Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingston Police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have seen an increase in online scams that target individuals in isolation due to the lock downs and travel restrictions. This includes fraudsters targeting people looking for companionship or love through dating sites and social media.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Kingston Police released a statement saying Kingstonians should be on the lookout for Romance Scams. In 2020 alone, Canadians lost more than $18.5 million to this scam. Kingston Police issued a warning of a specific investment related Romance Scam earlier this year.
“In Romance Scams, fraudsters will gain the trust of the victim by carrying on a relationship over a period of time. This can include displays of affection, such as, sending gifts, flowers and tokens to prove that their feelings are genuine,” Kingston Police said in the statement. “In many cases, the fraudster will claim to be professional business people or military personnel that are travelling or stationed abroad. Once trust is gained, fraudsters will begin to ask for financial assistance for reasons like urgent situations (e.g. a sick family member or to complete a business transaction) or to return to the country (e.g. plane ticket, lawyer fees, or duty & taxes).”
Kingston Police shared the following warning signs and ways to protect yourself from Romance Scams:
- Attempts to meet in person never happen, there’s always an excuse why they can’t meet.
- Fraudsters want to develop a quick relationship with you. Be suspicious when someone you haven’t met professes their love to you.
- Be cautious of an individual that claims to live close to you but is working overseas. This is a set up for the fraudster to provide you with many reasons to ask for money.
- If you are asked to accept a payment from someone you’ve met online and send a part of the funds back to them or someone else – don’t do it!
- A growing trend being noticed is the fraudster asking you to invest in a new business venture or cryptocurrency.
How to protect yourself
- Never, under any circumstances, send money to someone you’ve never met.
- Protect your personal and financial information. Do not share personal or financial information with anyone you’ve only met online.
- Never send intimate photos or videos of yourself. They could be used to blackmail you.
- Do a reverse image search of any photos you are sent to see if they have been taken from a stock photo site or someone else’s online profile.
- Do not travel to another country to meet someone for the first time. This is often a setup to get you to partake in criminal activities with risks of injury, arrest or even death.
- Learn more tips and tricks for protecting yourself.
If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Kingston Police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or report online at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.