Calgary, AB,
13
February
2020
|
16:31
America/Denver

Calgarians lose millions to romance scammers, police issue warning ahead of Valentine’s Day

MEDIA ADVISORY: Sergeant Matt Frederiksen of the Calgary Police Service Fraud Team is available to speak with media who wish to book interviews about this release between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. today, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Media interviews will be held in the Westwinds Campus Media Centre, 5111 47 St. N.E. 


Over the past four years, Calgarians have lost more than $4 million to romance scammers, and that’s just the cases that have been reported to police.

Since 2016, the reported losses have increased from thousands to millions. While romance scams aren’t new, scammers are constantly changing their tactics, allowing for a broader range of potential victims, regardless of gender, age or other factors.

While some believe women may be more susceptible to romance scams, approximately 26 percent of the victims in the 128 cases reported to police were male. The average age of romance scam victims is 49 for both men and women.

By the numbers:

Year

Dollars Lost

Number of Reported Cases

2016

$70,290

3

2017

$862,415

27

2018

$1,581,012

58

2019

$1,728,186

40

Total

$4,241,903

128

A typical romance scam scenario usually begins online and progresses quickly. Scammers may be eager to take the relationship offline but stick to emails or texts. This allows them to continue catphishing others through dating websites while progressing their relationship with victims.

Scammers may pose as a completely different person to “catphish” victims into believing they are in a relationship. In these scenarios, there are usually two victims: the individual the scammer is catphishing for financial gain, and another person who may not know their identity is being used by a catphisher.

“Romance scammers usually prey on emotions and trust to make victims believe they are in a legitimate relationship,” says Sergeant Matt Frederiksen of the Calgary Police Service’s Fraud Team. “Once trust has been gained, scammers use a variety of tactics for financial gain, such as stories of hard luck or they may ask for money to travel to meet the victim in person. However, romance scammers almost never actually meet victims in person.”

Scammers may request money in the form of e-transfers, cheques, cryptocurrency, pre-paid gift cards or other methods. Unfortunately, once money has exchanged hands, it can be very difficult for victims to get their money back as funds are usually given to fraudsters who reside in different cities or countries.

“We are starting to see some cases where scammers make threats to victims in an attempt to make them pay,” says Sergeant Frederiksen. “In some cases, scammers have threatened to leak private photos that were exchanged between them and the victim, or threats to ‘out’ someone who may be having an affair. We encourage citizens to be mindful of the information they are sharing with strangers, as it can be anyone behind a computer screen.”

We would like to remind citizens to:

  • Be diligent if dating online. Be cautious of online daters who try to progress the relationship too quickly or say they cannot meet in person. Be wary of individuals who ask for money as part of a hard luck story or try to pressure you into making fast decisions.
     
  • Protect your personal and financial information. Do not give any personal or financial information to someone you don’t know. This includes bank account numbers, credit card numbers, birthdates and other personal information. Remember romance scammers may also try to use your information for identity theft purposes.
     
  • Talk to someone you trust. If you find yourself concerned about an online relationship, talk to someone you trust such as a family member, friend or trusted colleague. Usually talking to someone removed from the situation can provide an objective perspective that could reveal potential red flags.
     
  • Report fraud to police. If you have lost money or have had your identity compromised by a romance scammer, report it to police by calling 403-266-1234. By reporting your experience, you are helping law enforcement pursue investigations and warning others. Call 9-1-1 for crimes in progress or if you are in immediate danger.