So, your friend took someone’s advice and signed up for a dating website… Sure, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and it really was! They met a couple of new friends, went on some dates, and even had a couple of fun nights with one or two of them. This adventure seemed to come to a halt when they found this one person who seemed to just be the full package; they had the nice body, great job, and was so loving and caring right off the bat, it was almost too good to be true!
Turns out, it was.
Then found themselves in the trap of a romance scam. Which is crazy, since they consider themselves to be pretty well-versed in the internet game, so they genuinely never thought they’d fall for it. It can be embarrassing to have this happen, but what they need to realize is this type of stuff happens ALL the time, and not just to elderly people!
Romance scams aren’t just men sitting at their computers in the middle of a foreign country, speaking broken English and professing their love after the first week; often times, these scammers come disguised as average looking guys and girls who are just looking to make a couple bucks without having to do anything except hold a conversation.
You’re probably used to hearing about the 70-something year old folks getting scammed out of thousands by their “Nigerian prince” soulmates online, but a lot of times it is someone who spends weeks, even MONTHS, getting small amounts at a time while simultaneously maintaining their normal relationship with their victim and draining them for all you have, without them even realizing it.
Today, we are going to go over some popular romance scamming tactics that are all over the internet, how to avoid them, and how to recover from them.
Most Common Types of Romance Scamming Tactics
Despite the fact that a lot of us think that we are immune to such scamming, there are thousands of people just like your friend or family member who get scammed every single day. You could meet someone on a dating app, or even on Facebook and start out by having an innocent conversation, then move on to getting to know one another a little better, and before you know it, within just weeks you’re dating. You don’t mind the long distance; it almost makes it more fun and exhilarating! What you don’t realize is that this person is about to wreck your entire life, and probably your credit score.
It hurts to know that someone could do this to someone that you care about, but just know there are things you can do to avoid it happening again! Here are a few of the ways these scammers can get into your wallet.
The “I need funds to see you” tactic
If your friend is dating someone online who is a good ways away from them, this is probably the easiest one they’ll use on them. They’ll tell them something along the lines of “my accounts have been frozen/compromised, I just need X amount of money to be able to come and see you. Once everything is back in order with my bank I can pay you back!”, and if your loved one already trusts them even a little bit, they could fall for this.
The scammer will come up with excuse after excuse as to why they still haven’t made it their way, just digging the hole deeper. If someone needs you to pay for them to come see you, it’s probably something to steer clear of.
The “family/medical emergency” tactic
This one is pretty common as well, especially if their “partner” gathers that they are an empathetic person and have a weakness for people who need help. The scammer might tell them that their parent or child or whomever has fallen ill, or gotten into some sort of almost fatal accident, and they need funds to get to them or pay off medical bills, etc.
Your friend finds themselves deeply touched by their story and feels compelled to donate to the cause, even though this “family member” probably never existed. This is one of the scummiest scams out there, as they are using a potentially detrimental, yet imaginary situation to tug at the heartstrings of their victim so they’ll throw money the scammer’s way. There is nothing wrong with asking for some sort of viable proof of this “accident”, no matter how offended they seem by you asking for it.
The flat out “loan” tactic
Sometimes, these catfish get lazy and find that just asking for money as a loan is the easiest way to get it. They will say whatever they can to convince their victim to do the loan, of course with the intention of paying them back, then before they know it, it will have been months and they’ve still received no money back at all.
How to Help Prevent Against Romance Scams
There are plenty of ways you can make sure nothing like this happens to your loved one again! It’s pretty easy if you know what to look for, but if they don’t know the signs of a romance scam, they may not know what to expect.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If someone is pursuing a relationship with you and you’ve never met them before, it is your right to ask questions about anything involving money. There’s something that just doesn’t seem right about someone you’ve known for a few weeks or months feeling so comfortable asking for a loan, unless they’ve done it before. Assure your friend or family member that asking questions is the best way to find out if you are getting scammed; if they get immediately defensive or feel “insulted” that you’d be questioning their character, then it’s probably a scam.
