It’s so much easier to find love now, isn’t it? There are so many dating applications available, with thousands of users. One of these users could just be that significant other you have been waiting for!
However, the online dating world is not all roses, as heartless scoundrels are willing to manipulate the feelings of lonely, desperate people for their own monetary gain.
The older generation, who may be less knowledgeable about the dangers of online dating, tend to be targeted by opportunistic thieves who will break hearts while emptying their bank accounts.
So what happens if on one fine day, your parent or grandparent announces that they have fallen in love with someone online whom you suspect might harbour ill-intentions?
• Know the difficulty of ending the dream
If not for the fact that they are shameless criminals, romance scammers would make excellent self-help gurus.
They are not idiots and they can put up an act that is convincing enough to “hypnotise” their target into putting their faith in their “lover” instead of concerned family members.
Experienced scammers will know what words to say to gain their target’s trust and affection and manipulate them psychologically to the point that a rift can be driven between the target and their family.
It is not easy to get victims to think rationally; the belief that they have found their Prince Charming or Miss Right is just that powerful.
It is especially so when the scammer builds up a fantasy of the victim being taken away from their boring or difficult life, to live with a loving partner in a nice house in some faraway Western country.
• Urge caution, but be subtle
While it may seem to be a good idea to be upfront about your concerns, not appearing supportive of their romantic endeavours may end up backfiring in the long run, particularly if they choose to withhold any further information about their “relationship”.
Subtlety is sometimes a better route to take, and you can subtly warn them about romance scams by sharing with them media reports on romance scams.
Victims of romance scams are quite likely to be in denial at first, so giving them notice that others have been in their position should be helpful.
Even if they still have feelings for their scammer, these news articles might just help them realise that they are being fooled.
So make an effort to sit down with them and share with them facts and figures about romance scams.
It is even better if you can get someone who is a victim them self to talk to your infatuated relative.
Revelation may not come immediately, but hearing it from the horse’s mouth might just wake them up from their stupor.
• Put yourself in their shoes
Reading the numerous media reports, you might think, “Which imbecile would fall for such an obvious scam?”
The situation is not that simple; even parents whom you may have long regarded as intelligent role models may themselves fall for these schemes.
Understand their situation. They are lonely, they are not getting any younger, and they are getting desperate.
Scammers will seem to be willing to offer them love, financial security or even a new life in a beautiful faraway land.
If you understand what it is exactly that your relative is looking for, then you can figure out why they do the things that they do.
Before you get suspicious about an online romantic interest, you must first learn the red flags that come with them.
If you spot “My dear” in correspondence between your loved one and an online contact, you should be on alert.
Realistically, no one uses such phrases unless they are in a close, long-term relationship.
Would you call someone you only know online for a month or so “baby” or “honey”? It doesn’t make sense.
Another tell-tale sign is that the scammer’s messages will be riddled with grammatical mistakes. However do be aware that some scammers are intelligent folk who can write impeccably.
And of course, if the intended victim tells you that their love interest is in desperate need of financial aid, the alarms in your head should start blaring.
• Help at your fingertips
While it may be a pain to teach your old folks the ways of the digital world, it will protect them from unscrupulous criminals out for their money.
Anti-scam guides suggest reverse-searching profile images of romantic interests, which will detect if these pictures are stolen from someone else on the Internet.
In addition, if they went to the extent of creating a fake profile to con victims, the information that they put up can be used against them.
If they claim that they are working in such-and-such company, do contact that company and verify the identity of this so-called employee.
If they do not have a digital presence on the other hand, it raises suspicions too as literally everyone has at least one active social media account nowadays
• Be supportive after the realisation
While you may be itching to say, “I told you so!” to the victim, you should instead show that you care and want the best for them.
Take them out, and encourage them to take part in community events where they might meet a special someone who is real.
Show them you still love them, no matter what shenanigans they find themselves in.