There are a lot of scams out there today; however, the number one is the romantic scam which are now considered “the crime of the 21st century.” Romantic scams are a billion-dollar industry; however, the number of these scams are a lot higher than reported. Many victims do not report the scam due to embarrassment and humiliation of being taken advantage of.
What is a romantic scam?
It is where the scammer gains one’s confidence and affection by falsely portraying romantic intentions. They then use their victims to send money under these false pretenses or commit financial fraud though access to the victim’s bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts or other identifiable information.
They prey on the elderly, widowed, individuals with memory problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most of the victims are female and lonely. Many seniors are targeted as they are thought to have money and typically are more trusting than younger people. In most cases these seniors get on-line and meet a potential companion or lover shown with a photograph which are not current or even that person.
Scammers establish relationships quickly and many times pose as men with jobs that require travel outside the country so they cannot be reached. For example, they use photos of successful people such as service men, investment bankers, CEOs of large corporation, etc. to portray that they have higher status in life than the victim. Scammers read obituaries and attend the funeral service of a stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. They may even forge a false debt to be collected or strike up a conversation regarding something they read about the deceased in an obituary pretending to be an old acquaintance to gain trust of the victim.
The victims are courted or befriended by this stranger through contact in-person, phone, and/or online. Once the scammer captures the heart of the victim through frequent emails or text messages (sometimes fifteen times within a day), they suddenly need to borrow money for one “emergency” after another. Usually, they state that it is for medical or legal needs, and they promise to pay the money back. Amounts that are needed are gradually increased and can be in the thousands of dollars or more. Some of these scammers operate out of the country and therefore are also a global problem. Many times, the women never meet the scammer. Some of these very vulnerable women do not believe this person is scamming them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more even after being warned by friends, family and even the police.
There have been others who have lost nearly everything including their homes, cars, bank account and retirement money leaving them with nothing. Some of these victims continue to believe that this man truly loves them and is not a scammer. Many of these men are “sweet talkers” and make the victims feel special by calling them enduring names such as babe or sweetheart. They can convince women to do whatever they want. When these women feel that they are in love something happens in the brain that affects their ability to reason. A scientist at a Washington university using MRIs has shown euphoria and energy in most of the brain cells but decreased activity in the frontal brain which is responsible for cognition or reasoning.
Some women have tried to get their money back themselves, but this typically does not work. An example of one woman who tried to get her money back only to be physically abused by the scammer. Many romantic scams are made up of large well-organized groups of criminals who are dangerous and not to be confronted. In Canada the group calling themselves the Black AYE is one example of these groups.
Lastly, beware of people who advertise that they can help in getting the money back for the victims but need thousands of dollars upfront to do this. Usually, they are operating with the original scammer and will split the money with him. Based on the many cases out there, it is nearly impossible to get money back when taken by a scammer!
My advice to people is to begin by feeling good about yourself before venturing out and going online to find a partner or companion. Probably the best way to meet someone is through a friend or family member. I do know of some women who have met their partner online but beware and check the authenticity of the person through a safe website.
Note: I refer to scammers as men since the majority are male although there are also female scammers.