Romance scams may come off as a relationship where you think you know everything, but later discover otherwise. Everything looks surreal, but the truth is that it’s like quicksand where one will keep sinking deeper. It is a fake romance performed by a group of scammers or an individual who then builds up trust and later exploits the target financially and emotionally. It could end up as devastating and traumatic for you once you find out that you were deceived by your partner. In this blog, we aim to suggest preventive measures against romance scams with the support of a real-life deceptive incident.
REAL-LIFE INCIDENT BASED ON A ROMANCE SCAM
A LOVING CON MAN
Sara and Daniel were into a five-year live-in relationship. A single mouse click has turned her life upside down. Let’s get an inside look into this elongated romance scam case.
Stage 1: Grooming and Building Trust (Sara’s POV)
It all started with a dating app where I found Daniel- the love of my life. One fine day, he asked me out for a dinner date, and as we were on good terms I said yes. When we met, it felt like everything was falling in place. He surpassed my expectations. He sent a driver to pick me up and drop me at the fanciest restaurant in Boston.
He made me believe that he was a successful tech entrepreneur from the west coast, looking to expand his business in the east. He did show me his home, it was a luxurious penthouse with $6000 rent per month.
I found his personality intriguing because he was smart, knowledgeable, inquisitive, and was all about me. He presented himself so well that there were no second thoughts. He opened up to me and shared his part of the story on how he was exploited emotionally, the trauma he went through and how heartbroken he was.
Stage 2: Love Bombing
Though he came out of that phase and was kind, driven, motivated, and generous. It made Sara trust him even more. Additionally, he gave Sara every signal of being in a serious relationship where he wanted a marriage, children, and a peaceful life together. He also connected with her effortlessly.
Stage 3: Exploiting emotions and vulnerability
Sara further added, “We started dating and living together, had the perfect dates and nights, the things which I ever dreamt of were happening. However, after a certain point, some doubts surfaced when we went to a branded shop with my cousin and Daniel. He asked me to purchase a $3000 designer bag, and I resisted. But, he obliged. When we were heading towards the bill counter, Daniel remembered that he had only kept his business card and was restricted to pulling personal expenses. So Daniel asked me to pay, agreeing to transfer the payment later. I was already with my cousin, so I covered it up and paid the bill.”
Stage 4: Psychological Manipulations: Emotional Exploitation, Isolation, Mirroring, Validation & Cognitive Dissonance
There was a pit in my stomach, it came across my mind that it was all a made up telltale. But I ignored it. Later on, I invited Daniel to meet my father. He was disappointed by my choice. Daniel was unable to answer any of the business-related questions asked by my Dad. Further, my father told me that he seemed off, and warned me to stay away from him.
When I talked to Daniel about my father’s first impression of him, he got anxious and furious, saying that you are old enough to make your own decisions. At that time, I admired Daniel’s words and did not give any heed to my father’s words. With that decision, I isolated myself from my family and lost everyone close to me.
Deep down, I was getting heavy-hearted as I could sense that something was off but I kept failing at digging deep into the situation or may have been afraid to confront it (A stage of Cognitive Dissonance) as I was already in love. One day, out of the blue, he asked me to marry him. I was a bit disappointed because there was no mansion or big penthouse as he’d once mentioned. Hence, he settled in my condo.
The other way around, I compromised with the situation and said yes to the marriage. When we were living together, it was all good initially. One day I got a phone call from the hospital saying that Daniel was at the hospital ER. I ran home to find my bag but when I got there, what I saw was shocking!
The door was wide open, everything was thrashed around, and the half-lighted candles were almost at the edge of putting my place on fire. That time I discovered that Daniel was an alcoholic too.
But again, I reeled back in, I helped him through his medical expenses and forgave him when he apologized. I was still in love. We finally got married and were spending the best honeymoon in Paris with the most luxurious services. He had not paid a single penny but asked for all the luxuries he wanted. Now, it was time to check out, he suddenly fell ill and asked me shakily will I mind paying from his credit card. He gave me his business credit card and the payment failed. It was a $25,000 bill and I panicked. As we were married, I put it on my credit card.
Later, he asked me if we could have a fresh start in New York and if I could leave my job, and wanting to be a supportive wife, I did so. I was totally dependent on Daniel.
I was devastated and screwed up when I heard myself sharing all about this with one of my closest friends. She told me that this may seem like signs of a romance scam.
Ultimately, I found out that all the dots were connected with the mess that was going on in my life.
- Daniel has an ex-wife and three children, from a marriage that lasted 13 years. I met her personally and got to know that she was also in search of him as he owed her $120,000.
- Later, I discovered he took two credit cards in my name and that I was under a pile of debts.
- He was no businessman. His business was merely a fake website and a fake listing.
- Plenty of folks were in search of him because of all the money he owed people. It explains all the times that he dodged public gatherings by saying that ‘he is an introvert/shy person.”
At present, I don’t know how to feel even though I have filed charges against him. I am emotionally and financially drained.
I did log a complaint, and I did cross-check our marriage, but that stood to be a legit one. I ended up filing an annulment due to fraud. I’ve also changed my locks, passwords, credit cards, and bank accounts.
I don’t know if I will ever forget this traumatic experience but I hope this story helps the readers safeguard themselves. Be cautious and contact Financial Options Recovery to prevent romance scams.