It seems like for every legitimate use that people have found for the internet, a criminal industry has grown in parallel to fleece innocent users out of their money. One of the saddest (and most profitable) is the romance scam. It takes many forms, but the common thread is to take advantage of people’s need for love and connection to get them to part with their money.
Typically, the victim will be contacted either through social media or on a dating site. If the victim is male, the scammer will usually take on the identity of a beautiful young student. If the victim is female, the scammer’s fake identity will be a successful professional, such as an engineer or doctor. In either case, the story progresses very quickly from introduction to declarations of love. Not long thereafter, as soon as the thief thinks that the victim is sufficiently fooled, the requests for money begin.
These may take several forms. The “beloved” may need money for a plane ticket in order to join their partner. Perhaps they or a family member need urgent and expensive medical care. Or they are being held by criminals or corrupt government/immigration authorities that need to get paid off to allow them to leave the country in order to join the victim. Or maybe the mysterious love interest is actually extremely wealthy, but their million-dollar inheritance needs to have taxes or some sort of processing fee paid before it can be released. Once the money is sent, another excuse or emergency is offered that needs money to fix before the lovers can finally be united. All these examples are just the tip of the iceberg; there are dozens of variations, but the common denominator is that the victim’s emotions are manipulated until they part with as much money as possible, over and over, until they finally realize they have been duped.
Another approach used by online romance scammers relies on extortion. The victim is enticed into some sort of compromising position, such as sending explicit videos of themselves, or anything else that is illegal or potentially embarrassing. They are then blackmailed into sending money to prevent the information being made made public or sent to the victim’s family or friends (often harvested from their own social media contacts).
Eventually, of course, the victim wises up, but only after a lot of money is gone. And where is the purported beloved to be found? Good luck bringing them to justice. They are almost certainly in some far off country that has little interest in bringing them to justice, aside from the complex jurisdictional issues involved.
But what about the money? Don’t you at least deserve to get it back? If you are the victim of a romance scam and paid the criminal by credit card or wire transfer, it may be possible. Unfortunately, the process of opening and winning a dispute in cases like this is weighed down with an unbelievable amount bureaucratic red tape. Fortunately, you have someone to help you.