Romance scams continue to cause social distress

An RCMP report on the on-going problem with "romantic" scam artists.

  • Apr. 1, 2015 11:00 a.m.

Have you been involved in a romance scam?

Embarrassing? Yes.

Uncommon? Not at all.

It is a seemingly harmless approach; a brief introduction between strangers, likely initiated via Facebook if an online dating site. Communication begins. Frequency of messaging increases. Conversations are intense. Photos are shared. A relationship forms. And then — requests for money begin.

“I’m desperate.” 

“It’s just this once.”

“I promise. I will pay you back.”

“I love you.”

In reality, these ruses are deliberate, well-crafted money schemes embarked upon by savvy fraudsters in efforts to obtain as much money as possible from unsuspecting, and often lonely, adults.

The careful cultivation of the relationship usually continues for months. Sometimes, the fraudster will reinforce the depth of his/her feelings by sending bouquets of flowers or other token gifts. Often the fraudster will use illness as a ploy, either claiming he/she is sick or has a sick child. The fraudster may claim that medication or surgery is required but he/she lacks sufficient funds to cover the necessary expenses. Those same medical conditions may preclude him/her from traveling.

However, regardless of the despair felt at not being able to travel, reassurances are made that if travel were at all possible the couple would most certainly be together, living happily. Victims, longing for love and emotional connection, become deeply attached to their fraudster and are completely unaware that the fraudster is simultaneously cultivating numerous other “relationships”.

By the time the fraudster claims financial hardship and expresses sheer desperation for money, the innocent target has such a significant emotional investment in the relationship that he or she willingly and eagerly agrees.

Due to the intensity of the ongoing perceived intimacy, and the gradual trust which has been built, the deception may involve several transactions, often totalling upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. In many cases those transactions far exceed the person’s means. Simply put, many victims cannot afford it.

Worse yet, when confronted with reality, the victim often defends the fraudster’s character and refuses to accept that the relationship is an illusion. The embarrassment felt by every victim adds to the fraudster’s ability to deceive others, as victims are extremely reluctant to report their losses to law enforcement.

“Although various dating and romance scams have been around for years, they continue to cause financial and social issues for both women and men,” says Inspector Bruce Ward of RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime. “The RCMP urges you not to send money to anyone you meet through an online forum. If you, or someone you know, have been a victim of such a scam, please contact your local police.”

RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) investigators are reminding the public to be aware of these scams.

For more information, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or via email at: bcrcmp@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

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