BBB warns of romance scams in British Columbia

She was contacted via Facebook, where the scammer claimed to have fallen in love with her, although he never spoke to her.

A Richmond woman is warning people to beware of online romance scammers, after someone tried to trick her into buying and transferring cryptocurrency.

Sydney Yuen wasn’t surprised in December, when a stranger contacted her via Facebook, complimenting her on one of the many dishes she posts from time to time.

Yuen, who is in her 30s, said she is part of many social media groups and such interactions happen all the time.

But after just two days of exchanging messages abroad, there were already red flags popping up.

“I followed him to start. Although there is no indication on my profile that I was single, I don’t have it on social media,” Yuen told the Richmond News, after reporting the scam to the Better Business Bureau (BBB ).

“He sent a video, claiming he was in this beautiful place enjoying a ballerina performance. I searched the place from the video and it seemed to be in Moscow.

“When I asked him, he said he was in San Francisco. He said a lot of places look the same now. That was it for me.

Yuen then decided to take the scammer himself for a ride, telling him that “as long as he wastes time with me, maybe I’ll keep them away from someone else.”

She said she kept him going for about a month, until mid-January, leading him to believe she was still on board, as he professed his love for her.

Yuen never reciprocated, but asked for her California address, so she could send him a Chinese New Year card.

Unsurprisingly, he refused.

“I was trying to get him to give details of his whereabouts,” she added.

“I think he realized I was onto him and he stopped contacting me. That was a month ago.”

Yuen said the man, who claimed to be of Asian descent, rarely spoke directly about money.

“He would then subtly slip into the conversation that he had a family member who was a father figure to him, and that this family had inside information about the London Gold business.

“He claimed to use cryptocurrency to trade gold to avoid taxes. At that time I knew he was a crook.

The BBB has seen a growth in romance scams in recent years, with 276 reports received last year, a 13% increase from 2020.

In 2022, the number of reported romance scam cases has already more than doubled in the first two months of the year compared to the same period last year.

The victims befriended and were drawn into relationships with fraudsters whose sole purpose was to obtain money and/or credit card information from them.

To help you secure your online dating journey, BBB suggests looking for red flags:

• Too hot to be true. The scammers offer great photos and stories of financial success. Be honest with yourself, and if they seem too perfect or too good to be true, your alarm bells should ring.

• Urged to leave the site. Catfishers will very quickly try to get you to communicate via email, messaging or phone.

• Fast movement. A fisher-cat will start talking about a future together and tell you that he loves you quickly. They often say they have never felt this before.

• Talk about trust. The Catfishers will start manipulating you by talking about trust and its importance. This will often be a first step to ask you for money.

• You don’t want to meet. Beware of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meetings because they say they are traveling or living abroad or in the military.

• Suspicious language. If the person you’re communicating with claims to be from your hometown but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language, or uses sentences that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.

• Stories of bad luck. Before asking you for money, the scammer may allude to financial problems like a heating failure or a stolen car or a sick relative, or he may share a sad story from his past (death of parents or spouse , etc).

To protect yourself, consider the following tips:

• Share with caution: Think twice before posting information about yourself and others online. Consider what your message reveals, who might read it, and how it might affect you or others. Creating an alternate persona for online profiles is always good for limiting the sharing of personal information.

• Make your account private: Consider setting your online or social profiles to “private”. This setting will make it difficult for scammers to find and contact you. Conversely, a public profile will make it easier for scammers to learn about you from your posts.

• Never send money or personal information when dating online. Don’t send money or personal information that could be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give someone your credit card information to book a ticket to visit you. Cut contact if someone starts asking you for information such as your credit card, bank, or government ID numbers.

• Ask specific questions about the details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over memorizing details or the relevance of a story.

• Use reverse image search. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use in their profiles. You can perform a reverse image search using a website such as tineye.com or images.google.com to see if a profile’s photos are stolen from elsewhere. You can also search online for a profile name, email address, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t.

Report romance scams to BBB Scam Tracker and protect others from romance scams.

About Geraldine Higgins

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