In honour of Valentine’s Day, Saanich police are warning residents about the risks associated with looking for love online.
While dating apps and sites are part of many couples’ meet-cute stories, authorities are warning they also provide cybercriminals with a platform.
Police have been warning Greater Victoria residents of the numerous fraud attempts in the area lately – from Bitcoin scams to fake sweepstakes. While most people are wary of suspicious phone calls and emails, many Canadians are unaware than romance scams are the most common, said Const. Markus Anastasiades of the Saanich Police Department.
He noted Canadians lost almost $25 million in romance scams in 2018. Scammers can easily create fake profiles, get to know their victims and build a false sense of trust before asking for money.
$24,949,073 = Money Canadians lost to Romance Scams in 2018.
5% – estimated # of cases victims actually report.
— Saanich Police (@SaanichPolice) February 14, 2020
According to the Government of Canada, there are several signs that someone may be after your money, not your heart. For example, if the person always has an excuse for why they can’t meet in person or begins asking for help with emergency expenses, they may be running a scam.
To avoid becoming a victim of a romance scam, dating site users are encouraged to be on the lookout for red flags, Anastasiades said. Be wary of people who refuse to meet in person, keep asking to move the conversation off the site or app, say “I love you” too quickly or ask for money.
Never send money or personal information to people from an online dating site, Anastasiades emphasized.
He added police aren’t saying people should stop looking for love online, but rather that they should be wary and understand the risks. He also recommended residents talk to family and friends about their online dating habits as they can often spot red flags that may have been overlooked.
Anyone who encounters a romance scam is asked to report it to police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Anastasiades noted only about five per cent of victims report online dating frauds which authorities assume is out of embarrassment, but he hopes more people come forward.
“It can happen to anyone looking for love,” he said, noting that victims shouldn’t feel ashamed.
Reporting won’t always get the money back, but it can help police track trends and prevent others from falling victim.
For more information, visit the Government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe website at getcybersafe.ca.