Kingston police are warning local residents of “romance scams,” which they say are on the rise and can cost victims large sums of money as well as their emotional well-being.
According to police, romance scams start on online dating apps when scammers seek out individuals — both men and women — and initiate a relationship.
Police say scammers will spend several months, or even years in some cases, gaining an individual’s trust. Once a sense of trust has been established, police say scammers go on to create stories that play on the emotions of their victims.
Some examples of these stories include asking for money for medical bills, international customs taxes or immigration fees with the promise of meeting in person with the victim, according to law enforcement.
Police add that scammers will regularly pretend to be military or offshore workers to make stories about not being able to travel and see the victim more believable. Officers say these stories are also used to explain the scammer being absent from online activity for days at a time.
Scammers also use these professions to justify the financial requests they make, police say.
Too often, police say, victims become intimate in their online relationship and blackmail can occur.
Nonetheless, police add that the reality of this kind of fraud is victims feel embarrassed, which results in them becoming vulnerable and allows the scammer to take advantage of them.
As a result, police say these fraud cases do not get reported often, however they occur often. Police say that in some cases, scammers can even dupe victims out of their life savings.
Law enforcement officers are warning people to protect themselves and beware of such scams. Police are warning people not to send money to individuals they meet online, especially if they have never met that individual in person before.
Police are also encouraging people to call in and ask questions if they have any doubts, particularly when it comes to sending money, because they say in that case it’s very unlikely people will ever see their money again.