Online dating scams not for the faint of heart, RCMP say

At least 56 Albertans have been targets of online dating scams this year — a number the RCMP believes could be much higher.

Romance fraud on the rise as Albertans lose over $3 million

Finding love online can have worse outcomes than heartbreak - which means it's important to protect yourself. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

At least 56 Albertans have been targets of online dating scams this year — a number the RCMP believes could be much higher.

As the internet becomes the method of choice for finding love, romance scammers are on the rise, RCMP warn.

"Romance scams are a serious crime that can cause irreversible financial and emotional ruin for the victim," said Const. Scott Noseworthy in a news release.

Perpetrators of the scams pretend to be madly in love with their victims, and then, without ever having met face-to-face, convince them to send large sums of money, often using fake reasons such as medical emergencies or a sick relative.

In total, the province's 56 victims lost $3.6 million.

Intense shame and embarrassment

Because victims of online romance scams often suffer from intense shame and embarrassment that prevent them from coming forward, the RCMP believes the number of actual victims is likely much higher.

"This is the type of crime that can completely destroy a person's life, especially for individuals over 50 — the most common age group targeted — who have less opportunity to rebuild and recover from the losses," Noseworthy said.

RCMP outline a number of red flags to be aware of, such as someone claiming to live in your city or town but is travelling abroad; expressing strong feelings in a very short period of time; making excuses to not meet in person; and asking for money.

Anybody who has been the victim of an online romance scam or know someone who has, is urged to contact the police and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.