Lifestyle and Living

Avoiding Romance Scams: Watch Out for These 7 Red Flags

Mar 2023 | By Anne Bokma

He’s a pilot based in Texas. Or an engineer working on a rig in Alberta. Maybe he’s a physician on a charitable mission overseas. He connects with you on a dating app or on social media. He begins messaging you every day. He tells you you’re beautiful. He tells you he’s been waiting all his life to meet someone like you. He tells you everything you long to hear.

Trouble is, none of it is true.

Romance scammers are experts at breaking your heart and breaking your bank account.

They’ll woo you online, earn your trust and then eventually, fake a crisis and ask you for money. They are counting on you being so invested in this online relationship that you’ll hand over some of your savings.

Many people do.

Canadians Lost at Least $50 Million to Romance Scammers

An image of two cartoon dating profiles.

More than 1,000 Canadians reported losing a total of $50 million to these loutish lotharios in 2021, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. (The incidence of such crimes is actually thought to be much higher because many victims are too embarrassed to report the crime.)

Studies show that older women are particularly vulnerable to being scammed. They may be widowed or divorced — and are often lonely for male companionship. If they are financially secure, that makes them a prime target for unethical online fraudsters.

Think you are immune to scamming? Think again. Under the right circumstances, almost anyone could be a victim of romance fraud because these phoney Romeos rely on carefully rehearsed scripts and online research into their victims — so they know exactly how to manipulate and exploit them.

The Tinder Swindler Netflix documentary about a jet-setting con artist showed just how crafty online scammers can be when it comes to bilking women out of their money. The “Swindler” in this case, a man who pretended he was the son of a billionaire diamond dealer, defrauded unsuspecting women on dating apps of an estimated $10 million.

Women aren’t the only ones being scammed, of course. The New York Times reported the case of the 87-year-old man who was bilked of his life savings of almost $3 million over the course of four years by a woman he met on a dating app. She convinced the man that she was going to be coming into a big settlement from a car accident, but her lawyer wouldn’t release the funds.  His first cheque to her was for $25,000 and many more followed.

Don’t Let Scammers Prevent You from Online Dating

It’s important to remember that millions of people are on dating apps and this can be a great way to meet someone. Don’t let your fear of being scammed prevent you from seeking out someone who may be a great match for you. As we like to say in our online dating workshops for women over 50: “It’s never too late to meet someone great.”

Romance scams can be devastating for the victims. They thought they found love and instead, they may be facing financial ruin. On top of this, they are reluctant to tell anyone what’s happened.

One of the best ways to boost your confidence when it comes to online dating is to be savvy about how to avoid being scammed. The more aware you are of the tactics of these con artists, the safer you’ll feel — and the more open you’ll be to meeting potentially great people

Here Are 7 Red Flags to Watch For:

  1. They always have excuses as to why they can’t meet in person
  2. They are extremely good looking in their photos and have a profile that seems too good to be true
  3. They profess their love and admiration quickly, without ever meeting you
  4. They want to quickly move to a private form of communication, such as email or text
  5. They want to keep the relationship private and encourage you not to talk about it with friends and family
  6. Their messages may be poorly written, and they may call you by the wrong name
  7. They claim to live close to you, but claim to be working overseas

If you suspect you are being victimized by a romance scammer, trust your instincts and tell somebody. Stop communication with them, call the police and contact your bank to put a stop payment on any cheques or transfers. You can also file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or online through its Fraud Reporting System.

Anne Bokma and Amit KariaAnne Bokma and her partner Amit Karia run Chaptertwodating.com and offering online dating workshops and coaching to women over 50. Find them at chaptertwodating.com.