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MNP's TAKE: Asking a forensic accountant for dating advice may not be an obvious choice. But when it involves protecting yourself from online scams, you’ve come to the right place. In business and in love, rogues will take advantage of your kindness, your belief that others are as good and honest as you are, as well as your fear that you will miss out on “the one” if you don’t act quickly.Fraud is about dishonesty and deprivation; their lies, your loss.
If you think you might be in love with a stranger on the other side of the computer screen - or with the next sure-thing investment - some simple due diligence can help you see through the dishonesty and protect yourself from the heartbreak, whether romantic or financial.
For more information on how MNP can protect you from fraudsters, contact Greg Draper MBA, DIFA, FCPA, FCGA, CFE, ICD.D Vice President - Valuations, Forensics and Litigation Support, at 403.263.3385 or [email protected]
BY SOFI PAPAMARKO FROM THE TORONTO STAR
This can be a lonely time of year for a lot of people, especially singles.
But no matter how badly you want to partner up, for those who use online dating sites to forge connections with potential mates, it's important to give your head more credence than your heart.
In other words: If the person you're communicating with online seems too good to be true, they probably are.
In 2015, Canadians were bilked out of close to $17 million from online-dating scammers. And those are just the reported scams.
Scammers attempt to earn the love and trust of their online targets before asking them to send money for seemingly legitimate reasons - a plane ticket or a family emergency, for example.
According to Borke Obada-Obieh, a graduate student in computer science at Carleton University studying security precautions taken by online daters, as a country Canada is ranked the seventh-most susceptible to online-dating scams.
"Desire to find an emotional connection with someone could make (dating-site users) easily vulnerable to scamming," she says.
We're a nation of Eleanor Rigbys with money. This makes us sitting ducks to romance scammers.
According to Obada-Obieh's findings, scammers reach out to people of all ages, but their targets seem to skew female.
Wende Wood, 47, has been approached by would-be online-dating scammers at least five times. The Calgary-based woman lived in Toronto for 17 years. It was here where she was targeted by a man who claimed to be "Larry," a Romanian-Canadian from Toronto who strung her along for nearly four months.
"His first messages were very long and flowery and full of compliments," Wood says. "He was allegedly in the U.K. to settle his late father's estate and complained about not having enough money for a lawyer to get it through probate. He had been telling me that he loved me and that he couldn't wait to start our life together, even though we had never met. I told him to slow down, cowboy."
"Larry" and Wood spoke over Skype, although he refused a video call.
"He definitely sounded West African rather than Romanian or Canadian."
Three months in, he asked Wood for $10,000 to settle the will.
"After I balked, he lowered it to $5,000 and then $3,000," she said. "We argued and I finally sent him a really nasty message and said goodbye and that I hoped that he/they were not successful in conning any other women."
If you're worried about falling victim to an online-dating-site scammer, here are some important things to keep in mind while getting to know people over the Internet:
If anyone pledges their love to you before so much as meeting you in person ... that's a huge red flag. Harlequin-novel-level declarations before having met in person are extremely suspect and should be treated with deep suspicion.
Online-dating scammers are everywhere - you're not any safer if you use paid subscription sites such as eHarmony or Match.
Many scammers targeting Canadians are based in West Africa and former Soviet countries. If wooed by someone with a tenuous grasp of English, it pays to be cautious (this is not to say that there aren't many genuine people seeking love online who don't speak English as their first language, but it's worth bearing in mind).
Take note of faster conversation speed, as this is a common trend among scammers. They're always online and answer messages very quickly.
Never offer personal information such as your credit card number, bank account number, home address, SIN or anything else you wouldn't casually leave lying around to anyone online.
Be cautious of profiles with photos of people who look like models or actors. Do a Google Reverse Image Search to see where else these photos have potentially landed on the Internet.
Never, ever send money to anyone you don't know. For any reason.
Listen to your gut. When in doubt, have a trusted friend or relative read your online correspondence to see if they can sense if anything is amiss. If you're emotionally invested, your judgment may be off.
Sofi Papamarko is a writer and matchmaker who lives in Toronto. Re
This article was written by Sofi Papamarko from The Toronto Star and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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