Local News

Wellington youth organizations team up to present virtual talk about online relationship scams

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo from: Wellington County OPP

The Main Place Youth Centre in Erin has partnered with the BHive in Fergus as well as the Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN) to create virtual online safety presentations.

These bi-weekly presentations are aimed at youth aged 12-25 years-old and the first one begins tomorrow (Feb. 25) at 4:30 p.m.

Constable Beth Hickey with the Wellington County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be a guest speaker on tomorrow’s presentation regarding online relationship scams.

Hickey said on Monday, February 22 marked the first National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada, which is a very real issue in Ontario, as two thirds of all victims nationally are from Ontario.

“In Wellington [County] we border the 400 series highway, which is one of the key pipelines for human trafficking, and a study done by the Government of Ontario found that the average age of recruitment is 13-years-old, and that 70 per cent of victims are under the age of 25-years-old,” Hickey said.

Hickey said with all that data they wanted to make a presentation to make youth aware that there are scammers out there who recruit youth by making them believe they are in a relationship.

She said they wanted to provide local support and resources for the community.

Hickey said presently, in today’s climate with COVID-19 and people being at home, youth are online more than ever.

“On their phones, on computers, and a lot of time they’re working on school work, they’re locked away in a bedroom or somewhere where they are not being monitored,” Hickey said. “They might be supposed to be working on class work, but that leaves them very vulnerable to online scammers or recruiters.”

Hickey said that’s why it’s really important youth are aware of what is out there.

She said when it comes to online relationships the biggest misconception is that someone knows who they are speaking to.

“We are finding that there’s not only an increase in relationship scams in terms of recruiting young people, but also friendship scams, in which women or men are recruiting youth as friends,” Hickey said.

Hickey said it’s not even necessarily in a relationship, but as a friend, and that’s another way how scammers get youth involved in human trafficking.

To sign up for the virtual presentation people can head to the East Wellington Community Services Facebook page, or send an email to mpyc@ew-cs.com.