Everyone is looking for their Romeo or their Juliet; a lot of wonderful connections have been built online. However, there is also a dark side to online dating, and that potential Romeo or Juliet you seek can be nothing more than a very patient, smooth-talking scam artist out to take your money.
Sure, office romances and the occasional supermarket meet-cute still exist, but today, many people are finding their perfect match online. In fact, popular dating site eHarmony boasts that it creates over 15 million matches every day.
What makes online dating so appealing? For one, it’s easy. You can post your best photo, while perusing potential mates in your skivvies or with your hair in curlers. Then there’s the anonymity; you can say things you likely never would in person. However, according to the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the most appealing aspect of online dating is the ability to shop around. “There is a crossover between the consumer mentality and the dating mentality,” the report states. WIthout hurting anyone’s feelings, you can pick—or nix—possible partners.
Like most things with good intentions, there is always someone looking to take advantage of online dating. Despite the vetting process of dating sites (some even require background checks), a simple instant message over social media can lead to more trouble. Now, “romance scams” have become big business for both two-bit phonies and big-time criminals. In 2016 alone, their scams cost unsuspecting Canadians $18 million dollars—that’s an average of $23,000 per victim! Because of the pressure to have a sweetheart this time of year, Valentine’s Day is particularly popular with scam artists.
Why have scammers taken their aim at Cupid? There are three main reasons:
You may be thinking, “what kind of person gives $23,000 to a stranger online?” You’d be surprised. Many scam artists will hustle for years, gaining affection by sending gifts and building trust by detailing a convincing story of why they can’t connect in-person (they may be “stationed overseas,” “going through court battles with an ex,” or “dealing with immigration issues”). In any of these scenarios, the scammer can keep the con going for years, and they’re skilled at preying upon the vulnerable; a Toronto woman lost over $450,000 over the course of seven years in a situation just like this.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reports that romance scams are the nation’s highest grossing con, beating out both email fraud and identity theft. So, how can you fight back and ensure that you’re not a victim of love?
A word of caution: We've all heard of “asking probing questions” to avoid romance scams. For example, if a user's profile says they love classic cars, then ask what year, make and model they own. Or, Google Map their city and inquire about a nearby restaurant or shop to see if they are familiar with it. But this approach can backfire (and not to mention be especially embarrassing if they turn out to be legitimate)mostly because the scammer can look up the appropriate answer just as quickly as you asked it.
You heard it from Bob, and this is the scammer's best line. No matter how much love they say they have to give, the most important rule is to never—and I mean never—send money to an online-only contact. No matter how much they’ve captured your heart, don’t do it. If you just can’t help yourself, at least insist that any money sent is via credit card transaction; this may allow for some recourse if ooh-la-la happens to be oh-no-he-didn’t.
Okay, Bolton had a twist: He only lied because it was more than love that he felt inside. But honestly, it does sound like a line from a really good scam artist, even without the sax. I don’t mean to seem jaded; who doesn’t want to believe in soulmates and true love? However, at Credit Canada, we also want to be sure you avoid being …
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