Ontario residents warned about potentially devastating scam


Published February 12, 2024 at 4:44 pm

romance scams ontario police crime valentine's day

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching and some residents potentially feeling more emotionally vulnerable in the lead-up to the year’s most romantic occasion, police are warning people to be extra vigilant when looking for love online. 

Today, the OPP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said that residents should be on the lookout for telltale signs of a romance scam when meeting people virtually. 

“Every year around Valentine’s Day, fraudsters are on the lookout for unsuspecting victims who are looking for love and companionship. Victims are typically contacted on dating websites or social media and then asked to switch to a different method of communication,” police said in a news release.

Police say fraudsters often create profiles using real pictures of real people found on social media, so victims think the person they are chatting with is who they say they are. Suspects are known to quickly profess their love in order to earn their victim’s “trust, affection and money.”

“This type of fraud relies heavily on victim emotions and may last for months, years, or until the victim has nothing left to give. The fraudsters will never end up repaying the victim and continue to make empty promises while asking for more money,” police said. 

Police say some fraudsters might try to snare victims by sending vague text messages saying, “Where are you?” or “Where have you been?” Once the victim responds, the suspect will try to build a relationship from there.

According to the RCMP, romance scams are common. In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 1,249 complaints involving romance scams, with 925 victims reporting being victimized. 

The RCMP says the scam cost victims more than $50 million that same year. 

“Romance scams were responsible for the second highest amount of fraud-related dollar loss in 2021, led only by investment scams,” the RCMP said on its website. 

“Reported instances of romance fraud are likely much lower than actual numbers because many victims never report the crime or tell their loved ones due to shame, fear of ridicule, and denial.” 

The OPP say that cases in which fraudsters attempt to convince victims to invest in fraudulent cryptocurrency platforms have also been reported. 

Police say residents should be suspicious if the person they are chatting with asks for money due to a family or personal emergency, not having access to their bank account, to cover an unexpected business, professional or legal expense, to collaborate on an investment or cover travel expenses. 

To avoid being a victim, residents are advised to beware of profiles that appear too perfect and to be suspicious of anyone who immediately professes their love and devotion, sight unseen.

Police also advise vigilance if a person wants to begin chatting over text, email or social media immediately, refuses to meet you in person, asks you not to mention the relationship to friends or family, attempts to manipulate you into sending money by acting angry or desperate, sends poorly written messages or sends messages addressed to someone with a different name. 

Police also say it’s a red flag if a newfound friend or love interest attempts to connect you to their “family” over social media, tries to talk you into investing in something of interest to them or pushes cryptocurrency investment. 

As for how to protect yourself, police say you should never give out personal information, including your full name, address, date of birth, SIN or banking credentials, to anyone online.  Residents should also decline friend requests on social media from people they don’t know, avoid investing money in platforms they’re not familiar with and avoid sending compromising photos that could be used against them.

Police also advise protecting your online accounts, not responding to texts from unfamiliar numbers and never, ever sending money to anyone you don’t know. 

If you suspect you have been the victim of cybercrime or fraud, cut all contact with the suspected scammer and report the incident to local police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501. 

insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising