Any individual with false romantic intentions towards a victim and by gaining their affection and trust (sometimes with the promise of marriage) gain access to the victim's money, bank account, credit cards or in some cases by getting the victims (usually unknowingly) to commit fraud on their behalf.
In 2011, Romance scams emerged as highest grossing scam, with over 12 million in losses reported by Canadians. This scam has also lead to incidents of suicide in cases where victims have lost their life saving and have been emotionally destroyed.
These scams have proliferated with the increase use of social media – social networking sites and dating sites. These sites are most common with scams that require a level of trust between the victim and the fraudster.
In the Romance scam the fraudsters have demonstrated that they are willing to develop the relationship over extended periods of time. This increases the trust level between the victim and fraudster and will result in higher dollar losses. This also results in a negative social impact on the victim as they have developed emotional and psychological attachment to the fraudster.
Generally, Romance scams involve the victim and the fraudster meeting through a social networking site. The fraudster will gain the trust of the victim through displays of affection. While the fraudster is usually located in a far away country, eventually want to meet the victim in person. It is at this time the fraudster will advise they can't afford to travel and will seek assistance from the victim in covering travel cost. Other variations include the fraudster presenting situations of emergency/ urgency, such as a sick family member, and seeking financial assistance from the victim for various costs.
Some incidents have also occurred at the local level and involved the victims actually meeting the suspects to go out on dates and meeting at the victim residence. These cases are creating concerns for personal safety. For example, in one incident the victim reported having her wallet and some jewellery stolen from home.
Warning sign(s) - How to protect yourself
- Distressed citizen worried about a loved one.
- Talking about good friend or loved one in another country that is coming to visit or needs help.
- Mentions Western Union or MoneyGram.
- Frequenting the bank more often.
- Making unusual withdrawals both in amounts and frequency.
- Making multiple withdrawals ranging from $500‐ $3000 in Cash.
- Making large dollar wire transfers to countries in Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe.
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Competition Bureau of Canada
Ontario Provincial Police
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
Better Business Bureau
(BBB Locator Tool)
Fraud: Recognize, report and stop it!
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