Romance scammers thrive in the age of dating apps

The need for protection when looking for love spans beyond the bedroom

This story was created by Xtra's branded content team alongside Crime Scenes2 Investigations, separate from Xtra's editorial staff.

What happened to the days where you could go to your local bar on a Friday night and meet someone? Dating has changed, and more specifically, so has online dating. Now a billion dollar industry, online dating is one of the most popular ways for singles to meet a potential mate with a multitude of apps and hookup sites from Tinder, Grindr, Scruff and more.

According to the Pew Research Centre, 15 percent of adults in the US have reported using an online dating site or a mobile dating app, at some point in their life because let’s face it — who has time to go out and meet people IRL anymore? But it may surprise you to know that beyond the winks, emojis, messages and potentially X-rated photos, the person you’re chatting with may not be the person you think they are.

Xtra chatted with a private investigator from Cs2i to discuss how scammers woo their potential victims. What they explained was that while you’re at our most vulnerable, turning to the internet in hopes of love or companionship, the person on the other end could be playing off your emotions to potentially gain access to private and personal information to go after your money or identity.

For these scammers, the explosion of social media has made it easier than ever to gather details and photos posted online in order to create false personas. According to the Pew Research Centre, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all romance scams originate on dating sites, with one in four originating on social media and one in 10 being initiated via email.

Identity theft is nothing new, but it’s on the rise. In 2014, over 20,000 Canadians were victims of identity theft, an increase of nearly 20 percent in two years, according to the National Bank of Canada. Many people who have been the target of identity theft or fraud via dating apps often don’t report it because they feel afraid or embarrassed. But not reporting allows fraudulent behaviour to continue, and can affect others. Credited for over $12 million in losses to date, romance scams are the highest grossing in Canada. It’s time we put an end to it.

So what can you do to protect yourself from fraudsters? The team at Cs2i have provided some best practices to proactively safeguard your safety and privacy online, which include but are not limited to:

Don’t overshare online

Don’t share personal details about your life online, such as your address or telephone number

Don’t post photographs that could potentially reveal your wealth, such as designer watches, bags or clothing

Avoid geo-tagging yourself or revealing where you’re going

Don’t send any money or gifts to individuals you have met online

Cs2i says that scammers or predators are often looking for some type of vulnerability, and they can spend days or often months grooming a potential victim. It’s also important to know that not all scams are created equally in the online dating world. While some people could be falsely using another identity to woo you, another could be preying on you for meals or even just using you for free emotional support.

When speaking to someone you’ve met online, here are some warning signs that you might be getting scammed:

They will avoid meeting in person

They avoid visual chat apps like Skype or Google Hangouts

They often have serious or dramatic life events like medical emergencies or family deaths

They will always speak to you at the same time of day, online or on the phone

They ask for money or other gifts

Something just doesn’t add up
Online dating can be a very effective way of meeting new people, but no dating or hookup site is immune to scammers. It’s important to be on your guard and not be led by your emotions. It all comes down to how you can become proactive in your own safety and what you share online.

Crime Scenes2 Investigations