WINNIPEG – Fraud: what’s love got to do with it?
For 831 Canadians in 2016, it had everything to do with it.
The so-called “romance scam” may not have claimed all that many victims, but in total they were scammed out of nearly $21-million.
Here’s how it can work: the scammer devises a way to get the victim to fall in love with them online, which is not a bad idea seeing as an increasing number of people are resorting to online dating and dating apps.
Once a relationship is established, the scammer will eventually start to manipulate the victim, asking them to send increasingly larger amounts of money. Sometimes they’ll ask for help covering travel expenses, say that they’re having trouble getting into the country, or that they are having medical problems and need help.
Sergeant Shaun Veldman with the Winnipeg Police Financial Crimes Unit says it’s often too late when people realize they’ve been duped.
“We’re seeing quite a trend toward more tailored scams, tailored at certain groups. Whether you’re looking for a job, looking to sell something online, running a large corporation, a small business, you’re looking for love or companionship, each group will be targeted in a very specific way. A lot of thought goes into engineering scams.”
It’s not just a financial hit. These scams can cause great emotional stress, as people realize their trust has been violated and a person they thought they loved turned out to be someone trying to ruin their life. That’s why police want people to be extremely vigilant.
“The scams are getting more complex each year, so rather than attending the school of hard knocks, we recommend the police navigate to the Winnipeg Police website or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s website. It has all the up-to-date information on the latest scams, how to protect yourself, and what to do in the event that you are targeted in one of these scams.”
Experts believe that less than ten per cent of victims actually report fraud. A high percentage of those who are targeted are seniors.
One way to help fight off scammers is to have a “fraud buddy.”
“I speak to family and friends, a lot of times we go about having a sober second thought. We talk to someone, we say ‘does this seem right to you? I got this email, this text, it’s asking me to do this, is that normal?’ That second opinion, that’s what that fraud buddy idea comes from.”
Police recommend researching any request for money before making a commitment, and advise that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.