Thursday, December 15, 2011

Above All: Anonymity

Just a note tonight about anonymity in our chat room and in the email group.  For those of you who may hesitate to join us because you don't want your name "out there" or your story published all over the internet, there are a couple of ways to make sure your privacy is maintained.

1.  In the chat room, create a username that has no relationship to who you really are.  Do not log in with your email address.  The chat room is NOT connected with Yahoo in anyway and you do not need to use an email address to login.  You also do not need a password to login to the chat room.  Although it is possible for anyone in the chat room to copy what you might say, it is highly unlikely.  In any case, as long as you are using a created username, it remains totally anonymous.  There are no transcripts kept on any conversations in the chat room.  There is no membership requirement to be part of the chat room.  When you login to the chat, your IP address and your general location will show to the moderators only, but your name and address and email address is not known to anyone but you. There is no public membership listing in the chat room and just because you logged in one time does not put you on a list of any kind.  Once you have been there awhile, at your option, you may choose to email us at which allows us to verify your IP address.  At this point we will put you on our verified user list which only the moderators can see.  This option is totally up to you but will allow you full use of the chat room features.  It is also used as a safety method of identifying for new people who are regular verified users as well as letting the regulars know who is new and needs assistance. 
2.  The Yahoo email group is connected with Yahoo, obviously.  Therefore, if you want to keep who you are there anonymous, it is suggested that you also create a new Yahoo email before joining the group.  Our email group is a private group and therefore your emails you send in are not available through searching any search engine online.  Some groups you might join are not private, but are public which means everything posted there is available online in searches.  However, this will not happen with our email group.  Anonymity is of utmost importance to all of us and we believe the freedom to be able to say what we need to say to heal is more important than letting what is said be seen to outsiders as well as possibly to scammers.  Only the name of our email group is public.  Membership lists and posts are not public. This means that only members can see the membership list and posts.  The email group is also set so that no one may join without first sending a request to join.  Once your request has been approved, only then will you be able to post an email to the forum.

That being said, if anyone joins either the chat room or the email group and does not create a username or email address that is not associated with their real name, other users there will be able to see the information you allow to be seen because of your choice you made when you logged in. While your anonymity and privacy is important to us, it is your responsibility to make sure that you protect yourself to the best of your ability.  Creating a username and email address following our suggestions is the best way you can do that.

  Joining the email group is not a requirement to be part of the chat room and joining the chat room is not a requirement to be part of the email group.  You are free to pick either or both.  We realize that individual preferences are important and this is why we offer both options.  Whichever choice you make, we are glad you found us.  We will do the best we can to help you deal with what has happened to you and help you heal.

One final point.  If you choose to join the email group, please take note on the registration/account section you are asked to choose how you wish to receive the emails.  There are four options available.  You can choose to receive individual emails, or the daily digest which compacts several emails into one daily email, or you can choose special notices which will send you only specific emails, or finally you can select webview only.  This final option means you will receive no emails at all from the group, but you are still a member of the group.  You can read all emails, respond, or post new emails directly from the email group website which is located at

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Already?!

It is that time of year again! Time to decorate, fight the crowds in the shopping malls, make sure all your Christmas cards are sent out, etc. The list goes on and on. However for Christmas some people are lonely and frustrated. They don't have any family or friends to celebrate with and they can't wait for it to be all over. They are vulnerable and unhappy and they turn to the internet for solace and comfort.

Too often people go on networking sites such as Facebook and My Space as well as dating sites in hopes of finding someone who is lonely too. they pray they will find the man or woman of their dreams to make their holiday brighter. Unfortunately, they often meet the wrong person, a scammer, and before you know it they are caught up in an internet romance scam! 

It is so easy to fall for all the promises and the sweet talk, the" I really want to be with you for Christmas" talk and that is just what they want to hear. The person thinks that finally they have found what they need to make their Christmas more bearable and joyous.

As hard as it is to be alone for Christmas, is it worth it to find that this man or woman that has contacted you is not who they appear to be and is just trying to get your money? Is it worth the heartache when they don't show up at the airport like they promised when you sent them the money for a ticket?!

Please be very careful this holiday season that you don't fall into this type of trap. That's just what it is, a trap, and it is far worse than anything you can imagine. Watch for all the red flags, the poor grammar, the saying "I love you" way too fast, trying to get you on a messenger off the dating site or networking site, the little things that they don't know about the place they are supposed to be from when you question them. These are a few of the things to watch out for.

if you feel that you or anyone you know is falling into this trap, please help them to get help. There are a number of places to go for help, our site being one of them: Scams Of The Heart Here you will find people that have been through this same type of experience and will give you all the information you need and the compassion and support you need.

