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RCMP warn of costly online romance scams

Between January and August 2021, 213 victims across the Lower Mainland lost $22,463,510.
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Surrey RCMP are warning people to beware of online romance scams.

Surrey RCMP are warning the public to beware of online romance scams, which they say have raked in millions of dollars from victims so far this year.

Mounties in Surrey say they have received reports from 29 people who have been the victim of online romance scams between January and August 2021, losing a total of $1,362,269.

During that same period, 213 victims across the Lower Mainland lost $22,463,510.

A romance scam involves any individual who uses false romantic intentions toward a victim, in order to gain their trust and affection with the goal of getting the victim’s money, according to Surrey RCMP, noting that many romance scams begin over social media or online dating sites.

A common trend among reports of the scam in Surrey included victims who were befriended online and, over time, convinced to invest funds into fraudulent schemes by sending money via bitcoin accounts.

When the victim becomes aware of the fraud, communication with the victim was cut off, RCMP said.

Surrey Mounties are also offering some tips to avoid becoming a victim of an online romance scam:

  • Do not send money
    If your new online partner is already asking you for money to get their car fixed so they can come visit you, it’s a red flag.
  • Beware of people who fall in love quickly
    If within the first few exchanges, the person seems to be pushing the relationship forward at a rapid pace without having even met you, it is a sign of catfishing.
  • Be cautious of people hiding their identity
    If they seem serious, but strictly want to keep to written communication or phone calls (or, similarly, they frequently discuss meeting in-person but repeatedly have circumstances pop up to prevent them from doing so), there is a good chance they are hiding their identity.

More information on online romance scams and how to protect yourself can be found on the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.