Crypto Investors: Beware of Romance Scams

Published By: Jennifer Morin, CoinSmart Compliance Officer

We’ve all seen and heard our fair share of strange stories about online romance. One of the most compelling types of stories and the main reason why I’m writing about this is romance scams.

Scam artists know no age, race, or city. These social engineers know what to say and how to look to catch their prey – almost similar to the Anglerfish (gives you the warm and fuzzies when you see it and you’re captivated by the glow till you get too close and it bites you).

Sadly, romance scams have now entered the already perplexing (to some) cryptocurrency space. To the novice or even more seasoned/expert user/investor this wouldn’t be a problem.

After all, the current price of 1 BTC is approaching 12,500 CAD at the time of writing this post. Sending any significant amount of money in Fiat or crypto to a stranger on the internet that we’ve recently met for a legitimate reason let alone a profession of “love” should scare us.

Since we have officially seen romance scams enter the crypto space, here are some ways to educate yourself or your loved ones. Please note the driving force behind this blog post is to protect people from being swindled out of their life savings because they “met” a cute girl/guy on the internet. 

Common investment scams

  • The most common “careers” of the scammers are: Working on an oil rig, in the military, a Doctor with an international organization
  • Investment fraud: your “GF/BF” talks about a failing business and that you’ll get paid back a 25-35% return if you invest in it (that seems like a normal investment return right?)
  • Vacation home or a place to spend your “happily ever after at” usually they will pick the destination that is more convenient for them but not for you. 
  • Ailing child/parent/ family member or even their pet (this one pulls at your heartstrings because who wants Fluffy the dog to die) Spoiler alert. There is no Fluffy.
  • Personal medical bill/emergency
  • Loss of utilities i.e. electricity, phone, internet (basically anything that implies you won’t be able to talk with them if they lose this service). 
  • Last but not the least, they have agreed to come and see you! But they don’t have a credit card to book the flight, so you know can they use yours?
  • If you do send money (which I suggest against) they will often ask you to send it through less traceable means i.e. cryptocurrency, gift cards etc. The dangers of this is they can be cashed/used quickly and are not easily traceable.
  • Sale of boats, trailers, vehicles – spoiler alert the boat/item of sale often doesn’t exist or it’s a picture “borrowed” from another for sale or site. 

Bitcoin investment scams

Please note, there are other Bitcoin investment scams you should also be wary of:

  • CoinSmart does not work with any 3rd party agents claiming to be our brokers.
  • Be wary of high investment returns (if it sounds too good to be true it often is).
  • Do not allow anyone account access or approval access to “hold/manage” your funds. 

So how do you protect yourself?

  • Make sure all your banking info is secured and not stored on your computer
  • Be careful who you share pertinent info with (not so much stranger danger) but if someone asks for your Mother’s Maiden name.. run.
  • Be objective. If you’ve just started talking to someone online and within hours they love you and want to spend the rest of Your life together be wary. Also if you’re between the ages of 45-85 and a person between the ages of 19-27 are enamored with you. I hate to say this but doesn’t this raise a red flag? Or is the flag on fire but you’re just not looking at it?
  • Don’t send money to someone you don’t know. Offer solutions instead, their business is failing? Help them with figuring out advertising and marketing ideas. Fluffy is sick? See if the local animal shelter provides discounted services. Loss of utilities? Get the name of the service, their account number, and make a one-time payment via a credit card you’ve had for a while. If you notice suspicious charges cancel them right away.
  • Understand that if you have the means to pay for any quality of life that is better than the person you’re talking to they may try and abuse you.
  • Be wary of a stranger asking for financial assistance – if this isn’t something you would tolerate from a Canadian Woman or Man why someone else?
  • Tell your loved ones/friends about your romance!
  • Consider the methods of communication – have you spent weeks/months talking via an internet dating site? Yet they claim to “love you”?

Be safe and vigilant

I know that separating Love and Money can be hard, but losing your life savings is even worse. Be careful, protect yourself and maybe shy away from international dating sites. 

If you or a loved one is suspected of being a victim of a romance scam report it right away. Call your bank, credit card companies and have new cards reissued.

Change your pin and various “safe words” that you’ve set up for account verification. Also, change your email passwords.  Let all your financial platforms know that you want a phone call and a potential account freeze for suspicious international transactions. Report it to the local authorities and even the dating site / social network you’re using.

Happy Investing!

PS. Don’t Google AnglerFish and then go swimming. Poor life choice on my part.