Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a 3 part series. For part one, go to: Online Dating Romance Scams – How They Work
Over the past decade, Online Dating Magazine estimates that close to a million Americans have become victims of romance scams. Worldwide, the number is several million. In Britain, a research study by the University of Leicester found that more than 200,000 British citizens have fallen prey to a romance scam. And that is costly.
According to the National Consumer League (NCL), in 2011 the average amount of money lost by a romance scam victim was $5,500. The director of NCL’s Fraud Center, John Breyault, puts it best when he says, “Love is a powerful emotion that these criminals manipulate to extract large sums of money from their victims.”
US Consulate Emails Reveal Depth of Scams
Because the idea of love is so powerful, many victims believe the stories they are being told to the point that they contact authorities to help the person they are in love with at the same time they are sending them money. For example, The US Department of State published some communications sent to the US Consulate General Lagos (Nigeria). They are from people who have been sending romance scammers money and are desperate to help them out of their “emergency” situation as there seems to be no hope in sight. Here is one such email:
“My boyfriend is stranded in Lagos. His personal assistant has left him there with no money and has stolen his money. He has no way of getting home. I have sent him all the money I can to help him get a plane ticket home. He still needs $300. Is there anything that can be done? He is a United States citizen. He is from Jacksonville, Florida.
He is in the hospital now, because of the stress of being stranded there. He is in a very bad condition. Having severe pains in his chest. His name is J.A. I am not sure how many hospitals are in Lagos. I am still trying to get more details. If there is anything that can be done, please contact me and let me know please.”
And here’s another email; one where the romance scammer was able to move the online relationship to an “engaged” level before pulling of the scam:
“My fiancée is there in Lagos, Nigeria. She has been there for about 2 years in school. Thursday evening she was in a car accident and rushed to S. Hospital. She is an American and her name is S.J. from Kinston, NC. She speaks with a heavy African accent after being there for two years.
I have attempted to send her money so that she can leave the country, and both times the guy at Western Union stole the money.
Please help her. Nigeria is no place for an American – especially a woman with no friends, no family and no money.”
In other instances people still write the US Consulate after a scam is done, concerned that the one they love is still in trouble. Writes one man:
“I am writing to you because I have a very unsettling situation that has occurred. My fiancée departed Lagos via British Airways. She was detained by immigration officials at London’s Heathrow Airport. I received a telephone call from an immigration officer. She told me that my fiancée had been detained for expired documents and that they were going to deport my fiancée, unless I, being her fiancé and sponsor, would pay $2,500 in total fines for violating immigration law. She said that if I can raise the money in time, that they would release her and provide her with new documents so that she could continue her travel to the U.S.
The officer contacted me later and we began discussion over the fines total amount. She stated that there was an actual fine of $1,200 for the violation. I stated that I think I could raise $1,200 to pay. She said if I do that, then my fiancée could still be released and given new documents to continue travel.
On October 9, I collected $1,200 and sent the money electronically, via the Money Gram Store. I was happy to send the money because I thought that the immigration officials would release my fiancée.
Since Tuesday, October 12, I have not heard from the immigration officer or my fiancée. I have attempted to contact her via telephone but she never answers. Only the voice messaging service answers to leave a message.
I have been very stressed, worrying and hoping that my fiancée, be released and be allowed to continue travel to U.S. to be with me. I have not heard from her since this ordeal has happened. I want to know if she is in good health and that she is okay. Please, I request of you for help in this terrible situation and I thank you, in advance, for any help you may provide.”
The psychology of the romance scam is so strong that, as the above emails demonstrate, people will go to great lengths to help the person they don’t realize is scamming them. And that’s what makes romance scams the most successful type of all online scams. They can keep getting money from victims until there is no more and the victim still wants to help them!
Looks Too Good To Be True
The FBI, Post Office, and several other agencies operate a Website that sheds light on many scams, including romance scams. The site, called LooksToGoodToBeTrue, posts warnings, advice, and allows victims to share their stories. Here is an excerpt from one romance victim’s story:
“… ‘He’ knew what to say and how to say it. He found my vulnerabilities and used them to the max. I have always prided myself on being too smart for this type of game. I knew better. He used God, children, a deceased wife, and sick friends and hospital bills to weigh on my humanity…” (Linda from WA)
What Would Jesus Do?
There’s one very important insight in the comment above – “he used God”. Romance scammers have most of their success going after Christians because, by nature, most Christians want to help other people. So if a scammer can create an elaborate story and incorporate faith and God into it then the Christian is already predisposed to want to help.
Romance scammers like to target Christian dating services and have mastered the art of manipulation in expressing their love and devotion to God. They use this to get Christians to trust them and they use it to build the “relationship”. After all the lies are bought, the scammer strikes, using stories that appeal to the heart of a Believer to want to help.
Videos of Victims of Romance Scams
Below are several videos about romance scam victims. Watch each one to gain more valuable insight so that you never become a victim yourself.
Romance Scammed Woman Speaks
This first video is of a woman talking about her romance scam experience. She signed up for online dating at the recommendation of her sister, but ended up scammed by someone from Nigeria:
Romance Scammed then Fake Police Scammed
This next victim story isn’t in English, but does have English subtitles. It shows how widespread scams are. This person isn’t naive, but still got caught up in a romance scam. Unfortunately his scam took an additional twist when fake police got involved that were scammers too…
Romance Scam Victim’s Son Speaks About His Father’s Suicide
Unfortunately, some victims are so torn apart by romance scams that they take their own life versus facing what they perceive to be the embarrassment of what happened. (If you are scammed – don’t even consider suicide as an option – remember that there are millions taken in by these scams. You are not alone and your suicide will only hurt many more people).
Pictures Stolen Online for Romance Scams
When it comes to romance scams, victims go beyond the person being scammed. Scammers steal photographs online to use to create their fake identities.
If you’ve been the victim of a romance scam and are willing to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or share your story in the Comments section below.