An email that arrived on Valentine’s Day this year caught my eye — then raised my blood pressure.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 70,000 Americans lost $1.3 billion (with a B) to “romance scams” last year.
Shouldn’t this disappointing trend be over by now? Shouldn’t these online dating scams be a thing of the past by now? Shouldn’t we ALL know by now that there’s no Nigerian prince who’s willing to share his $40 million inheritance with you if you just send him all of your money immediately. And shouldn’t we all know by now not to wire our life savings to someone we’ve never met just because they say they love us and want to marry us?
This has reached the point of absurdity. I’ve lost nearly all sympathy for these suckers (OK, victims), especially those who are repeatedly told by real-life friends and relatives that they’re being scammed. Yet they continue to sneak away and shove cash into cereal boxes to mail overseas so their “fiance” can get back to America and marry them.
It’s insane. But it’s also sad how some people, many of them seniors, are simply desperate for love and companionship. So desperate that they’re willing to pay for the fantasy to continue. It’s as if they continue to pump coins into a slot machine they’ve been TOLD is rigged.
For some, the hope and potential is apparently priceless. To a degree.
But once they’re in too deep, with loved ones harassing them, they have no choice but to dig their heels in, shut those real people out and cling more desperately to their anonymous, online love.
So, please, let’s stop this bullshit before it gets to that point. It’s not difficult.
Instead of sending FBI agents to investigate Nigerian internet cafes, where so many of these “fiances” spend their days, why not send volunteers to senior living communities, local libraries and pickleball courts to educate and warn people about these rampant scams that are so obvious to most people. Teach them reverse photo searches.
Get potential victims talking to each other. Show them how quickly online scammers find their online profiles and start asking for money. Show them the red flags.
And why aren’t online dating sites required to show a full-screen, pop up warning at every login? I’ll even write it for them:
DON’T GET SCAMMED. PEOPLE LIE.
DON’T SEND MONEY TO ANYONE YOU MEET ON THIS SITE. EVER.
DON’T GIVE ANYONE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.
THEY’RE NOT TRAPPED IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. THEY DON’T WORK OVERSEAS FOR A GOVERNMENT CONTRACTOR. THEY DON’T HAVE $30M THAT’S BEING HELD HOSTAGE BY VAGUE & MYSTERIOUS FOREIGN ENTITIES.
THEY WEREN’T ROBBED AT GUNPOINT. THEY’RE NOT IN THE HOSPITAL.
THEY’RE NOT THE PERSON IN THE PHOTOS YOU’VE SEEN.
THEY DON’T LOVE YOU. THEY DON’T WANT TO MARRY YOU.
THEY WANT MONEY, AND THEY’LL TAKE EVERYTHING THEY CAN GET FROM YOU.
WAKE UP, PEOPLE! STOP MAKING IT SO EASY FOR THESE CROOKS. THEY’RE NOT EVEN CLEVER.
BUT THEN, THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE. YOU’RE MAKING IT TOO EASY.
That distinguished-looking silver fox from the profile photo you love has no clue who you are. None. Because a gang of thieves has right clicked his photo and is pretending to be that person on that boat or in that golf cart.
Get it through your head. The truth hurts, but this nonsense has to stop. If it seems too good to be true, it is. Always.