A romance scam, also commonly known as “catfishing”, is a fraud scheme, generally done via social media or through an online dating platform, wherein a scammer feigns romantic interest in a target, develops a “relationship” with that person, and ultimately swindles them for money. Seniors in particular are at high risk of being preyed upon in this way. While this is a growing concern, there are ways to avoid falling for this scam, and things you can do to limit the consequences, should you already be involved in one.

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In 2020 alone, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 899 reports about romance scams, including 620 Canadians who, collectively, lost 18.5 million dollars. These scammers often live in another city or country, but say that they plan to eventually come live with the person they are catfishing so that they can be together in person. They use this story to avoid face-to-face contact, and ultimately con their target out of money.

How to spot a romance scam?

The scammers committing these cons often follow a similar pattern of behaviour. Look out for red flags, such as: 

  • They won’t meet you in person, or even video chat.
  • They profess their love and move the relationship forward very quickly.
  • Their online profile is bare, with very few interactions with others, and few friends/followers.
  • There are inconsistencies between what they post on their online profiles and what they tell you. 
  • They ask for personal or financial information, or intimate photos or videos. These can be later be used for blackmail.
  • They ask for money for things like medical bills, education expenses, their phone bill so they can keep talking to you, or even their bus or airplane fare so that they can come see you. Be especially wary of any “urgent” requests for money.

What to do if you’ve been scammed?

If you suspect you may have become involved in a romance scam, stop all contact immediately, and alert the proper authorities. Provide your local police with as much information as possible and report the incident to Scotiabank (and any other financial institution you may have a compromised account with). Immediately put a stop to any outstanding payments.

Additionally, file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. This can be done through their confidential online reporting system, or by calling 1-888-495-8501.

Check out more tips and tools to help you keep your finances on track for your future