What's Love Got to Do With It?

Why and how to talk with mom about romance scams.

What are you doing for mom on Valentine’s Day? A card is always nice. So are flowers and chocolate.

But if you really want to show you care, talk with her — or dad — about romance scams. Especially if they live alone. 

You’ll be doing them, and yourself, a favor.

The internet, online dating platforms, and social media have made it easier than ever for heartless criminals to steal your parent’s life savings and dignity.

Just ask Angie Kennard, whose single father lost more than $700,000 over years to “Mary Blake,” until “he had nothing left to the point where he stopped taking care of himself.”

Or 83-year-old Pat Breitkreuz, who sent more than $98,000 to “Lewis” — a 62-year-old in Montreal she met on a dating site who assured her that “age is just a number.”

Or Joan, a real estate agent, who lost her husband of 56 years and then lost more than $500,000 to an online scammer she met on OurTime named “Roger Luv.”

The Best Time to Talk

Romance scams are insidious because they use psychological manipulation to exploit our primal need for connection and affection.

It’s a long con. Romance scammers will wait months before asking for money. And once the tap is open, they keep the cash flowing as long as possible with endless pleas for gift cards, loans, bogus investments, and other schemes.

Some victims even find themselves working for their scammers as money mules to defraud other victims.

Detecting a romance scam isn’t easy. Love is a powerful and addictive drug that makes otherwise cautious people dismiss doubt and double down on denial. It’s also common for scammers to tell victims to keep their relationship secret from friends and family. 

That’s why the best time to talk with mom is before she starts flirting on Facebook with Dr. Zhivago in Kyiv. 

Here are a few tips that can help:

Educate yourself about romance scam warning signs, and safety tips. (Start with the resources below in the For More section.)

Discuss, don’t lecture. And don’t make it personal. This is not going to work if you talk to mom the way she talked to you about dating when you were a teenager. So watch your tone. You’ll only make things worse if dad feels like you’re threatening his sense of control.

Use a story as a conversation starter. Check out the links above to Angie’s, Pat’s, and Joan’s stories and pick one. Introduce the topic with a simple prompt: “I’ve been hearing that romance scams are getting worse and worse. Can I show you something? I’d like to know what you think about this…”

Sense Something? Say Something!

If you’re worried mom or dad is under a scammer’s spell:

Stay calm. Approach mom or dad with empathy, concern, and care, says Kim Casci-Palangio, director of the free Romance Scam Recovery Group at the Cybercrime Support Network.

“Our immediate instinct is to go, ‘No, it’s a scam. Stop communication immediately.’ But the most important thing is to meet them where they are, and say, ‘Okay, let’s check this out together. Let’s look for the facts. Let’s look for the red flags.’ 

“Try not to get frustrated and understand that they are in love in the same way that you would be in love with someone in person.”

Expect denial. It’s common for romance scam victims to believe that their soul mate would never betray their love and trust for money. So don’t expect your parent to instantly connect all the dots, even in the face of evidence. 

Don’t shame or blame. Coming in hot with accusations is a big mistake. “People feel incredible shame in these situations,” says Althea Brunskill of Relationships Australia. “That’s when people shut down.”

Instead, take a gentler approach that reasserts your relationship, says Brunskill: “You taught me about stranger danger, and this doesn’t feel right to me. Here are a few reasons why…”

Talking with your parent about romance scams is one of those conversations no one really wants to have. 

Do it anyway. 

Because the price of falling for a romance scammer can be devastating. 

When the money is gone, it’s gone for good. But the financial and emotional trauma can last a lifetime.

For More:

Thanks for caring,

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