OPP issue romance scam reminder after $59M in victim losses in 2022

Photo by Priscilla du Preez.

This Valentine’s Day, the Ontario Provincial Police issued a release reminding the public that they, alongside law enforcement partners, continue to see the “devastating effects” associated with romance frauds — from financial losses to significant mental health trauma.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), Canadian romance fraud victims reported losing over $59 million to fraudsters in 2022. The OPP added that Ontario victims represented over $20 million of those losses.

In the release, the OPP said that in 2022, the CAFC received fraud reports totalling a staggering $530 million in victim losses. This was nearly a 40 per cent increase from 2021 when they saw an unprecedented $380 million in losses. According to the release, it is estimated that only 5 to 10 per cent of victims report scams and frauds to the CAFC or law enforcement.

“Romance fraudsters prey on victims looking for a partner, companion or love interest. In this digital world, scammers use technology to convince victims to enter into a virtual or online relationship, to gain a victims’ trust and affection,” the OPP said. “This can occur through e-mail messages, popular encrypted chat applications, online chat groups, fake profiles on social media, dating sites or even through online platforms where like-minded people hang out online.”

The OPP reported that a new trend has fraudsters sending random text messages to victims. The messages often read “where are you?”, “where have you been?” or something similar. Once the victim responds, a conversation is started and police said that the fraudster attempts to build a relationship with the victim.

“Eventually the scammer asks for money for travel, a medical emergency or assistance with a family emergency or convinces the victim to invest in a fraudulent cryptocurrency platform,” the OPP continued. “Remember…there is always urgency and associated drama like an old soap opera. The scammers might also ask you to receive money and transfer the funds elsewhere, or purchase items and send them to foreign countries. The scammer always makes excuses for not being able to meet in person, travel to see you, or use video conferencing to talk. Remember if is seems too good to be true, it often is!”

The OPP provided the following details to help you stay safe from romance scams and scams in general:

  • Don’t give out your personal information (name, address, DOB, SIN, banking credentials).
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you do not know.
  • Don’t invest your money in platforms provided by people you don’t know.
  • Be careful who you share images with. Suspects will often use explicit pictures to extort victims into sending more money.
  • Protect your online accounts.
  • Never send money to someone you haven’t met.
  • Don’t respond to text messages from phone numbers you do not recognize.
  • Learn more tips and tricks for protecting yourself.

If you fall victim to fraud or know someone who has, the OPP said to contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501 or online on the Fraud Reporting System (FRS), even if a financial loss did not occur.

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