It’s a scam that’s costing vulnerable people millions of dollars: online criminals who convince someone to devote themselves to a person they’ve never met and get them to invest, quite literally.
Calgary police say over the past four years, Calgarians have lost more than $4 million to romance scammers.
Sgt. Matt Frederiksen said those numbers are just the cases that have been reported.
“There’s an embarrassment, like, ‘How did I fall for this?’ while it’s happening,” Frederiksen said. “It seems believable and plausible and it’s not until afterwards. You talk to someone, you finally realize it’s a fraud or scheme.”
Police said, while some believe women may be more susceptible to romance scams, approximately 26 per cent of the victims in the 128 cases reported to police were male. The average age of romance scam victims is 49 for both men and women.
The Better Business Bureau said if you never meet face to face and there are always countless reasons for needing more cash, those are typical red flags.
Shawna-Kay Thomas with the BBB said it’s easy to fall victim to these scammers.
“If you think you can’t, then you will because you’re not putting up antennas. They play on your emotions and find out if you’re kind-hearted and go along with you for weeks,” Thomas said.
To avoid falling victim, police want to remind citizens to:
- Be diligent if dating online. Be cautious of online daters who try to progress the relationship too quickly or say they cannot meet in person. Be wary of individuals who ask for money as part of a hard luck story or try to pressure you into making fast decisions.
- Protect your personal and financial information. Do not give any personal or financial information to someone you don’t know. This includes bank account numbers, credit card numbers, birth dates and other personal information. Remember romance scammers may also try to use your information for identity theft purposes.
- Talk to someone you trust. If you find yourself concerned about an online relationship, talk to someone you trust such as a family member, friend or trusted colleague. Usually talking to someone removed from the situation can provide an objective perspective that could reveal potential red flags.
- Report fraud to police. If you have lost money or have had your identity compromised by a romance scammer, report it to police by calling 403-266-1234. By reporting your experience, you are helping law enforcement pursue investigations and warning others. Call 9-1-1 for crimes in progress or if you are in immediate danger.