Looking for love in the wrong places is partly to blame for a big spike in fraud cases last year in Kingston, Ont.
In fact, police say the workload for their five-member fraud squad has doubled over the last five years.
Kingston police report that since 2014, phone and romance scams have more than doubled — costing Kingstonians close to $2 million.
“The amount has doubled from $800,000 to almost $1.8 million in the last five years,” says Det. Const. David Wein with the Kingston police fraud squad. “A majority of these frauds are played on people’s emotions.”
He says the frauds are “namely romance scams — people from other countries playing on victims’ emotions by having them send money.”
In 2014, police investigated 399 frauds. That number jumped to 889 cases in 2019.
Police say a woman in her 60s fell for an out-of-country suitor, losing $150,000 over three years.
In another case, a man in his 50s, who did not have the means to pay, lost over $3,000 to a romance scammer.
“People are very embarrassed. They feel ashamed. They don’t want to tell their family,” says Wein, “which is the wrong thing to do.”
In recent months, new technology has been used to mask calls as part of phone scams.
It is called “spoofing” — where the scammer has the ability to have the call display on your phone look like a legitimate number. It cost one Queen’s University student $600.
“A student got a call from what appeared to be a bank, and the phone number was spoofed as the bank,” says Wein.
“So he thought it was legitimate and he gave some information that compromised his account, and money was sent out of his account.”
Police say if you are asked to pay in Bitcoin or gift cards, it is a scam.
If you think you have received a spoofing call, police say simply hang up, wait five seconds and then call the agency in question to verify the call — then call police to report it.