WINGHAM, ONT. -- The age of the internet has made it much easier to find that special someone online.

“We recognize that more people are turning to the digital world for dating. If anything, this has increased during COVID,” says Steve Frayne, of Huron County’s Domestic Assault Review Team (DART).

While the vast majority on online meet-ups go well, Frayne says he’s noticing more and more issues of violence, related to digital hook-ups.

“Through my job as a probation officer, I’m aware of domestic violence connected to online dating sites, that is happening in Huron County,” he says.

Which is why a committee that usually deals with partner on partner violence is focusing their efforts on online dating violence.

“It’s not just a big city thing, it’s happening here,” says Frayne.

Const. Jamie Stanley with the Huron OPP is also part of DART and he says taking a cautious approach including Googling your prospective date, meeting close to home and in a public place, could make all the difference.

“A coffee shop - meet somewhere local. Leaving your local town to travel hours away puts you in a very vulnerable position,” says Stanley.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates $19 million was lost by victims of “romance scams” in 2019, but that’s only about five per cent of what they expect was really lost by embarrassed, heartbroken Canadians.

“I’ve seen it first-hand with local victims in Huron County, that have lost their entire life savings. Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre says the average loss is $28,000,” says Stanley.

Due to the pandemic, people are even more susceptible to online dating violence, or being duped financially, suggests Frayne.

“We’re lonely and isolated right now. So, we’re reaching out to meet someone. It just may not be the best way or time, to do it,” says Frayne.

If you have experienced domestic or dating violence, you access support, counselling, and tips by clicking here.