There are a lot of grinches in the world. Since I wrote my first article on romance scams, I’ve received “please help” emails each week from the children or friends of victims who have fallen head-over-wallet in love with a romance fraudster. The senders are usually in a panic because their soon-to-be-broke loved one or friend cannot be convinced that they are sending money to a romance scammer no matter how strong the evidence is.
I’m not shocked anymore to hear how someone’s lonely mother thinks Yanni is in love with her and just needs some money to end his marriage and escape into their arms. Or a foreign doctor needs their remote “lover” to send “green dot” cards so they can get a visa into America. Or a lovely young Russian beauty who can’t wait to hold her gruff-looking senior American boyfriend’s hand in marriage…once he sends her a few thousand dollars so she can escape her horrible life in a remote village.
The average dating scam victim has sent hundreds to thousands of dollars to their online-only remote romance, but I’ve heard about losses into the tens of thousands of dollars, and a few over a hundred thousand dollars. The scammed victim’s belief in what they think is true love is so strong that many have cut off relationships with skeptical friends and family who question the validity of their online love. It’s incredibly heart wrenching.
New way to convince your loved one of a romance scam
While the advice from my previous article is still valid, I have a new, complementary method to help convince your loved one that the remote scammer is not who they say they are. The first step is to get your loved one to sign an agreement with you. In the agreement, spell out two tests you are going to perform to prove to your loved one that their remote romance scammer is not who they say they are.
The agreement says that if you perform the two tests and the romance scammer fails either, then the loved one must agree to admit that they are likely being scammed. You agree that if the remote romance person passes both tests, you will no longer claim that the person on the other end of the scam isn’t who they say they are (although they may still be taking advantage of your loved one).
Print out the agreement and have your loved one sign it. This isn’t a legal contract, but the more “official” you make it seem, the more likely your loved one is to follow it when their heart and logic is questioned.
The second step is to obtain all the existing photos, in digital form, your loved one has from the scammer. Often, it will just be one photo, but it isn’t rare for the victim to have a few more. Obtain the scammer’s claimed name. The first test is to prove that the photos belong to someone else who has a different name.
Save the photos to a folder you can easily relocate. Perform reverse image search in Google. You do this by clicking on the little camera icon that represents “Search by image” and then pasting or uploading each photo, one at time. Then look under the results section entitled, “Pages that include matching images”. I find Google’s image search to be quite accurate. Usually you’re going to find one or more social media sites belonging to the person whose image(s) were taken and reused by the scammer, and the site will be associated with another (real) name.
Usually those pages will have many pictures, which will show the person being used in many more photos than the scammer has been using. This is good because it will show your loved one that the pictures they are seeing belong to this other person. Often the pictures will belong to someone in a different country with a completely different life than the victim was being told.
Normally you would think this would be enough, but in most cases, simply proving to the victim that the person they have fallen in love with has a different name and life than they’ve been told is, for matters only the heart can explain, usually not enough to prove to your loved one that their love interest is fake.
The loved ones usually confront the scammer with the true names of the person in the picture. The scammers are ready. They usually “confess” that they lied about their name (and lifestyle), but come up with enough excuses about why they lied. They usually tell the victim now that they have their “real name” that they feel a sense of relief and can be more “honest” with the victim, and so on. To a person, in my experiences, the victim believes them, and still stays in love.
Although this is not the outcome that you wanted, it is the first chink in the armor. The scammer has failed the first test. Now it’s time for them to fail the second test.
Tell your loved one to tell their romantic interest the following: “My son(s)/daughter(s)/family no longer believes that you are who you say you are. They say I am foolish for listening to your lies. They say as proof, they want you to take a new picture of yourself with a copy of today’s newspaper and headline.”
The scammer upon reading this will reply that they are unable to comply with the request, usually because they don’t have access to a current newspaper. This is expected.
Tell your loved one to tell their romantic interest the following: “My son(s)/daughter(s)/family says they will accept a current picture of yourself, but you must touch your index finger to the tip of your nose.”
You can request any slightly unusual action that is not already represented in knowing existing photos. The request must be very easy to do, but not common in causal photos. For example, you could say “stand on one leg”, hold a piece of paper with today’s date on it, and so on.
The scammer will not be able to do this. They are likely saying they cannot take a photo for some reason. They may have already given this excuse before you even began this process. If they say their phone is broken, tell them they can use someone else’s phone. If they say that no one near them has a phone, tell them to find a friend or store to take the requested picture.
In actuality, the scammer will be unable to meet the demand (unless they are good with Adobe Photoshop) no matter what you propose. Sadly, even this will be unlikely to sway you loved one. I know it sounds strange, but in more cases than not, they still want to believe and be in love. This is where you point back to the written contract. Have them agree that they will not send money, and dare to dream, break off all contact with the romance scammer.
Usually the loved one will reluctantly agree, but after you are gone, still participate in additional conversations. Breaking the power of love-inducing endorphins doesn’t happen right away. What I can say is that usually the victim starts to see the reality of the situation, and a few weeks later, is finally able to see the scam for what it is.
This advice likely seems very specific. I’ve helped a lot of people break their loved ones out of the grip of an online romance scammer. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. Be there to support your loved one when they finally come back to reality. Try to inject humor if you can. Don’t blame the victim. They will be embarrassed enough, but at least you’ll have them back and not sending any more money to some online grinch.
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