Catfish warning: Canadians lost $17M to online dating scams last year
Romance may be in the air on Valentine's Day, but RCMP say those looking for love online need to protect their wallets as well as their hearts.
Some 748 people lost more than $17 million to online dating scams last year, the force said as it urged anyone using apps or websites to find dates to be cautious.
The victims are largely in their mid-40s to late 50s, with each gender as likely to fall prey to scams, said Sgt. Guy-Paul Larocque. Some have been cheated out of more than $100,000, he said.
"It's devastating, some of them have lost all their savings...It hurts their pride as well," he said.
"The victims are basically falling for that person, they have some type of affection going on, and the scammers take advantage of that," he said. "We've all fallen in love, we know the high when we think we've found the person that we've been looking for, and from there we can become very vulnerable."
Many are reluctant to report the crime, out of embarrassment or -- in the case of older people -- out of fear that they will lose independence as concerned family members step in, he said.
Scammers create fake online profiles in order to gain someone's trust then ask for money, often claiming to be faced with an emergency, RCMP said. That can involve fake social media profiles as well as those on dating sites or apps.
Some red flags to watch for include someone professing their love before meeting in person, or claiming to be from the same town but working overseas, which may be a setup to ask for money later, the force said.
The best solution is to simply not send anyone money, it said.
RCMP also said there are safety risks with online dating because it's difficult to verify a person's identity or motivations before meeting them.
They recommend having the first date in a public place and arranging your own transportation so that the other person doesn't know where you live.
They also suggest telling a friend or family member the person's name and where you're meeting them as well as when you expect to be back.