Canadians lost more than $22.5 million to romance scams in 2018, significantly more than they did to CRA tax scams ($6 million), according to the Better Business Bureau.
Dating scams have a huge impact on a person financially, emotionally, psychologically, and socially, Karla Davis, community manager for the BBB of Mainland B.C., told The Star.
Romance scams typically occur through online dating websites but also occur through apps, Facebook and other social media platforms. Many people are fooled by profiles that look legitimate and appear to be attractive matches but are actually run by organized criminals.
Fraudsters fool people into thinking they’re in love. They typically don’t intend on meeting their victims but rather try to take their money. Then they go a step further by turning victims into money mules.
Scammers who target men typically profess to be young students or teachers from other countries who need money to travel to other destinations.
“Money mules often are unsuspecting romance fraud victims themselves who may end up in serious legal trouble for their activities,” according to the BBB.
The illegal activities victims may encounter include counterfeiting goods and products and transporting drugs. And because the victims think they are in love and don’t realize they’re being manipulated, they carry out these jobs without question.
It’s believed there are more than 25,000 romance scammers online, most of whom come from Lagos, Nigeria. They victimize people all over the world. These fraudsters live and operate in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, and mainland China.
The BBB has some tips for people to avoid romance scams. First, do not wire or transfer money to someone you haven’t met. Also, be aware of people who have harrowing stories or family emergencies.
Also, look for red flags such as: 1) being asked to open a bank account or give access to an existing account, 2) receiving packages and being asked to reship them to another location, 3) picking up funds at Western Union or MoneyGram and forwarding them somewhere else, and 4) keeping your relationship secret.
The BBB also recommends reporting the scam to authorities even though it can be difficult and embarrassing. This action can save other potential victims.
Those who believe they are a victim of a romance scam can reach out to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center. Canadians can call the toll-free number 1-888-495-8501. If there is a Canadian connection, victims in the U.S. can also call this number.