Romance Scams: Protect Your Hearts and Your Asse(t)s
I want to tell you about a friend of mine I'll call "Pat."
Pat met the one true love he had always dreamed of online. I’ll call her “The One.”
The One was perfect: A successful supermodel, highly educated, and, of course, infatuated with Pat. Pat and The One exchanged messages through a dating app for a few days. Pat told me they were "soulmates." Everything Pat enjoyed or cared about (as detailed in Pat's online profile) was a 100% match with The One.
What a coincidence!
Unfortunately for Pat (and many others), romance has become another victim of cyberattacks. Romance, a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love, has turned into Fauxmance, a sense of disappointment and victimization associated with theft and deception. Singles of all ages, lonely and looking for connection, turn a blind eye to warning signs, falling for scams and swindles.
Like this 60-year-old woman from Wisconsin who's out $1.2 million.
Or this woman who tried to help an overseas soldier's son survive cholera .
The One opined that she was short on cash for reasons too complicated and ludicrous to describe (including a failed investment in her uncle's bait and donut shop). And money was the only thing that stood in the way of Pat and The One being together. The One wanted to jump on a plane at a moment's notice to be with Pat. After all, they were meant to be together. Nothing could keep them apart.
Did I mention:
The One lived in Australia? (Pat is American.)
This was during the height of the Pandemic?
When Australia shut down all air traffic in and out of the country?
People have a tremendous capacity for self-deception. We can convince ourselves of almost anything, despite clear evidence to the contrary. That lonely supermodel on the dating app who just messaged me? Of course, they're legit! Coupled with our chronic willingness to ignore intuition when searching for "The One," it's not surprising that so many people fall victim to online romance scams.
Poor Pat. The One just happened to "know someone who knew someone" and would be able to score a seat on a special charter flight from their home direct to Pat's local airport!
What a coincidence! And the ticket was only $5,273!
Being a cautious person, Pat suggested they do a video conference first, but sadly, the camera on The One's laptop was broken. Fortunately, The One was thoughtful enough to send Pat some graphic pictures and a couple of videos that left nothing to the imagination as coming attractions.
Pat used an app to send her $6,500, which covered the flight as well as parking at the airport and a kennel for her dog.
Sadly, the day before the flight, The One's mother died from Covid. To assuage any suspicions on Pat’s part, The One thoughtfully sent pictures of the funeral. She rescheduled her flights, but a week later, The One's father lost two fingers in a freak sheep shearing incident — and her brother was mauled by a pack of angry koalas while on a picnic.
The One was too traumatized by this horrible string of tragedies to travel, let alone leave her loved ones in their time of need. When Pat hinted at The One returning the $6,500, The One warned Pat that a sudden series of summer sunspots was about to "temporarily" cut off all communications with Australia.
At that point, Pat finally started to piece things together. The One was a romance scammer.
There are a few ways people can protect themselves from romance scams. Get started here:
Don't send money to people online, especially people you haven't met in person.
Be mindful of what you publish online —scammers can target you based on what they find publicly available.
If someone seems too perfect, they probably are.
If someone promises to see you and always cancels, they're likely a scammer.
The FBI has a great list of added things you can do to avoid these romance scams.
Pat's out $6,500 and a big piece of his heart, though he's slowly but surely recovering (apparently a new lady is on the horizon named "Bride-to-Be").
Are you more interested in protecting your files than your heart? Get started here: