Romance scams are on the rise. Here’s how to avoid them

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Valentine’s Day warning about romance scams' Consumer Matters: Valentine’s Day warning about romance scams
Just in time for Valentine's Day, experts are warning about romance scams that can con vulnerable people out of big money. Anne Drewa reports – Feb 12, 2019

If you’re looking for love this Valentine’s Day, don’t let a romance scam break your heart.

The Better Business Bureau says romance scams are on the rise, costing victims millions of dollars in Canada and the U.S.

The BBB says from 2015 to 2018, more than $1 billion in losses were recorded from victims of both sides of the border.

“What scammers are doing is going for where you are most vulnerable,” Karla Davis from the Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C. said. “They know people are out there searching for love.”

READ MORE: Romance scam costs Ontario senior $140K

Romance scams often begin on social media and online dating sites and involve a fraudster gaining the trust and affection of a victim only to eventually steal their money and personal information.

Story continues below advertisement

The BBB says con artists often create compelling back stories and fool victims into falling for someone who doesn’t even exist.

“If they are looking for you to come off that dating site and communicate personally through email or another message service, it’s a red flag,” Davis said.

“If you sense they are rushing the dating process as well, things are moving really fast, that’s a red flag as well because they are getting you to trust as quickly as possible and then they start asking you those money questions,” she said. “If they are asking you for money, walk away.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s been hell’: How fraudsters use handsome soldiers to prey on lonely hearts over the holidays

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in 2018, the reported loss from romance scams was $24,949,073.04. Compare that to 2017, at $21,099,187.63.

Better Business Bureau tips to avoid romance scams:

  1. Too hot to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos along with tales of financial success. Be honest with yourself about who would be genuinely interested. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.
  2. In a hurry to get off the site. Catfishers will try to quickly get you to move to communicating through email, messenger, or phone.
  3. Moving fast. A catfisher will begin speaking of a future together and tell you they love you quickly. They often say they’ve never felt this way before.
  4. Talk about trust. Catfishers will start manipulating you with talk about trust and how important it is. This will often be a first step to asking you for money.
  5. Don’t want to meet. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meeting because they say they are travelling or live overseas or are in the military.
  6. Suspect language. If the person you are communicating with claims to be from your hometown but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language, or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.
  7. Hard-luck stories. Before moving on to asking you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles like having their heat cut off or car stolen, or they may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc.).

If you do end up falling victim to a romance scam and have shared financial information or sent money, the Canadian Anti-Fraud agency recommends reporting it to the financial institution you used, contacting police to file a report, and calling the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre and the BBB so it can be properly investigated.

Story continues below advertisement

Watch: more coverage of romance scams

Sponsored content