With love in the air around Valentine’s Day, Nova Scotia RCMP and Halifax Regional Police are educating citizens on how to avoid becoming victims of fraud associated with on-line dating.
Each year the Financial Crime Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division investigates a wide range of fraud-related complaints, including victims who have been defrauded thousands of dollars from people they met online through Internet dating websites.
In some cases, relationships develop over an extended period of time and once the suspects feel they are able to manipulate their victims, they begin to ask the victims to either cash cheques for them or help them out financially with an ’emergency.’ Usually the victims are asked to wire money. This is used as the most common means to transfer the funds because wiring money can be done internationally versus dealing with specific banking institutions. Once the victim gives the suspect a large sum of money, the suspect mysteriously disappears.
Police have also received reports from victims who are defrauded by suspects who claim to be able to get them items, such as cars, trucks and off-highway vehicles. These victims are groomed over a period of time and eventually give the suspects large amounts of money, but they never receive the items they think they’re buying.
If you have been victimized, don’t let fear of embarrassment stop you from reporting an incident to police as secrecy works to the suspect’s benefit.
Remember, if you meet someone either in person or online and it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you choose to date online, police remind you of the following security tips to ensure you don’t put more than your heart on the line:
Guard your identity: Remain anonymous or use a nickname until you feel comfortable disclosing more information.
Be cautious about using webcams that reveal your identity. In many of the dating financial scams, the suspects don’t want to use a webcam; they only want to exchange photos. This could be due to the fact that if using a webcam, it can be recorded and reveal their identity.
Be aware that when exchanging photos, you may not be receiving a photo of the person you’re actually communicating with on-line.
Never disclose personal information. Don’t provide your last name, address, workplace, phone number or any other identifying information when corresponding online.
Never disclose credit card or banking information.
Do not provide your address under the guise of receiving gifts or flowers.
Should you decide to meet your on-line date in person, ensure your first meeting is in a public place. Make sure you tell a friend whom you are meeting and where, and be sure to check in with that person after the meeting. Stay sober and never leave your drink unattended.
Whether using the Internet or meeting someone in a public place, dating is never risk-free. Police remind you that you’re in control; it’s up to you to make your personal safety a priority. We wish you a safe and happy Valentine’s Day.