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Help Me Hera: My friend has fallen victim to a romantic scam #nigeria | #nigeriascams | #lovescams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating

My friend met a guy on a dating app and he keeps borrowing money from her without paying it back. How do I convince her she’s part of an emotional Ponzi scheme?

Want Hera’s help? Email your problem to helpme@thespinoff.co.nz

Dear Hera,

My friend met a guy on Bumble.  It was great and pretty “normal” for a few weeks, but then he started asking her for money. There’s always a valid excuse or reason, but the requests just keep coming.  She says “he’s just going through a lot” or “he’s having a tough time right now.”

It’s been about eight months now and he hasn’t paid any of it back, and is still asking her for more. She won’t tell me how much but I know it’s a lot. He’s in his late 30s, employed full-time.

He won’t tell her his address, so has never invited her to his house. He says he wants to take it slow as he’s been hurt badly in the past. They’ve only been physically intimate once, as he doesn’t like to stay over at her house.

He rings her at least twice a day but he gets moody and short-tempered if she says the wrong thing. The most innocuous things seem to wind him up and she has to apologise before he’ll talk to her again.

She vacillates between worry and frustration at what’s happening and guilt that she’s not being “understanding enough.”  She doesn’t seem like she’s having any fun, on any level, and yet says she’s “falling for him.”

My advice to her (apart from saying he seems lame and she needs to dump him) has been this: relationships require reciprocity. At a basic level, no matter what the nature of your relationship, you need to be getting something positive out of it, whether that’s hugs or S&M or whatever. But she’s not getting anything except anxiety and financial distress, as far as I can tell.

How can I get through to her and help her get away from this parasite in the form of a human man??

Best regards, 

Or Should I Just Mind My Own Business?


I wouldn’t worry if I were you. This is actually how I met my current partner, Bjorn Fakenamison. He lives in Iceland, and we’ve been together for almost 10 years. We’ve never met in person, but he’s planning to visit just as soon as the portable aquarium business I’ve been helping him bankroll takes off. 

To be honest, at this point, I’m not even sure if what your friend has technically qualifies as a relationship. Is a relationship a relationship if it’s also transparently a scam? It’s not just the money – after all, many historically successful marriages were based on the redistribution of capital. But it sounds like this guy isn’t even remotely interested in your friend, beyond what’s left in her bank account. 

How do you convince someone their relationship is an emotional Ponzi scheme? The reality is there might not be an easy way to get through to her. Trying to help a friend when they’re caught up with someone you know isn’t good for them is notoriously fraught, and often futile. 

I don’t mean to belittle your friend’s choices. Hope is a powerful and intoxicating thing. Obviously, this guy means something to her if she’s willing to overlook so many glaring warning signals. Perhaps he has a lovely phone manner. She clearly has a lot invested in this, both emotionally and financially, which means she’s likely going to be resistant to hearing her boyfriend is a human pyramid scheme. 

She likely already knows this guy is bad news, and is clearly ashamed about lending him so much money, although I think the word “lending” in this context has an unearned optimism. But the more she invests in him – time, hope, money – the harder it’s going to be for her to cut her losses and admit she was hoodwinked. She’s suffering from a terminal case of sunken cost fallacy. 

Your friend may be gullible. But this guy is obviously a good manipulator. His moodiness and short temper aren’t just character flaws. They’re strategies. He’s purposefully making mountains out of molehills in order to keep her on edge. If all her energy is directed towards minor things, like worrying about saying the wrong thing over the phone, she’s unlikely to have the courage or energy to call him out on the big stuff, like not knowing where he lives, why they never sleep together, and when he’s going to start paying her back. 

That doesn’t mean your friend will appreciate your input. How hard to push when it comes to expressing concern about a friend’s partner, depends a lot on your friend’s personality, and the level of trust in your relationship. Can you talk about difficult things? Will she retreat at the first sign of confrontation? Could you encourage her to talk to a therapist or counsellor? She might be more receptive to hearing she’s dating a dirtbag from a licensed professional. 

If you push someone too hard before they’re ready to acknowledge a painful truth, you run the risk of annoying or embarrassing them so badly you inadvertently push them deeper into the relationship you want to see them out of. But it’s also no good standing silently by as your friend decimates her life savings in order to fund the lifestyle of some guy who won’t even tell her where he lives. 

If I were you, I’d do some basic investigating on your friend’s behalf. Eighty five percent of the time, if you’re “dating” someone, but you’ve never been to their house or met any of their friends and they won’t stay the night, it means they’re married. And even if they’re not married, it’s not like the other 15% of scenarios are looking any better. Can you verify his identity? Does he have a social media presence? Has your friend ever met anyone who works with or knows him? She might consider you playing Nancy Drew a breach of trust, but the only thing that seems even remotely likely to change her mind, besides bitter experience, is evidence he’s lying about some fundamental aspect of his identity. But even if you find proof, it doesn’t mean your friend will thank you for it, or even necessarily break up with him. 

This is obviously an exasperating and upsetting situation, and it sounds like you’re doing the best you can. There is no perfect course of action here. Sometimes the best you can do is express reasonable concern, try and remind her what a healthy relationship looks like, and otherwise be patient. It might take her time to hear the truth of what you’ve been saying. But sometimes the best thing you can do is just stay in the picture. A scammer’s best strategy is to isolate his victims. So keep checking in with her. Let her know you care, and are there if she needs you. Hopefully she’ll snap out of it, before she’s well and truly bankrupt.

Want Hera’s help? Email your problem to helpme@thespinoff.co.nz. Read the previous Help Me Heras here.


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