Romance fraud cost Canadians more than $20 mil


Staff member

No. 1 scam: Romance fraud cost Canadians more than $22.5M in 2018

Daniel Otis , Staff
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2019

It took 10 months and $3,000 in money transfers before Michelle Boyer of Ottawa realized that she was the victim of an online romance scam.

“He used to send me poems,” she told “When I showed my sister… she’s like, ‘These are poems from a poetry website!’ So it wasn’t even stuff from him. And then it started clicking in.”

Romance scams cost Canadians more than $22.5 million in 2018, surpassing all other forms of fraud in terms of money lost, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). But the CAFC also believes that only about five per cent of victims are filing reports.

“When it comes to romance scams, you always have to be on the lookout for those red flags,” Sgt. Guy Paul Larocque of the RCMP added in a statement. “We are talking about a new relationship with someone you met online that seems too good to be true and that grows really fast. The person seems overly eager to meet you until something happens… (and) they suggest they need money from you.”

That $22.5-million figure represents the losses of just 760 victims in 2018, meaning that on average, victims were out nearly a staggering $30,000 each.

“We know that there are many more victims that have sent money but have not reported it,” Gunson said. “And our message there is that they’re not alone; they should never feel ashamed.”

In 2018, romance fraud was also the number 1 scam in Canada in terms of dollars lost, according to CAFC data, costing Canadians nearly double what wire and loan fraud did. That’s up from 2017, when 750 victims reported losing a total of $19.6 million.

Because many scammers operate overseas, victims also seldom recoup the money that’s been taken from them.

“Dating sites are not a bad thing -- it’s a very good way to meet someone,” Jessica Gunson, the CAFC’s acting call centre and intake unit manager, told “But what (you) need to know is that there are dangers that lie within there...

Recently released RCMP data paints an even fuller picture, showing that more than two-thirds of all Canadian romance scam victims were in Quebec and Ontario. In the Northwest Territories’ sole documented 2018 case, a victim even shelled out a shocking $72,285.51 to their scammer.

There is no publicly available data, however, on the ages and genders of the victims and what online dating platforms they were using. There is also no publicly available data on where such scams originate from.

“The only way to stop these scammers is through prevention,” Gunson said.

The chief warning signs, Gunson explains, are if:
Someone quickly develops a long-distance romantic relationship with you.
They claim to live nearby but work overseas.
They claim to be involved in a lucrative business but need financial help.

Also be sure to never send intimate photos or personal or financial information to someone you don’t really know, Gunson says.

“Just be aware,” Gunson, who actually met her husband online, added. “When you get that request or that message from someone, there’s no harm in speaking with them. But if you can’t meet up with them at a local coffee shop face-to-face, you don’t want to be dealing with them. And the second that they ask you for money, that’s your red flag that you’re most likely dealing with a scammer...