Beware of romance scams! Recognize the 5 red flags

You are reading the Original Version (CLB5+) Read Simple Version (CLB3-4)

Skip to:

Did you know that romance scams were responsible for the second highest amount of fraud-related dollar loss in 2021?

Yes, it’s on the rise. And you’ll be surprised by the advanced methods scammers employ nowadays to appear legitimate. They are crafty and can play the long game. The scariest types of this scam are done by organized crime, as law enforcement experts have found.

Some might think that only clueless people fall for this scam. Under the right circumstances, anybody can fall prey to a romance fraud. The most common victims are well-educated women in their late 40s to 60s. There are even new variations of the scam that target young people (see “Sugar Daddy” scam).

What is a romance scam?

A romance scam is when “a person creates a false identity and pretends to have romantic feelings for a victim to gain trust and affection for the purpose of obtaining their money” (RMCP).

This can be done in-person or online. However, in recent years, online romance scams have boomed with the rise of social media and online dating apps. Scammers have an easier time hiding their identities through fake profiles and online messaging. Plus, they can easily use tools like cash apps, crypto currency, and gift cards that are hard to trace.

Romance scam infographics

How do you know you’re in one?

Watch out for these red flags:

  1. The relationship escalates quickly

    You get messages like “I am falling for you” or “I love you” after only a few days of talking to each other. The scammer will insist that the connection with you is so strong, that they are sure that you’re their soul mate.

  2. Asking for money

    This is the clearest sign that you’re being defrauded or about to be defrauded. It can start with a small amount, just to test the waters. The scammer will also make the request hard to refuse. It could be that they (or a loved one) met an accident, got diagnosed with an illness, or figure in any event that is urgent so they can push you to send money immediately. Another reason for asking money would be to come and see you in person. The scammer can guilt you into sending money by saying that they are doing it for you.

  3. Love bombing

    These are intense displays of affection. The scammer may send you many text messages or calls daily. They may also send flowers or inexpensive gifts. Love bombing is done to make you dependent on them, making it easier to manipulate you.

  4. Sob stories

    This is a ploy to get your sympathy and make it easier to convince you to send money. Sob stories can range from family drama, to getting robbed or losing their job.

  5. Mirroring

    The scammer will tend to believe what you believe, agree with everything that you say, or share many similar experiences with you. For example, they can say “Just like you, I lost a parent at a young age, so I know what it’s like to yearn for love.” This is another way of gaining your trust.

How to protect yourself from romance scams

  1. Don’t share too much

    Do you like oversharing? Be careful, especially when you do this on social media. Scammers can study your profile and posts, then use the information to manipulate you. There are scammers who specialize on preying on the emotionally vulnerable like widows/widowers, divorcees, or depressed people.

  2. Trust your instincts

    If you feel that something is off and you suspect something, or if you’ve noticed one or two of the red flags described above, disengage. Think for a minute and look back on your interactions with the person. Consult someone, like a friend, who can give you clear and unbiased advice.

  3. Do your research

    A simple Google search can reveal a lot. Make a quick reverse image search of their profile picture to verify their identity. Read about the Military romance scam to learn how scammers are using photos of real military personnel to catfish.

  4. Don’t be bullied into giving money

    Don’t hesitate to say no to a request for money. This is the real test to see if they are sincere or they are just scamming you.

  5. Be informed

    Read about the latest scams from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or download the Little Black Book of Scams from Competition Bureau Canada. You are less likely to fall victim when you are aware and informed.

Sources: Just the facts: Romance scams, Paul Northcott, RCMP; and Romance scams, Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Accessed November 29, 2022.

Back to top

We'd love to hear from you!

Please login to tell us what you think.

Related Learning Activities

Digital Skills at Work- Week 3

Article thumbnail fallback

Course Description Digital Skills at Work (DSW) is a four-week course focusing on essential digital skills required to succeed in one’s career…. Read more »

Week 1 – Digital Citizenship

Laptop on desk for distance learning from home

Week 1 focuses on the key concepts of the digital world. Think about your daily life and the technology you… Read more »

WorkCom_Week 4

A woman giving a presentation at work

This is our last week of Workplace Communications. This time you are in the driver’s seat. We look forward to your presentation… Read more »

WorkCom_Week 3

A woman giving a presentation at work

We have now reached week 3 of Workplace Communications! This week, we are engaging in a number of activities that allow… Read more »

Back to top

CC BY-NC-SAText of this page is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, unless otherwise marked. Please attribute to English Online Inc. and link back to this page where possible. For images and videos, check the source for licensing information.