Love makes us easy targets it would appear. Valentine’s Day is next week and that means online scammers will be doing everything they can to steal money from the lovelorn.
Canadians lost over 16 million to online dating scams in 2016, slightly higher than in 2015. Sadly, that is just what is reported to us and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The real losses are likely much more than that.
Catphishing is when an honest individual builds an online relationship with a scammer through an Internet dating service or social media.
However, the ‘romantic’ relationship is not legit and the scammer is simply trying to get personal information or money from their victim. It’s believed roughly 20 per cent of online dating profiles are fake.
A recent story showed how a Nanaimo, B.C. senior lost over 100 thousand dollars to someone she thought was coming to Canada to marry her.
Seniors can be very susceptible to this scam as they may be lonely and less familiar with these new online dating platforms and related scams. Many people won’t report the loss because they feel ashamed.
Here are some tips for spotting a catphisher:
• The scammer is quick to request email and or phone number, or offer theirs in order to get the victim out of the dating site.
• They claim to be using a relative’s account so they can’t access it and need to use regular email.
• The ‘relationship’ moves fast; the scammer wants to earn your trust quickly.
• Look for poor grammar and odd responses.
• Look for very generic interests on the scammer’s profile with nothing specific cited, or very little information given.
• There is always a reason you cannot meet in person; usually, they are out of the country.
• Often they claim to be involved in a sudden ‘accident’ and need financial help.
• If they ask for money you should walk away.
• Don’t put too much personal information on your profile.
• Do a Google search on a potential mate; do a reverse image search to see if their profile picture shows up anywhere else online.
Common complaints about legitimate dating services include:
• Failure to match clients with compatible singles.
• Use of intimidating or duplicitous sales tactics.
• Failure to deliver. Complainants were told the service had a database of thousands of singles, but they didn’t receive the promised number of dates or introductions.
• Minimum enrollment period. Contracts often are renewed automatically. Either the customer didn’t realize the steps needed to cancel the account, or the consumer took the necessary steps but billing continued anyway.
• Inability to cancel: Consumers said some companies wouldn’t allow them to cancel the contract after being dissatisfied with the company and its process.
• Don’t fall in love with the advertising. Be skeptical of claims such as “an exclusive network of people,” “for sincere daters only” or “beautiful singles just like you.”
• Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Sales associates may tell you that a low price is only good for that day and ask you to sign a contract immediately.
• Know how to break up. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships.