“He steals your money the way he steals your heart: Effortlessly!”
Ever met someone too good to be true? Someone who knew exactly what to say to win you over? The smooth talker, the one who wants to know everything about you, the one who makes your day and of course, the one who is in desperate need of money and can only look to you to be their knight in shining armour? Well if you are someone who has experienced this, then chances are you have been a victim of a romance scam.
For the unversed, romance scams take place when the criminal assumes an online or offline identity to gain affection and in the process, the trust and confidence of a victim. The scammer then uses the illusion to get money out of the victim. If you have watched Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Alia Bhatt’s character experiences romance scam where the guy takes her father’s money and runs away.
Here are three stories from victims of romance scams who will serve as a tale of caution for everyone who could get involved in one.
The Bank Account Freeze
Madhurima* works as an interior designer in Bangalore. She was swiping through profiles on a dating site when this near-perfect guy was right there looking for a friend in a lover. Intrigued, she decided to get in touch with him. The more they spoke, the more she fell for him. He always agreed with what she had to say and never once opposed her thoughts. “For me, it was a dream come true. This guy was intelligent, smart and had the same views on life as I did. So far, I had been considered as an outcast and often felt misunderstood. But with him, I felt like I belonged to him. We spoke about how after lockdown we will travel to all the places in the world!”
Trouble began when he one day texted her that his account had been blocked and the bank said that they would unfreeze it after 48 hours. He asked her if she could wire some money. Being in love with this perfect man, she immediately wired it. However, for some reason, he called her and said the wire didn’t go through. After another two tries, with the money being deducted from her account, she thought she would call the bank authorities to clarify this. However, he started talking about how he trusted her, and that she couldn’t even send that amount and that she didn’t trust him or love him. “At that point, I was desperate to hold onto him and show him that I did trust and respect him. So I wired it at least around five times before I thought, wait, let me just check with my bank why it isn’t happening. That’s when he told me that he couldn’t be with someone he didn’t trust. Since then, I haven’t heard back from him. What’s worst, a part of me still believes that he didn’t get the money, even though I know that this was all a scam.”
Lesson: Romance scammers often play on their victim’s emotions and feelings and manipulate them while asking their victims to pay for a plane ticket or help with visas.
The Freight Charge
Reena Dave*, a 32-year old bachelor, registered on a matrimonial website after being heartbroken on various dating sites. “I wanted something concrete. So I registered on a matrimonial website, and within a day, I got a match with someone too good to be true. He was from the UK and was planning to shift to India. He was kind, generous, from a well to do family and very handsome. I thought to myself, ‘Wow! I have hit the jackpot!’ We started sharing a lot; in fact, he even helped me pick up something for a party. And that is when the trouble started. According to him, he had gone and shopped some stuff for me and asked me to pay the freight charges. At first, I thought okay, I’ll do it since he did shop for me. However, it just didn’t sit very well with me. Something was off. So I told him I had already invested money and didn’t have that large sum on me to pay for the freight. Immediately after that, he started giving me the silent treatment and blamed me for not trusting him. He further told me about how he is glad he finally understood that money meant more to me. I was in tears for most of the days, but his bad behaviour just helped me get over him. Now, when I look back at it, I thank god that I didn’t succumb to the gaslighting tactics of that man!”
Lesson: The scammer lured the victim into a false sense of affection, and using this and a few gaslighting techniques, asked for payment. Scammers often tend to be at an offshore place, may send you something and ask you to pay the freight or custom charges, which is nothing but a ploy to get the money in their accounts.
Sex Tape Scandal
Samantha, a woman who had just broken up with her partner, found solace in a guy she had met online. “Honestly, looking back, I think there were always these signs that told me this was a scam. He was so perfect and so understanding that one day when he told me that he had found something on a website and he was running short of Rs. 10,000, I immediately decided to help him. After a few days, it was something else, and he had fallen short of Rs. 5,000. This time I told him to pay me for Rs. 10,000 first. He was like sure, so he sent me this request for Rs. 10,000 on this app. I told him if I say yes, I’ll be paying him and not the other way around. He then told me that since its a merchant account, it works the other way. Like a fool, I believed him. Of course, the money was deducted from my account. He said there might be a glitch and asked me to try again. At this time, I was furious and told him I wasn’t going to do that. We soon got into a heated argument. As a lost resort, I guess, he played the scandal card. He told me that if I didn’t pay up, he would leak my chats and my pictures on the net. And that is when it hit me. I had read about such stuff but didn’t think I would still end up falling for it. For some time, I was in shock, but he kept making threats after threats. I pulled myself together, texted him, ‘Go ahead, make me famous! But I am going and launching an FIR against you!’ His messages stopped after that. It’s been a week since that, and I haven’t heard from him. Since there is an online FIR facility, I chose that.”
Lesson: Scammers often target women and homosexual men and women to get them to pay for the scammer’s silence. Please do not exchange pictures or personal details without meeting the person and even post that, be careful. With the lockdown, just hold on before its safe for you, both physically and mentally, to indulge in conversations where you disclose yourself and make yourself vulnerable to the person.
Things To Keep In Mind: About The Scammer
They profess their love quickly
Do a reverse image search of the profile picture. If you can’t find it, ask them to send you one where they are holding certain things like a ketchup bottle etc.
They may say they are off social media profiles because of their past relationships.
They are overseas and are planning a trip to where you are soon, but the date keeps changing.
Things To Keep In Mind: About The Scams
Online transactions are almost impossible to reverse.
Bills can be created on photoshop, so if they send you a picture of the bill, be careful.
Do not click on links unless you are sure of the content. Some links can be used to download malware on your computer or can be used to spy on you.
Authorities You Can Contact
If you met the scammer on a dating site or any other online site, report their profile to the admin there.
If you have sent a gift card, quickly contact the company and tell them to cancel the card or block the card usage.
You can write an FIR online, and the authorities will contact you asking for details and will ask you to visit a branch closer to your place.
*Name changed to protect the identity of the person
Also Read: 3 Ways To Master Self-Encouragement Today!
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