Don’t let yourself, or someone your love, fall victim to a Romance Scam.
Romance scams prey on the lonely and vulnerable. These scams occur when a fraudster adopts a false online identity, using an empathetic, loving front to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The fraudster then creates an illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim. These con artists use dating and social media sites to “meet” their victims.
These fraudsters are professionals; they are experts at this crime. They are easily able to seem genuine and their actions and words are believable. Their intentions are simple: they want to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, gaining the trust of their intended victim in a timely manner. They may even jump the gun and propose marriage early on, making all kinds of plans to meet in person—though those plans never pan out for one reason or another. After they think they have their victims hooked, they start asking for money.
The request for funds will be to solve a problem the scammer is having. For example, they may say they are traveling for work (hence why they couldn’t make their planned meeting with their victim!) and need money for an unexpected medical or travel emergency.
Here are some examples of romance scams seen in the past year:
Example #1: Jamaica Make Believe
- A member cashed several money orders from the Canada Post office in various amounts.
- The money orders themselves were legitimate, however, the source of the money orders as well as the sender were unknown.
- The member didn’t know who was sending her the money orders but that she had been cashing them to purchase prepaid credit cards for a gentleman from Jamaica she had met online.
- She has been purchasing the gift cards and sending them to this man from Jamaica to help him get to Canada.
- This turned out to be a scam and the member was unwittingly laundering money.
Example #2: Miami Money Order
- A member was sent a money order from his “girlfriend” in Miami, Florida.
- The girlfriend told the member that her father recently passed away and she is waiting for her inheritance but needs the funds quicker than the estate will be settled.
- A co-worker of her late father said that he would loan her the funds until her inheritance came through and that is who she received the money order from.
- The member was told that they did not want her father’s wife to know that the co-worker was helping her out which is how the member became involved.
- The money order came back as counterfeit and the “girlfriend” disappeared.
How can you avoid Romance Scams?
- Guard your information. Remember that what you post online, no matter your privacy settings, are public. Fraudsters can use personal details from your social media profiles and dating sites to target you.
- Do your research. Check the person’s profile photo and details using online searches to see if any of the information associated with this person has been used elsewhere. Think, catfishing.
- Take your time. They may be in a rush, but you aren’t. Ask lots of questions and keep track of the responses to see if they add up. Remember the “too good to be true” test!
- Be wary; trust your gut. Be wary if the person asks you to communicate directly—i.e. off of the social media site or dating service you’re currently communicating through. Beware of any attempts to isolate you from family or friends or if they request inappropriate materials such as photos or financial information that could be used for extortion later.
- Check their story. Does this person keep promising to meet in person but then there is always an excuse for why it doesn’t work out? Could be because they don’t actually exist as who they say they are. If you haven’t met them in person after a few months, be suspicious.
- Meet them first. Do not send money to anyone you haven’t met by live video or in-person. If you’ve only ever chatted by phone or online, you don’t know this person.