Check profiles and look into their friends list
Look up all forms of social media that they have. You can usually pick out a catfish pretty easily if they don’t have TONS of pictures of themselves, along with friends and family, on their pages. Of course, some people lock their profile down to the public, so you’d have to be friends with them or follow them in order to see.
Also, if you and your loved one still aren’t quite sure, maybe message some of their friends that seem to frequently like or comment on their posts, or are tagged in photos. You can find out a lot from online friends.
Watch for certain warning signs
A lot of catfish/scammers will go about doing things that can be a dead giveaway if you know what to look for. If your friend doesn’t, it can go right over their heads, simply because they let their feelings get the best of them– which is totally okay and extremely common!
Some common signs in conversation are:
- Multiple excuses as to why they can’t come see you or skype with you (this doesn’t always happen– sometimes the scammers will communicate with you over skype)
- If they aren’t openly long distance, they may claim that they live close to you, although you’ve never met or seen them before
- They get serious WAY too fast– unless you’re in a fairytale where princesses are kissing frogs and such, then this person probably doesn’t have deep feelings for you after a week or two of talking
- They always seem to need help or money, although they boast of a good paying job on their profile
- Vague, far-fetched, or inconsistent stories. Usually when you’re getting to know someone, they tell you pretty detailed stories about their family or their past. You can weed out scammers by asking questions about the stories they tell you that just seem a little bit off.
Top 5 Ways to Support Victims of Romance Scams
Of course, you’ll want to try and help your friend or family member who was scammed in the name of romance, and there are plenty of resources to utilize in order to ensure that they can get past this in the best way possible.
1. Provide them with all the resources you can find
Whether it’s a counselor, a financial specialist, or just a fellow family member who knows their way around securing finances, your loved one can seek out help from any of these places in order to feel better about their situation. You can contact their financial institution for them, or have them do it, in order to take action to protect their identity and finances from any further scamming.
2. Help them contact authorities and walk them through the process
Your loved one may be a little embarrassed from the whole situation, or just may be a little reluctant to contact authorities either out of fear or because they still have genuine feelings for their scammer. Either way, it’s always good to have someone to go through all the hoops with them.
3. Assist them in changing their passwords
Get them to log onto every single social media platform they’re on and have them change their passwords. Facebook, Instagram, email, dating sites, literally anything and everything. You never know what a scammer is capable of! You may also want to have them put a hold on any bank accounts if they have given their banking information to the scammer in order to fund them.
4. Suggest that they see a counselor
Not everyone is totally comfortable with going to a therapist, so if your loved one isn’t feeling up to it, you can maybe suggest that they at least go to a financial counselor so they can get some professional help in dealing with any loss they may have faced during all this. Seeing a counselor will help them in more ways than one; they can find help recovering after this whole ordeal and maybe learn other ways to protect their identity.
5. Give them all the emotional support in the world
Having something like this happen can take an extreme emotional toll on a person. Whether they had hundreds or thousands stolen from them or a smaller amount, thinking that someone really cares about you, just to find out that they’re using you is traumatizing and can leave someone in a state of mind that they aren’t good enough for love, causing them to give up on trying to find the right person. As their close friend or family member, you have to take it upon yourself to be their “shoulder to cry on” or just someone for them to rant to, because they’re likely frustrated, both at the scammer and themselves for falling for it.
You have to reassure them that this wasn’t their fault, and that they are one of thousands who has fallen victim to a sweet-talking romance scammer. They shouldn’t feel embarrassed or bad at all for having to go through this; it can happen to literally anyone, and no one is immune to online romance scams.
Even the most secure, well-known dating and social media sites can be breeding grounds for vicious, ruthless romance scammers, out to drain anyone’s bank account that will fall for their lies, with no remorse in sight. It really is sad that this happens to innocent people who think that they have met someone truly great, but it is way more common than you’d realize.
Thousands of people daily have to go through a recovery process to restore both their funds and their faith in humanity after experiencing something like this, so just assure your loved one that not everyone is this evil and there is still someone for them out there. If they want to take a break from dating sites, it’s totally understandable, but they shouldn’t give up altogether. Just help them to understand that there are ways to prevent this from happening in the future, and most importantly, be there for them!