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July 2023= Romance Scams

Romance Scams are made popular by the MTV show “Catfish.”  This scam is unfortunately becoming very popular with our senior citizens.  The scam works by the suspect manipulating the victim to give money to the suspect.  The suspects have patience and are willing to wait months to gain trust.  The manipulation stems from a strong emotion, love.  The victim thinks they found the “love of their life” and would do anything to help them.  The suspect will ask for money after giving a reason why they are in financial trouble.  Because the victim feels so strongly towards the suspect, they give the money to them.  Many times, the victim does not notice that the suspect is in the process of draining their bank account.  IN ALL CASES, the suspect will come up with excuses on why they can not meet in person; “I’m overseas.” “I’m working on a remote site.”  “I don’t have the money to travel.” Any excuses to continue the “relationship” without meeting, but the request for money continues.

It is hard to recover the money on romance scams, the victim willfully gives the money away and the banks will not refund the willful exchange.

A new twist has been added to this scam.  The Douglas County Sheriff Detectives is seeing a victim, unknowingly, becoming money mules.  Money mules are the middle person in an illegal act to transfer money.  This new version of the romance scam has the suspect asking the victim to cash checks that will be sent to them and then buy bitcoin or other untraceable currency.  Then, the bitcoin will be transferred back to the suspect.  The original check/money typically comes from another victim where the suspect has access to their bank account.  When noticed by either law enforcement or the bank, the money mule is liable for the money, typically leaving the victim in large debt.

It is important to remember the safety tips to the romance scams as well as commonsense.  The commonsense approach is DO NOT DO ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL UNCONFORTABLE.  Easier said than done when you bring emotions into the situation.  It is a good reminder to keep your emotions in check.  A good person would not want you to do something you are uncomfortable with.  If they push you to do something you don’t feel good about, I will question the reason or motive.  The harder they push, the slower you should go.  Remind yourself why you started this “relationship” to begin with, TO MEET THE PERSON.

That brings me to the best safety tip I can suggest regarding romance scams… DO NOT GIVE MONEY TO OTHERS UNTIL YOU MEET THEM IN PERSON.  The reason people go onto dating sites is to meet people.  I understand the need to talk to them before meeting in person.  However, the beginning of the relationship is to get comfortable enough to meet them in person, not to give money.  If they can not or do not meet with you, they are taking away the main reason you joined the site.  Make it a personal rule to never give money to people you meet on dating sites until you meet them in person.  I know, this too, is easier said than done.  The suspects will use or say anything to get your money and many people will give in.  BE STRONG, you can use this for your advantage, “if you want me to help you, then you will be willing to meet me.”  Remind yourself, this person made it this far without your help, surely, they can last longer.  Take your time.  It is that simple.  Remember, you got on this site to meet people NOT TO GIVE MONEY TO THOSE YOU HAVE NOT MET.