By: Ronnie Tokazowski
In part one of our series, we defined what a Romance Scam is and how to spot them. In part two, we will now walk through what to do if you find yourself in one.
Being a victim of a romance scam can be devastating. You’ve lost money, been betrayed by someone you loved, and family members you know and trust may have even broken ties with you. On top of that, victims feel an enormous amount of shame due to the trauma of losing money, and many victims are extremely hesitant to come forward. Adding to the stress, many friends and family members will yell or chastise victims for being in the scam thinking they are helping convince their loved one to end the relationship.
While many victims feel powerless and hopeless, they have many resources to help recover. That’s what we want to highlight here.
By stepping up and speaking out, victims can get out of their own romance scams while also potentially stopping others from falling victim in the future because scammers will use the same email account to attack multiple victims. By saying something, you can stop the scammers before they reach others. And let’s be honest, stopping scammers and saving victims is an amazing thing to do.
How to Outsmart a Romance Scammer
If you find yourself in a romance scam, here are the first things you should do.
1. Cut off contact with the romance scammer
One of the hardest things victims have to do is to physically and emotionally cut off contact with the scammer. You’ve exchanged sweet nothings, potentially intimate details about how you want to spend the rest of your life and they took advantage of you. Emotionally, the scammers will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to keep you in the scam. They will threaten to leak your information, tell family members your secrets, or will be verbally and emotionally abusive towards you. Hearing, reading, and personally seeing the abuse from scammers is horrifying.
Cutting off communication is key. Block them on social media and text, change your number, do whatever you have to do to sever all connections with them. They may persist for weeks or months to try and get you to send money again, but it’s important to be strong, stand your ground, and not give in to the scammers.
2. Contact your bank
If you gave your bank account to the scammers or were cashing checks on their behalf, contact the bank. Let them know you were a victim of cybercrime because many banks and financial institutions are able to write these off. This would not have been the case five years ago; however, banks are well aware that victims get socially engineered into unknowingly giving their accounts to loved ones. Contact your bank, they may be able to help.
3. Retain copies of gift cards, credit cards, or anything sent to you from the romance scammers
One of the most difficult aspects of romance scams is how many other types of crime overlap with it. Victims get pulled into check, credit, or gift card fraud. Victims send billions in cryptocurrencies to attackers overseas, and many even received chocolates or flowers from their “lovers.” It’s extremely important to save EVERYTHING so that when law enforcement gets involved, they can use the evidence to track other victims.
Local law enforcement is unable to help
When it comes to tracking international criminal syndicates, it is not in your local police department’s jurisdiction. They are tasked with maintaining the peace in a given area, and unfortunately aren’t equipped or have the resources to track these scammers. These crimes are tracked at the federal level due to the number of losses and national security implications associated with the fraud.
Where to go for help
Listed below are several educational and recovery resources. For many victims, professional help and therapy will be needed to help deal with the emotional trauma of the crime. Resources like BetterHelp and other online therapy platforms are critical for those who are in need.
Here is a list of resources if you are a victim.
BetterHelp – https://www.betterhelp.com
Secret Service – https://www.secretservice.gov/investigation
IC3 – https://www.ic3.gov/
FBI – https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber
USPIS – https://www.uspis.gov/tips-prevention/cybercrime
NCA – https://staysafeonline.org/resources/reporting-cybercrime/
Interpol – https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Cybercrime
Taking the necessary steps to remove yourself from a romance scam is hard, but critically important. Once you have removed yourself from the situation, you need to focus on recovering as this can be a traumatic experience for many. In our third, and final, part of this series on romance scams, we will address ways for individuals to process, cope, and recover from these scams.