Love in a dangerous (online) time

Photo by Jefferson Santos

Love may be in the air in February but so too is, unfortunately, potential danger.

In 2021, Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) across North America received 276 reports of romance scams. One romance scam in the Calgary area (not a senior) resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to a woman who believed she was involved in an online romance with the love of her life. She wasn’t. Instead, she was speaking to a member of an organized crime group whose aim was to separate her from her money.

This is a good moment to remind everyone reading this that the Better Business Bureau does not exist to scare the wits out of people. Many people find love and romance online. The key is to know what to watch out for. In other words, put your head before your heart.

Tips to spot this scam:

Too hot to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Be honest with yourself about who would be genuinely interested. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.

Moving fast. A scammer will begin speaking of a future together and tell you they love you quickly. They often say they’ve never felt this way before.

Talk about trust. Scammers will start manipulating you with talk about trust and how important it is. This will often be the first step to asking you for money.

Don’t want to meet. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone a meeting because they say they are travelling or live overseas or are in the military.

Suspect language. If the person you are communicating with claims to be from your hometown but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.

Hard luck stories. Before moving on to asking you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles like heat being cut off or a stolen car or a sick relative, or they may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc.).

Protect yourself from this scam:

● Never send money or personal information that can be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give someone your credit card information to book a ticket to visit you. Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for information like credit card, bank, or government ID numbers.

● Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.