Prescott – The Grenville County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) would like to announce “February Fraud Fridays”. This is an awareness campaign targeting on-line fraud awareness.
This Friday, February 1, 2019, the OPP want to spread the word about on-line romance scams. A Romance scammer will use dating websites and social networking sites to defraud people of their money.
A romance scam involves any individual with false romantic intentions toward a victim in order to gain their trust and affection for the purpose of obtaining the victim’s money or access to their bank accounts or credit cards. In some cases the suspect will even attempt to get the victim to commit fraud on their behalf, as a money mule (accepting, then transferring money or goods) often unknowingly. Most romance scams begin via social media sites or online dating sites.
Romance scams happen in our area all too often. For example, on January 25, 2019, a 73 year old female resident of Prescott reported being defrauded approximately $30,000.00. This victim had been in communication with the online scammer for a couple of years and had gained her trust. The victim was lead to believe that the scammer loved her, but as often the case, scammers love your money and cut off communication when the money is gone.
How can I protect myself?
- Be suspicious when someone you haven’t met in person professes their love to you. Ask yourself -would someone I’ve never met really declare their love after only a few emails?
- Be wary when someone you meet on social media wants to quickly move to a private mode of communication (email, text).
- If trying to set up an in-person meeting, be suspicious if they always have an excuse not to meet.
- If you do actually set up a meeting – tell family and friends when and where you’re going and meet in a local, public place.
- Do not share personal (birthdate, address) or financial information with anyone you’ve only just met online or in person.
- Never send intimate photos or video of yourself. The scammer may try to use these to blackmail you into sending money.
- Be cautious when conversing with an individual that claims to live close to you but is working overseas.
- Never under any circumstance send money for any reason. The scammer will make it seem like an emergency, they may even express distress or anger to make you feel guilty but DO NOT send money.
- Should you be asked to accept money (e-transfer, cheque) or goods (usually electronics) for you to transfer/send elsewhere, do not accept to do so. This is usually a form of money laundering which is a criminal offence.
- If you suspect a loved one may be a victim of a romance scam – based on any above points -explain the concerns and risks to them and help them get out of the situation.
The OPP would like to encourage the public to report on-line scams by contacting them at toll free at 1-888-310-1122.