On the eve of Valentine's Day, Toronto police have issued a warning about so-called romance scams.

"Every year, Canadians fall victim to romance scams," said Det. Gail Regan of the Toronto police financial crimes unit. "Although it is impossible to determine how many scams of this type are committed, investigators all too often deal with victims who are traumatized." 

Toronto police issued this list of elements they commonly see in romance scams:

  • The scam usually starts online through social networking sites or dating websites.
  • The fraudster will immediately offer personal information in hopes the victim will offer similar information in return. This information can include the intended victim's full name, date of birth, address, phone numbers, bank information and credit card information.
  • The fraudster will profess love for the victim in an unusually short period of time, sometimes within days or weeks.

  • Shortly after initial contact, the fraudster will inform the victim that he or she needs money for a family emergency or for travel so they can come visit the victim.

  • The fraudster will request the money be sent via cash transfer companies instead of banks or mailed cheques

“Be aware that, in a relationship, the request for money is not a sign of love," said Regan.

Staff Insp. Mary Lee Metcalfe said education is key to avoid falling victim to scam artists.

“We have seen far too many people get befriended and then bilked out of their personal savings,” she said. “It’s very tragic when we have these stories.”

People who have been approached, or know someone who may have been the victim of a romance scam, are asked to contact police.