THERE are plenty of fish in the sea and this Valentine’s Day, Surrey RCMP wants to help you avoid getting catfished.
Romance scams, also known as catfishing, involve using false romantic intentions toward a victim to gain their trust and affection, for the purpose of obtaining money, access to bank accounts or credit cards. Beyond the financial losses, romance scams also have significant emotional and psychological impacts on victims.
Many romance scams begin with a connection through social media or online dating apps. The victim is led to believe they are engaged in a genuine relationship. The perpetrator grooms the victim, feigning affection, and often providing photos and even identification of the person they purport to be. This adds to the sense of the legitimacy of the relationship.
Once the online relationship is established, they will create fictitious scenarios designed to pull at your heart strings, saying they need money to come see you in person, or care for a sick family member. They may even claim to have personal life challenges that require money to fix.
“Victims of romance scams are commonly asked to send money to pay for travel for their online partner,” says Cpl. Joanie Sidhu. “After the money is sent the fraudster disappears, or they make up an excuse to delay the trip and ask for more even money.”
Fraudsters who carry out romance scams prey upon the victim’s vulnerabilities and take advantage of the person’s desire for companionship. This can lead to a sense of shame in victims, and a reluctance to report the crime to police. Surrey RCMP encourages anyone who is a victim of fraud to call police and to reach out for help if they are struggling.
More people than ever are going online to find friendships and relationships. If you seek companionship on the web, here are a few tips that may help protect you from being catfished:
Do a reverse image Google search – a quick and easy way to see if their photo has been copied from the internet.
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’s 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 romance scams and how to protect yourself can be found on the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website. More anti-fraud tips are also available for you and your loved ones on the Surrey RCMP website.