In today's increasingly connected online world, many Canadians turn to social media to chat with family members, friends, and meet new acquaintances or love interests. Sadly, fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated in targeting Canadians who use social media and dating sites.
According to data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), in 2021, romance scams were among the country's top forms of fraud. In Alberta, nearly $4.5 million was apparently lost to romance scams last year. While fraudsters continue to use the latest trends, technologies and social platforms to target Albertans, by recognizing the tell-tale signs and tactics, you can better avoid them, protect yourself and ultimately report them.
How Online Investment and Romance Scams Work
The online social media platforms you use daily can offer up a lot of key information fraudsters look for when tailoring their scams to you. Things like profiles or posts that share interests, location, current events you are interested in, and even your age can all be clues into how they can best approach you and maximize their chances of success. For instance, if you post articles on cryptocurrencies, a fraudster researching your account might assume you are interested in it and reach out to you, acting as a crypto investment advisor.
In a 2020 Investor Index conducted by the Canadian Securities Administrators, of which the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) is a member, 1 in 4 Canadians stated that they are more inclined to trust someone promoting an investment if they have a friend who has already invested. Fraudsters also recognize that you’re more inclined to invest if the recommendation comes from someone you trust, like a family member or friend.
While reviewing your online profiles, the fraudster can pull together a list of your family members and close friends that you correspond with publicly. Once they have this information, fraudsters can hack a family member's or friend's social media account and pose as them while offering you an investment opportunity.
Fraudsters will also patrol online social media groups, messaging apps and dating sites, looking for opportunities to quickly establish trusting friendships or romantic relationships to manipulate their target into investing in a scam. Worse yet, fraudsters often can convince the victim to continue "investing" over time for what they promise will be "bigger" returns or the opportunity to "recover" supposed losses or pay taxes. In the end, the victim just loses more money.
How You Can Protect Your Social Media Profiles from Investment Fraud & Romance Scams
An important first step to protecting your online profiles is limiting the publicly available information about yourself. All major social media platforms allow you to edit who can see your account, images, communications and friends list. It is recommended to adjust your privacy settings to block unknown users from learning more about you.
When corresponding with others on social media or dating apps, be highly skeptical of all unsolicited investment offers, especially from those you just met. Red flags include:
- pressure to invest
- guarantees of high returns with little to no risk
- attempts to make you feel like you're missing out
- investment offers in cryptocurrencies
- abnormal communications regarding investments from friends or family members online
Online social media platforms and dating sites can play an important part in our lives. By making our accounts more private and staying skeptical of online money-making opportunities, you can better protect your hard-earned money from insidious scam artists.
If you are offered a suspicious investment opportunity online or through a dating site, don't hesitate to take a picture and send it, along with a few details about the platform, time, and date, to the Alberta Securities Commission through email@example.com.
Alberta Securities Commission
The ASC is the regulatory agency responsible for administering the province's securities laws. It is entrusted with fostering a fair and efficient capital market in Alberta and with protecting investors. As a member of the Canadian Securities Administrators, the ASC works to improve, coordinate, and harmonize the regulation of Canada's capital markets.