If there is one thing that most humans have in common, it is the need to love and be loved in return. Our constant quest for companionship, validation, acceptance, and ultimately love, is what pushes us to be social, to better ourselves, and is how the population grows. It is also, however, our Achilles heel. It makes us vulnerable and susceptible, targets for those who would take great advantage of said needs and who prey on those simply looking for love. And while this concept is not new, the prevalence of romance schemes and the resulting financial loss is increasing at an alarming rate with the help of social media.
I know we’ve just met, but I think I love you. Can I borrow $5000?
As I mentioned, love scams aren’t a new phenomenon, they have been occurring on dating sites for probably as long as dating sites have existed. But what IS new is the spread of these frauds to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the list most likely goes on. Romantic connections have become so prevalent on Facebook that they recently created their own dating app! These frauds begin with a seemingly harmless DM from a stranger, but can quickly escalate to much more.
According to a CTV News article, romance frauds are the number one fraud in Canada. It is estimated that in 2018, Canadian victims lost more than 22.5 million to this type of scam (Otis, 2019, p. 3). This figure represents the losses of just 760 victims, meaning that victims were out, on average, nearly $30,000 each (Otis, 2019, p. 6). And while that sounds bad, it gets worse: the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) believes that only 5% of victims are filing reports (Otis, 2019, p. 3). (Note: 2018 was the most recent year for which I could find statistics, but based on trends, we can assume these figures will be higher for 2019.)
There are some warning signs that people should look out for:
- Someone quickly develops a long-distance romantic relationship with you.
- They claim to live nearby but work overseas.
- They claim to be involved in a lucrative business but need financial help. (Otis, 2019, p. 14)
What can singles do to play it safe? The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has some tips:
- Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
- Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. In the excitement about what feels like a new relationship, we can be blinded to things that don’t add up. Pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
- Take it slowly. Try a reverse image search of the profile pictures. If they are associated with a different name or with details that don’t match up, it is a scam. (Fletcher, 2019, p. 6)
To love, or not to love.
Given the prevalence of romance fraud on social media, one has to wonder whether people should refrain from any type of romantic relationship online. When people lose their life savings in the search for love online, one would think that perhaps a return to the old ways of meeting face to face first might be best. But the convenience of meeting people online, of meeting a greater number of people in a shorter amount of time, might be something people just don’t want to give up. The question then becomes, how much are we willing to wager that we’ve actually found our love, in the time of social media?
Fletcher, Emma. (2019, February 12). Romance Scams Rank #1 on Total Reported Loses. U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/data-spotlight/2019/02/romance-scams-rank-number-one-total-reported-losses
Otis, Daniel. (2019, February 13). No. 1 Scam: Romance Fraud Costs Canadians More Than 22.5M in 2018. CTVNews.ca. Retrieved from https://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/no-1-scam-romance-fraud-cost-canadians-more-than-22-5m-in-2018-1
Facebook: Love in the time of Social Media: A look at the modern day love affair. https://bit.ly/2Uc0Hto
Twitter: Love in the time of Social Media #Moderndaylove #RomanceScams https://bit.ly/2Uc0Hto