Let's face it, it has been a long cold winter. Relationships may have come, gone, or become stagnant. Some of you may be ready and looking for your next relationship, no matter the situation. Others may have sworn off dating for the foreseeable future. After two years of a pandemic, loneliness is on the rise. People are disconnected, lonely, and looking for love.
It does not help that Valentine's Day is looming on the next calendar page. You might feel like anyone with an ounce of attention to spare for you will do, but loneliness does not have to mean desperation. The aftermath of social distancing is beginning to raise its ugly head in the form of romance scams. Both men and women have reported losing money, time, and emotional health to romance scammers. The mental and emotional scars could take years to undo for those scammed. Whether you're fresh out of a relationship or ready to get back in the game after a long time by yourself, you can find a new partner, but beware of looming dangers.
Romance scamming is on the rise due to the anonymity of the internet and people's desperation to find companionship. This scummy practice is when someone—usually using direct messaging on Instagram, Facebook, or a dating app—tries to enter a virtual romantic relationship with someone to scam money out of them. They will get to know their victim, flatter them, and promise their love to them, thus earning their trust before the inevitable strike.
Usually, the scammers present themselves in the form of a United States high-ranking military member or a businessman. Both personas are typically expected to be overseas and may fake being in a bad cell area for long-distance calls.
Scammers are the sweetest of talkers. These people will ask all the right questions, find out any weakness or sadness you may experience, then use it against you by telling you that they are in love with you until you cannot do something for them like send money or open a bank account.
Scammers usually protect themselves by claiming to be in an area with poor reception where they cannot make or receive calls, nor will they agree to a Facetime chat. At times you may feel that you are talking to a different person based on their pattern of speech in their messages or not remembering details of a previous conversation. Similarly, communication from them is often written in poor English. When called out for these things, they'll likely have a backstory or explanation for their dodgy or incoherent communication.
Some scammers don't often outright ask for money. These smooth talkers will ask you to purchase gift cards and send them the information. Once they have the data, the gift cards will be zeroed out, and the money lost to the ether forever.
If someone you've never met asks you for money, do not do it. The businessman may tell you that they need you to send them money to get them through a couple of days because all their assets are tied up in bitcoin or the stock market. They'll assure you they can pay you back by the weekend. A military member has access to many services to meet their needs and should not need you or anyone to open a bank account for them. They may ask you to open a bank account because their current account is frozen, or they have a large amount of money that they need to transfer immediately for reasons they cannot talk about. This is dishonest at best and fraudulent at worst.
If they say they own a business, Google it. Ask for as many details as casually as possible, then Google. After all, you have their name and where they say they are from. If they are so successful, why can't google find them?
If the person says they are military, they may send pictures. If you have military friends, ask them to look at the uniform for authenticity. Google them as well. Some people have reported that they found their supposed love interest's pictures attached to a different name, or Google tells an entirely different story.
If you confront your online bae with your newfound intel, they will probably ask you why you do not trust them. Some scammers are more creative and will create an exciting and complicated story about why the information you have does not match Google.
Loneliness should not equal devastation and an empty bank account. If you recognize any of the warning signs of a romance scammer, end all communication. Scammers are difficult to catch and very clever. If something doesn't check out, delete, block, report. Use your best judgment, and go with your gut. There are plenty of fish in the sea, so one that tries to con you can be tossed back immediately.
Romance scammers are as scary as they are real. If you want to be in a relationship, you deserve a partner who is emotionally and mentally there for you as much as you are there for them. A scammer might promise you the world, but ask for your finances soon afterward. Remember: if things seem too good to be true, it probably is. Similarly, if something feels not-right to you, it's probably not. Getting involved with someone online can be devastating because you might have a real attraction to a person who turns around and asks for money in a scummy, scammy way soon afterward. Not only does this drain your savings, but it can also drain your emotional and mental wellbeing when you've lost a relationship you expected to be going somewhere good. SokyaHealth is here to help you in the aftermath of a romance scam or any other mental health crisis. Call 866-932-1767.