Relationship Scams

In the words of arguably the most influential bands in history, The Beatles sang “Can’t Buy Me Love.” And while that may be true for the most part, it seems that there are many lonely hearts who fall victim to relationship scams, believing that sending money to a newly developed online love interest will secure their affections.

With the proliferation of social media and internet dating sites, “suitors” have an attentive audience – men and women looking for meaningful relationships, sometimes no matter what the cost. As one of the highest grossing online scams, many millions of dollars have been reported as lost (with that just being the tip of the iceberg – approximately 95% of cases are never divulged due to embarrassment). Beyond the financial loss, these cons have caused victims to suffer emotionally and psychologically, and, in extreme cases, have led to incidents of suicide.

So how does it work? Initially, an individual will set up a fake online profile with the intent of targeting several people at once. Once a connection is made, he or she will attempt to gain trust and establish an emotional relationship, many times professing their love even before getting together. Most often, they will say they live fairly close to the targeted person but are currently working overseas. Requests for money may be small at first, and stories will change as confidence grows. When the time comes for that in-person meeting, arrangements will supposedly be made to travel. At the last minute, however, some kind of financial crisis occurs – inaccessibility to their bank account, stolen luggage, a sick relative – all requiring an influx of cash. If only their new love could send them some money (with, of course, the promise to pay it back in full), then plans can go ahead as scheduled. In the interest of love, the victim complies. Gone is the savings. Gone is the suitor.

Awareness is key. If you recognize any of the above situations, raise the red flag. Never give out your financial information. Do your research – confirm that the person on the other end of the computer is genuine. And if the love word is being thrown out there early on in the conversations, be wary. Listen to your instincts.

If you do realize you have fallen prey to one of these predators, call your credit union and stop any payments. Then call the police and contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Don’t be embarrassed. You may save yourself and any other potential future victims not only heartache, but a lot of your hard-earned cash.