Valentine’s Day is upon us in Calgary and the Better Business Bureau is warning about the risks of catphishers, scammers who target people looking for romance online.

The BBB says catphishing is when someone contacts you online and attempts to garner your affection and trust while their real motive is to steal your money.

The most recent romance scam statistics say they were the highest-grossing scams in 2011, coming up with a loss of $12M by Canadians.

Sandra Crozier-McKee, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay, says that while February 14 is a time to celebrate love, people should also exercise extreme caution.

"People who aren't in a relationship can feel lonely or excluded from this holiday, so they turn to online dating sites to make a quick connection with someone," she says in a release. "But there are fraudulent Cupids out there waiting to take advantage of the kindness and generosity of others in an attempt to win their trust and affections. If you're suspicious about the true intentions of your Valentine, educate yourself on the signs of a catphishing scam to ensure you won't be left broken-hearted and empty-handed."

The BBB has a list of 10 major signs that your online romance may not be what you think it is:

  • Keep in mind vast age differences – if you’re 65 and approached by someone in their 20s, it could be a red flag. Photos don’t change anything either – scammers usually use fake images.
  • Anxious to move away from the site – scammers try to encourage their targets to leave the safety of the dating site and onto other methods of direct contact
  • Quick to profess their love – con artists are always in a hurry to win your affections, so they will tell you they love you far before you’re ready and want to plan a future together to show they are committed
  • Constant talk of trust – catphishers talk about trust and how important it is to hammer home the point they can be trusted. They’ll only do this to pave the way for a request for money that they can be trusted to pay back
  • Not wanting to meet face-to-face – scammers often use fake identities so they use a variety of excuses not to meet face to face so they can avoid getting caught
  • Avoiding meeting in person - Since catphishers are using fake identities, they will use numerous excuses not to meet in person so as to avoid questions, suspicions or getting caught.
  • Living far away – scammers often say that they live far away from you and will use that to avoid meeting, but will sometimes agree to meet you if you foot the bill for their trip
  • Working out of town – another excuse to avoid meeting or verifying their identity
  • Poor grammar, spelling mistakes – if the person you’re in contact with has poor grammar or broken English in their messages, it could be a sign they are a scammer, especially when they say they are from your hometown
  • Sharing stories of financial difficulty – scammers will often appeal to your sympathy by sharing stories of their heat being cut off, or their car being stolen
  • Asking for money – catphishers use every technique in the book to get you to send them money or receive money yourself. The answer should always be no

For more information and other consumer tips, visit