Torontonians Warned of Online Dating Scam

6 April 2015

Toronto police are warning residents about an online dating extortion scam that has been targeting people in the area. These scams are becoming more common as more people turn to online dating as a way of making connections before they meet in person.

The most common type of fraud on dating sites are scams where the scammer pretends to offer a service or product, collects credit card numbers and then uses them for fraudulent purposes. This leads to credit card fraud, which often involves the scammers creating premium or paid accounts using stolen credit card numbers to bolster the legitimacy of their profile’s appearance. Another dangerous form of dating site fraud is identity mining, where scammers get close to victims to collect their personal information.

These kinds of scams are especially common around the beginning of February when people are more active online, looking for companionship for Valentine’s Day. They can lead to credit card fraud if credit card numbers are exchanged. According to a report from a fraud prevention company, 1.37 percent of all interactions on online dating sites were fraudulent in 2014. That means that if someone interacts with hundreds of people online, at least one or two are likely to be fraudsters trolling for victims.

Police are urging residents to verify the identity of anyone they chat with online, reminding them that, “Once information is shared via Internet-connected devices such as smartphones, computers and tablets, it is unlikely to be retrieved or erased from the internet,” according to CTV News Toronto.

Molly O’Hearn, Vice President of Operations for the company that conducted the report, said in a press release, “Acts of blackmail are rapidly increasing. Fraudsters build trust until they convince individuals to send compromising photos or video, and then blackmail their victim with threats to send the media to friends and family if they don’t send money. It’s very important that online daters understand the typical scenarios that put them at risk and watch safety videos provided by the dating sites.”

There are a few telltale signs of fraud that people using online dating sites should be sure to watch out for to protect themselves. They include:

  • Users that strike up a conversation from another country, or who claim to be from nearby but show idiosyncratic use of language that indicates they are not a native speaker. The majority of online dating scams originate in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Vietnam and Argentina.
  • Being asked to move to video chat from the dating site.
  • Confessing strong feelings after only short conversations.
  • Profile photos that appear to be of different people or don’t match the physical description on the user’s profile.

If you use online dating sites often, signing up for a credit monitoring service may be a good way to stay in control of your identity and personal finances.