submitted by OPP
On June 6, 2022, a victim contacted the Grenville County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment and reported having fallen victim to romance fraud, losing approximately $27,000 after beginning an online relationship with someone they had met via an online dating platform.
During the course of the investigation, OPP investigators received assistance from the following organizations: Forensic Accounting Management Group (FAMG), the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
On October 25, 2023, following an extensive investigation, a 37-year-old resident of Toronto, Ontario was arrested and charged with Fraud Over $5,000, and Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Over $5,000, contrary to the Criminal Code. The accused was released from police custody and is set to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Brockville in January, 2024.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), romance fraud reports have totaled over $35 million in victim losses thus far in 2023. In 2022, romance fraud reports amounted to $56.1 million in victim losses. These losses have a devastating effect on Canadian victims. It is estimated that only 5-10% of victims report their frauds to law enforcement or to the CAFC.
How do romance frauds operate?
In romance frauds, fraudsters will gain the trust of the victim by carrying on a relationship over a period of time. This can include displays of affection such as sending gifts, flowers, and tokens to prove that their feelings are genuine. In many cases, the fraudster will claim to be a professional business person or military personnel who is travelling or stationed abroad. Once trust is gained, fraudsters will begin to ask for financial assistance for reasons like urgent situations (e.g., a sick family member or to complete a business transaction) or to return to the country (e.g., plane ticket, lawyer fees, or duty and taxes).
How to protect yourself
- Never, under any circumstances, send money or cryptocurrencies to someone you’ve never met.
- Protect your personal and financial information. Do not share personal or financial information with anyone you’ve only met online and review your social media privacy settings.
- Never send intimate photos or videos of yourself. They could be used to blackmail you.
- Do a reverse image search of any photos you are sent to see if they have been taken from a stock photo site or someone else’s online profile.
Where to get help
If you do fall victim to a fraud or know someone who has, we urge individuals to contact your local police service and the CAFC by phone at 1-888-495-8501 or online by way of the Online Reporting System, even if a financial loss did not occur.