The Ontario Provincial Police is saying that 95 percent of online romance scams are not reported.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Romance scams generated 376 complaints in 2018 and claimed 275 victims in Ontario who lost almost $12 million.

This is almost half of the total Canadian loss as police believe the actual number is greater because of the number of unreported incidents.

As Fraud Prevention Month continues this month, police want you to ask yourself, ‘Would someone I have never met really declare their love for me after only a few letters or emails?’ Police say the answer should be no.

The OPP’s Anti-Rackets Branch, Ontario’s Serious Fraud Office, and their
fraud prevention partners say criminals use romance scams to seek potential victims online.

They say victims are generally single or recently unattached people including seniors.

According to the SFO, a recently-unattached senior fell victim to a romance scam.

During an eight-month period, the victim transferred money 19 times from his local bank to an account in Malaysia.

The victim believed he was sending his money to a woman who he had met online.

The scammer claimed she was from the Toronto area but was in Australia on business.

She had coached the victim on what to say to the bank and then told the victim not to tell anyone about her, saying she wanted to surprise everyone with their relationship after she returned to Canada.

The senior wound up losing his life-savings and falling into debt to a total of more than $700,000.

As part of the annual Fraud Prevention Month campaign, the OPP, SFO and its partners at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of the Romance scam.

  • Don’t give out any personal information in an email or when you are chatting online. Educate yourself. Check the person’s name, employment information and the addresses used.
  • Never send money, or give personal credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust. A request to send money to a foreign country to someone you have never personally met should be a ‘red flag’ — no matter how convincing they are.
  • Do not send intimate photos to anyone online as they could be used for blackmail.
  • If you suspect a loved one is being victimized, talk to them about the warning signs.

If you or someone you know suspect they’ve been a victim of the Romance Scam, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or your local police service.

“Recognize, Reject and Report Fraud”