New trend in romance scams targeting Ontario residents


Published February 14, 2023 at 10:21 am

romance scam ontario
Photo by ATC Comm

This Valentine’s Day police warn those looking for love not to fall victim to new romance scams.

“The OPP and our law enforcement partners continue to see the devastating effects associated to romances frauds, from financial losses to significant mental health trauma,” the OPP says in a press release.

In 2022, Ontario victims lost $20 million in romance frauds, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Across Canada, romance fraud victims reported losing over $59 million to fraudsters in 2022.

There has been nearly a 40 per cent increase in all types of fraud with a staggering $530 million in victim losses, OPP says.

Traditionally, romance fraudsters prey on people looking for a partner using e-mail messages, chat applications, online chat groups, and fake profiles on social media and dating sites.

But a new trend has fraudsters sending random text messages to victims — much like the wrong number scam.

The messages often read “where are you?”, “where have you been?” or something similar, OPP says. Once the victim responds, the fraudster starts a conversation and attempts to build a relationship with the victim.

Eventually, the scammer asks for money for travel, a medical emergency or assistance with a family emergency or convinces the victim to invest in a fraudulent cryptocurrency platform.

“Remember…there is always urgency and associated drama like an old soap opera,” the OPP says.

The scammers might also ask you to receive money and transfer the funds elsewhere, or purchase items and send them to foreign countries.

“The scammer always makes excuses for not being able to meet in person, travel to see you, or use video conferencing to talk. Remember if it seems too good to be true, it often is!”

How to protect yourself?

  • Don’t give out your personal information (name, address, DOB, SIN, banking credentials).
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you do not know.
  • Don’t invest your money in platforms provided by people you don’t know.
  • Be careful who you share images with. Suspects will often use explicit pictures to extort victims into sending more money.
  • Protect your online accounts.
  • Never send money to someone you haven’t met.
  • Don’t respond to text messages from phone numbers you do not recognize.
  • Learn more tips and tricks for protecting yourself.

If you fall victim to a fraud or know someone who has, contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 even if a financial loss did not occur.

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