Sweetheart scams surge, consumer group says: Don’t let someone you love get ‘Duped’

Click for more on Abby Ellin’s new book.

Lonely would-be lovers are falling for con artists at an alarming rate, with devastating consequences – the average victim loses $18,831, according to a new report by the National Consumers League. The group says complaints about fake lovers to their organization basically doubled last year.

“Scammers will stop at nothing to separate victims from their money,” said John Breyault, NCL’s vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud. “They depend on the people they prey on to act on emotions, not reason. There’s no stronger emotion than love, and scammers are all too eager to use supposedly romantic connections to defraud their victims.”

I know you know this and you are tired of hearing about Romance Scams, but put up with it — whatever we are doing isn’t working. You and I have to warn all the people we love that this is still a problem, and believe it or not, things appear to be getting worse.

Loneliness is a powerful force; perhaps the most powerful force on Earth. You might think you’d never fall for a fake lover. Well, plenty of people do. You’ve probably heard about my friend Abby Ellin’s new book Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married.  It happened to her. It can happen to anyone.

Abby Ellin

”It’s a no-brainer—if someone is asking you for money, even if you think they’re the love of your life, don’t give it to them,” Abby told me after reading the report.  “If they go into fight mode and attack you, that’s an even clearer sign that they’re not just there for your scintillating wit and good looks.”

Abby-style cons have always existed, but the problem is criminals have a much easier time pulling off these scams in the digital age. They can do it from across the globe; they can do it from their living room couch. They can seduce hundreds of people at once, a cost-effective practice meaning they can spend a year or two romancing their marks.  And they can steal identities from unwitting third parties, making their stories all the more believable.

I’ve been writing about these kinds of scams for a long time, and let me tell you, the heartbreaks are real. Victims are often hypnotized, as if under a spell, and con artists work hard to separate them from their support system or anyone who might break the spell. I’ve had family members put their elderly family members on the phone with me, begging me to help snap them out of it. And I’ve written about victims so convinced they’d found love that they fly across the world to meet their lovers, only to lose even more money.

Last year, I wrote about a teacher who flew to Jamaica and was murdered when investigating her con artists.

Talk to your friends and loved ones about their new beaus, especially the elderly or those who have suffered a deeply painful loss recently, like the death of a spouse.  I’m telling you, anyone can fall for a scam like this.  Your best defense is to realize how powerful the force of loneliness is, pray that you’ll not be tested by it any time soon, and take care of people around you who suffer from it.

Every fraud is sad, of course, and the National Consumers League released its list of top 10 fraud complaints on Friday.  Here’s the list.

1. Internet: General Merchandise 31.25%
2. Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts 16.97%
3. Fake Check Scams 13.09%
4. Recovery/Refund Companies 7.63%
5. Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers 7.37%
6. Phishing/Spoofing 4.84%
7. Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles 2.81%
8. Computers: Equipment/Software 2.23%
9. Scholarships/Grants 1.63%
10. Family/ Friend Imposter





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About Bob Sullivan 1524 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

1 Comment

  1. Last year, I was really close to committing suicide after losing about $50,000 to a romance scam by someone who pretended to be in the USA Military, he even proposed to me sent me a ring and flowers. I was so devastated but after a lot of counseling and advice from loved ones and colleague at work I decided to consult a private security Investigation and intelligence firm. I filled a form and provided them with some extra information and within 2 weeks they were able to track down the person behind the account, we reported him to the local police in Malaysia and the were able to make and arrest, and recover some of my money back. you can contact the recovery firm by email: info(at)wealthrecoveryint.co

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