-reported. People may feel embarrassed to report they’ve lost money while searching for a romantic connection.

“Some of the really surprising types of scams, so romance scams, for example, catfishing, the reported losses for all Canadians last year in 2017 was $19 million,” he said.

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