By Megan Pounder 
BELLEVILLE – March is Fraud Prevention Month, and this year, police are cracking down on so-called romance scams .
Police say this kind of scam is one of the most common forms of fraud. The OPP Anti-Rackets Branch  says criminals use the romance scam to seek potential victims online – generally single or recently unattached people.
Typically, the scammer uses a fake profile, using stolen pictures of attractive people, to lure the victim in. Once they start “dating,” the scammer asks for money for various reasons, such as transportation costs to meet up, etc.
It commonly happens on dating websites, social media or through emails, according to police. In some cases, prolonged interaction with the scammers has cost some victims tens of thousands of dollars before the “relationship” ends, usually without them ever meeting in person. Some of the most vulnerable victims are seniors.
As part of the Fraud Prevention Month awareness campaign, the OPP and its partners at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre  have some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of the romance scam:
- Don’t give out any personal information in an email or when you are chatting online. Educate yourself. Check the person’s name, the company name, and the addresses used.
- Ask yourself – ‘Would someone I have never met really declare their love for me after only a few letters or emails?’ If the answer is no, report it  to police.
- Never send money or give personal credit-card or online-account details to anyone you do not know and trust. A request to send money to a foreign country to someone you have never personally met should be a red flag.
- Check website addresses carefully. Scammers often set up fake websites with addresses that are very similar to legitimate dating websites.