Social Media Scam
The Social Media & Romance Scam: A Serious Cybercrime
The Social Media and Romance scam has become widespread ever since it became apparent in 2008. Fraudsters disguise to be someone else online to gain access to a victim looking for romantic partners and lure them into some fraudulent acts.
What is the Romance Scam?
Romance Fraud occurs when any individual deceives someone (a victim) into believing that they have a trust relationship and leverages the relationship to deceive the victim into a fraudulent act. The actor may press the victim to send money, share a personal or financial data, or purchase an item of luxury for the actor. In some cases, the victim is pressed to commit fraud on their behalf (help move or wire money) often unknowingly.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reports that in 2018, the Romance Fraud costs Canadians more than $22.5 million, and that only about 5% of Canadians report being victims.
The romance scam is not limited to dating sites only; the use of Instagram and Facebook has also become platforms for the same type of romance scam.
How the Romance Scam Works?
Fraudster create a well-structured, fake profile and initiates an innocent chat that captures your attention. But after a while, the threat actor will start to spin a story. Perhaps an accident that requires urgent needs and money, or how that his/her spouse jilted in the past relationship, or even a loss of employment. The fraudster may even press for your card or financial details.
Usually, the initial phase of the scam may last for a while, sometimes months – tricking you into believing a trust relationship. Already, a lot of messages and personal pictures may have been shared. By this time, guards have dropped, and you remain susceptible to a scam.
Tips to Avoid a Romance Fraud
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the following are common warning signs to watch out for in order to mitigate your risk of a romance fraud:
- The scammer claims to be a U.S. or European citizen but is currently living or traveling abroad.
- When an online connection presses you to communicate majorly via email or instant messaging apps, like WhatsApp, rather than the dating website you both met.
- An online connection asks to be in a romantic relationship with you quickly or tries to isolate you from your family and friends.
- On the other hand, if both of you agree to meet, tell family and friends about the venue and ensure it’s a public place.
- When an online connection always must cancel plans to visit you because of some emergency, there’s a chance of romance fraud.
- When an online connection you are yet to meet in-person or had barely known asks for money or your help in moving money. DO NOT send money to anyone you met online.
Additional Tips to Protect Yourself
Most fraudsters don’t use their real image as a profile picture. You can engage a reverse image search of your admirer to confirm who they truly are. Do the following:
- Right-click on the profile picture and “search for image” on sites like Google or TinEye.
- Right-click again and save the image to your phone or PC.
- Check to see if it matches who you claim to know.
In addition to the above, do not engage in money laundering. Instead, reject all offers to transfer or wire money for a fraudster. Stay safe!
Are you a victim?
Social media and Romance scams are not a new thing again. And since most dating sites do not conduct criminal background checks, it is your call to be careful online.
If you think you have been scammed, your first call is to report to the website or app-admin where you met the fraudster and provide the fraudster’s details, including profile handle and other useful details.
We encourage you to report all fraudulent acts to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) toll-free at 1-888-495-8501. Alternatively file a report at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.