Surrey RCMP is cautioning those who turn to the internet to find friendships and relationships to take steps to protect themselves after victims of romance scams in the city lost more than $1 million so far this year.
According to a news release issued Friday (Oct. 1), Surrey RCMP have received 29 reports from people who were victims of online romance scams between January and August 2021. Their combined losses total $1,362,269.
Lower Mainland-wide, 213 victims lost $22,463,510.
A romance scam involves any individual who uses false romantic intentions in order to gain a person’s trust and affection for the purpose of obtaining their money, the release explains. Many romance scams begin via social media or online dating sites.
Police issued a similar warning earlier this year, ahead of Valentine’s Day.
“Once the online relationship is established, they will create fictitious scenarios designed to pull at your heart strings, saying they need money to come see you in person, or care for a sick family member. They may even claim to have personal life challenges that require money to fix,” a release issued at that time states.
The latest release reiterates the warning, noting many of the reports in Surrey so far this year have included a common trend; victims were befriended online and over time convinced to invest funds into fraudulent schemes, which included sending money via bitcoin accounts. When the victim became aware of the fraud, the scammer cut off communication.
White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls couldn’t provide year-to-date losses, but said his detachment has received reports of victims being duped out of anything from a few thousand dollars to as much as $50,000.
“I suspect these offences are vastly under reported due to victim embarrassment for brushing aside red flags and being overpowered by false pretense love,” he said.
“We strongly encourage White Rock residents to come see us for a non-judgmental and confidential evaluation of any online request for money.”
Police offered a number of tips aimed at helping people avoid being conned in this way, including: do a Google image search of the individual to see if their photo has been copied from the internet; do not send money – if a new partner is asking for funds to help fix their car so they can visit you, it’s a red flag; beware of people who express love quickly, as it is a sign of catfishing; and be cautious of people who want to stick to written or telephone communications, as they may be doing so to hide their identity.
For more information on romance scams and how to protect against them, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud centre at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm or the Surrey RCMP website, at surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/