What is a romance scam?
Romance fraud involves any individual with false romantic intentions toward a victim in order to gain their trust and affection for the purpose of obtaining the victim’s money, or access to their bank accounts or credit cards. Most romance scams begin via social media or online dating sites.
Romance fraud is much more prevalent than people realize – it was second only to investment fraud in Canada in 2022, costing victims more than $64 million.
Anyone can potentially fall victim to a romance scam, but there are certain phases of life – such as retirement – where you or someone you love could be extra vulnerable to becoming a victim of this type of fraud for a varitety of reasons, including being unfamiliar with social media or messaging apps, being emotionally vulnerable after losing a spouse or other loved one or starting a new relationship later in life. And it is worth noting that only 5-10% of victims report this type of fraud, so it often falls to loved ones to identify and stop it.
So, what can you do?
The best defence against Romance Scams is information.
Start by learning the signs that someone you love may be a victim of fraud, don’t be afraid to have ongoing conversations with your loved ones about money management to ensure they are making informed decisions about their finances. And if you believe they are a victim of fraud, immediately report the suspicious activity to their financial institution and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) at antifraudcentre.ca.
Signs that a loved one may be a victim of romance fraud include:
- They recently started a relationship with someone new who they met on social media, via email or on a online dating site.
- They almost always communicate with this person via email or text.
- They have never met or seen the person they are in a relationship with in real life.
- They are significantly older than the person they are in the relationship with.
- They are in a vulnerable stage of life such as recently widowed, separated or divorced.
- They provide minimal or inconsistent information or avoid answering questions about the person they are in a relationship with.
- They are withdrawing funds for this individual and relay a confusing, conflicting or unbelievable story about why the funds are needed.
- They are frequently sending funds or making large online payments, often being sent to locations outside Canada.
And if talking about money with loved ones makes you uncomfortable or is causing stress in your family, try encouraging your loved one to set-up a meeting with their financial advisor at their local credit union. Sometimes getting advice from a third party who is not a relative can be the difference between a difficult conversation and a smooth one.