There’s no romance in becoming a victim of fraud. With the increased use of social media websites, social networking sites and dating sites, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) has reported a rise in a type of scam that relies on building a trusting relationship with another individual over the Internet.

How does the scam work?

Typically the victim and the criminal will often meet virtually through a social networking or dating site. The criminal will then proceed to build a relationship with his or her intended victim, sometimes spending several months in building a rapport online with the intention of making the victim feel they are in a romantic relationship.

The criminal will typically say that they are another city or country and that they eventually want to meet the victim in person. Around this time, the criminal will note that they can’t afford to travel and will seek assistance from the victim in covering travel costs. A variation on this theme includes the criminal noting that there’s an emergency, a sick family member for example, and that they need financial help from the victim to visit the sick individual. Of course, the requests for help are all a scam and the money wired by the victim, often in very large amounts, is now in the hands of the criminal.

Tips to avoid becoming a victim

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, in 2014 Canadians lost more than $13.7 million to this scam and they list they following warning signs that your new relationship may be a scam:

  • Fraudsters want to develop a quick relationship with you, be suspicious when someone you haven't met professes their love to you.
  • Never under any circumstances send money for any reason.
  • Be cautious when conversing with an individual that claims to live close to you but is working overseas, this is a set up for the fraudster to provide numerous reasons to ask for money.
  • If you receive a "pay cheque" or another form of payment from someone you've met online and they ask you to cash it and send a portion of the funds back to them - don't do it.

If you think you may be a victim

If you think you may be a victim of a romance scam or any other kind of fraud, it’s important that you contact police immediately. Bank staff are aware of these kinds of scams and are trained to pay attention if a customer makes an unusual transaction -- for example, withdrawing more money than usual. However, as the owner of the account, you are ultimately responsible for any funds that you withdraw from your bank account. That’s why it’s especially important to ask questions and be 100 per cent positive about who you’re sending money to and why.