With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, police are warning Winnipeggers looking for love to keep safe when using online dating apps, and to watch out for romance scams.
Const. Garnie McIntyre told Global News that staying ahead of any potentially dangerous behaviour is really about doing your own research into the person you’re connecting with.
“Do your due diligence, look around, talk to people who have had successful meetings with a dating app, know who you’re talking to,” he said.
“If the person sends you a picture and they look like a model, maybe you want to video chat. If it’s too good to be true…
“Do your research, talk to people, talk to friends.”
McIntyre said the oversharing common on social media is a boon for those looking to take advantage of others, and that for any personal details you wouldn’t be comfortable telling a random stranger on the street, the same should apply when meeting a stranger online.
“(That goes for) any personal information whatsoever. Let’s say you meet somebody on the street: there’s no way you’d share your mother’s maiden name, your likes, your dislikes,” he said.
“Some people out there are going on your social media to find out what you like, and they’re going to manipulate you.”
And even if you’ve done the proper vetting and are planning to meet a new date in person, McIntyre advises having an out — even if it’s just a scheduled phone call from a trusted friend checking up on you.
“At least let somebody know where you’re going, what time you’re going to meet the person — if, all of a sudden, it’s, ‘OK, I can’t meet there because I don’t have my vaccination,’ or, ‘You have to meet me at my home’ … that’s a red flag. A huge red flag.
“If you do feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts. If something’s going south, give us a call. 911.”
Romance scams are a different story altogether. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, they involve someone convincing you to get into a virtual relationship, often over a lengthy period of time, until they eventually win your trust and then start asking for money or other favours.
Red flags can include someone who professes their love for you before you’ve met them, consistently comes up with excuses not to meet in person, acts distressed or guilts you into sending them money, or discourages you from talking about them with friends or family.
“Most people are embarrassed about being scammed. What they do is they work on your trust, they talk to you — this can go on for months, it can go on for years where they build the trust and then they start asking for money or start asking for favours,” said McIntyre.
“They show fake family members, hospital bills, stuff like that — because they’re playing on your emotions.
“Love is love … but take your time, please.”