Country wide, 680 victims filed complaints with CAFC with over $19 million in financial loss.
“There’s different scenarios that scammers will try but it starts with a simple conversation. Dating websites are not a bad thing but they are often used as a vehicle for scammers to steal your money,” she said.
“Scammers will spend weeks or months baiting you and they’ll make [a victim] feel confident that the person they’re speaking with is real.”
Gunson went on to say, country-wide, there were 680 victims who reported romance fraud, but the romance scam presented the highest dollar loss in Saskatchewan compared to the high number of reported extortion scams.
“Based on the number of reports, extortion is number one scam in Saskatchewan which varies from province to province,” Gunson said.
CAFC received 274 reports of extortion in the province with 54 victims collectively losing $133,865.
Canadians reported a total of 10,257 extortion scam calls which presented a total loss of over $9 million.
“As soon as a new technology is available, scammers will find a way to use it to their ability and we’ve seen it in the past with money service businesses like western union or money gram which would be a vehicle used for some people to support their families abroad and criminals found a way to use that to their advantage,” she said.
According to CAFC website, 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.
“It’s very difficult to stop but we’re going to continue to see these tools either created by criminals or created by a legitimate organization but criminals will always find that mouth hole to fit through to use to their advantage,” she said.
What to do if you think you may be involved in a romance scam
CAFC suggests being 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, explain the concerns and risks to them and help them get out of the situation.
If you suspect you are being scammed, file a report with the CAFC toll-free at 1-888-495-8501 or online www.antifraudcentre.ca.