We all know about Nigerian and Eastern European love scams. Only sheltered, gullible people who barely know how to use the internet would ever be duped by anybody talking about coming “home” to them from Nigeria or moving from an Eastern European country to marry them. And American scammers….that’s just teenagers and people barely into their twenties, as shown on MTV’s Catfish.
But are we sure we’re right about that?
While it would be comforting to think we’re immune from being targeted by these scammers, the truth is, there are Americans who run love scams, and they are not all under twenty-five and just seeking some attention. Scammers can cause serious damage to our mental health, our finances, and even be dangerous, and they can be from anywhere in our home country, or even our home state or our own hometown.
Whether you’re single and treating yourself to an online dating site membership for Valentine’s Day, single and chatting with attractive people on social media throughout the year, or happily partnered with your one and only and seeking strictly platonic friends online, watch out for the following red flags.
The person declares the relationship to be serious or important much too quickly.
You’re single. You’ve been chatting with an attractive person of the appropriate for you gender for a week or so. The two of you have never met, online or offline, before. In your mind, you have an online crush. But suddenly, online crush is telling you that for them, it’s more than a crush. They want to start dating exclusively, as they are already falling in love with you. Or you’re happily married, and have made a new platonic buddy you enjoy chatting with every day. Only this person keeps referring to you as “the brother he never had,” or “like a sister to her” already.
Relationships can move rather quickly online, but nobody is in love with you, nor are they close enough to be your adopted sibling, two weeks after you first encounter each other on the internet. People who push for close relationships within the first days or even weeks of meeting you may be setting you up to persuade you to send them money, buy them expensive items, or do some other favor one would only do for the love of their life or someone who is family to them.
Money, their bills, how poor they are, and other financial problems are their favorite topics.
Your new friend from the crafter’s group expressing disappointment that Dollar Tree items are now $1.25 each, or the man you’re dating online and about to meet for your first date joking that you’re taking him out for a steak dinner does not need to send you running for the hills. Some talk about money is normal among dating partners and friends.
It becomes a red flag when the person appears to be trying to make you feel sorry for them over their financial issues, dropping hints that they could use some money or would like some expensive gifts, or asks you to send money for things like plane tickets to come and meet you.
Important details from their life do not match up.
Nobody fits into any one “type” perfectly. The person who describes themselves as the “geeky” type can still dislike video games and love to watch baseball or hockey. Someone can be “outdoorsy” and love hunting, but have a problem with bow hunting. Most people can name at least one issue they differ with “their” political party over. None of these constitute warning signs the person is scamming you.
Look for differences that go beyond a few traits, tastes, or opinions. You and your new potential partner first started chatting because you’re both single parents of third graders, but they can’t seem to relate to stories about buying school supplies or communicating with teachers. The new friend you made online likes to talk about you visiting them in Las Vegas, but it takes them a minute to get your reference to “the strip.” They tell you they’re in the mental health field, but cannot explain a simple concept from a Psychology 101 class better than you, who only has a passing interest in the field. Never brush these inconsistencies off, or accept excuses about them being “tired” or “misreading” your message. Nobody is so tired they forget where they live, the existence of their own children, or their own career field.
They seem to be trying to isolate you.
Asking someone you are dating seriously and exclusively to stop seeing past romantic partners they do not share children with is reasonable. But nobody should be asking you to stop seeing platonic friends of any gender or orientation, family members, or people you associate with on a professional level, or see in the course of carrying out activities such as church attendance or club memberships.
Scammers may also demand that you stay up all night every night to talk to them, push you to miss work in order to stay connected to them in chat, or behave as though you are obligated to reply to their texts within seconds. Some scammers give their targets “projects,” such as demanding they learn a new language or spend all their free time researching places they may want to live someday. They’re not fascinated by you, excited about your future, or pushing you to be your best self. They’re trying to keep you focused on them and occupied so that their voice is the only one you hear. This makes you easier to manipulate.
Excessive secrecy is demanded.
Some people like to keep new romantic relationships private in the beginning. And it is entirely reasonable for anyone, whether your boyfriend or girlfriend or platonic close friend, to expect you to keep things they told you in confidence to yourself. And it should go without saying that you do not post or share anything that might put your loved one in danger, such as their home address or the names of their children.
This is different from demanding you keep the fact that you’re dating online a secret from your adult children, or insisting that you don’t tell your husband that the two of you have become friends. Online contacts who demand much more secrecy than the situation would reasonably warrant are not “private people,” or “afraid of being hurt again.” They’re afraid you’ll talk about them to someone who will see the red flags in the situation.
Pressure for private, intimate, or sensitive information is placed on you, without reciprocity from them.
Some people are just nosey, or prone to getting carried away with questions and such. But if your new partner seems to be collecting the most intimate details of your life without sharing theirs, or your new friend has your address, the name of your workplace, and the names and ages of your children, but you’re not even entirely sure if they have a family at all or what field they work in, something is wrong.
People who seem to be collecting sensitive, private, or intimate materials on you may be setting you up for a blackmail scam. The scammer carries on the phony relationship up to a certain point, then asks you flat out for money or gifts. When you respond with shock, and explain that you cannot help them in this way, they then end the “relationship” or “friendship,” and threaten to reveal your personal details publicly.
Plans to meet offline are constantly made and then broken.
In the original romance scam, the Nigerian scam, plans to meet are made in order to get more money. The scammer claims they need money to travel to the victim, then claims something occurred that necessitates more money before they get “home” to the one they “love.”
American scammers are typically aware that this tactic is old and well-known, but they may still make plans to meet in order to appear to be genuine, and then back out at the last minute to avoid revealing their real self or real situation.
Emergencies do happen, but if your partner or friend only seems to encounter tragedy when it’s time to meet up with you, there is something they do not want you to know.
The warning signs of a romance or friendship scam may seem like “old news” by now, but that is precisely what makes them so easy to forget. The internet is a great place to meet people, but like any large public space, it has its share of dangers. Be prepared to protect yourself and look out for each other.
by Jess Szabo'
originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com