Above all please stay safe and have a Blessed and Joyous Christmas.


Josh Holloway, Robert Sean Leonard, Kieffer Sutherland

It has come to my attention today that another actor's photo is being used in romance scams. More than a year ago when I was still using the dating sites, a scammer contacted me using a photo of the actor Kieffer Sutherland. I never watched the television show 24 but I did recognize the actor, having seen him in many movies over the years. Because I recognized the photo, I knew the profile was fake and did not make further contact.
In the past couple of weeks I have seen posted on another scam reporting site that Robert Sean Leonard, who portrays the character of Wilson on the television show HOUSE has also had his photo stolen and used in romance scams. Now today I see posted that the same thing has happened with photos of Josh Holloway who portrayed the character of Sawyer on the television show LOST.
Please when you see a profile that interests you, do a "save image as" and take that photo to Tin Eye.
Tin Eye is a website that will check photos you plug into their site and show you where else those photos have appeared online. This means that if you are looking at a celebrity, or possibly a model photo on a dating profile, you will be able to find out that the photo is not the person represented in the dating site profile. In other words, this is a very quick and easy way to let you know right up front that the profile was created by a romance scammer.
When you find a celebrity of any type in the profile photo at an online dating site or social network (and that social network is not the official website for that celebrity) you can be sure that photo was stolen and being used by a scammer. When you find profile photos that look "too good to be true", or too posed, it is most likely a model photo stolen from a professional modeling agency. It seems more and more the scammers are using television and movie actor photos for profile pictures.
Be aware! Be vigilant! Don't let a romance scam happen to you. If you can't get past the profile photo, there is no need to go further into the profile, and there is no need to make contact, or continue contact if already started.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How to Find Full Headers and Track IP Addresses in Email

Hi.  Just a brief reminder to check our Squidoo site regularly as that is where the most updates happen in information to help you learn how to be safe online from romance scams.  
The most current updates include instructions on how to find full headers and track IP addresses in emails you receive.  These instructions, along with other helpful information can be found here.
At our Squidoo site you will not only find helpful, educational information, but you will also find some fun activities to do such as taking polls.  We would really appreciate it if you would all vote on the polls.  They are completely anonymous.  
 There is also a place where you can briefly tell your story about what happened to you.  This is also completely anonymous.  
If you are on Twitter, you can join us on the Squidoo site in Twitter Storm.  

Why, you may ask, do we have all this going on at a website separate from our main chat room website?  Squidoo is a very special place online where we are able to possibly make a little money to help defray the costs of the chat website and domain name.  This is a much better method of taking care of keeping us online than to have one or two members footing the bills all the time.  How does this work?  It's simple.  There are products listed on the site that are for sale through and all those products are related to online dating scams.  So if you were to go to to buy a book about romance scams, instead of buying it directly from Amazon, you can buy it from our Squidoo site.  Squidoo itself also places ads on our site and we get a portion of all sales through those ads.  This way we get some of the profit.  It's not much, but every little bit helps. 
We also see Squidoo as a site that offers some additional fun activities.  When you visit our Squidoo site, you can also find, in addition to the previously mentioned activities, various YouTube videos showing romance scammers in action, and other romance scam videos on YouTube.  We also have some YouTube videos of some of our chat room music we like to share together.

Be sure to click the Facebook like button when you visit.  Also click the thumbs up button as both of those actions boost our points and helps us earn awards that boost our ranking in Squidoo as well as in the search engines.  One thing to know, however.  If you do click the Facebook like button, your Facebook name and profile picture will show on the Squidoo page and the link to our page will show on your wall.  Liking us does not link you to having been scammed.  It only shows that you appreciate what we are trying to do to help others.  You can also post comments on our page.  

We, at Scams of the Heart (SOTH) are family.  We want to be there for each other, and we want to be there for those who come in newly hurt by these criminals.  What we want to do with Squidoo is take the burden of the cost of our chat room off the shoulders of the one or two or three who help pay for it now.  Your regular visits help us.  Your thumbs up, your votes on the polls, the videos you watch, and especially any products you might order through our site all go toward helping us keep SOTH online.  Besides, it's fun as well as informative!  

If you have any suggestions for topics to post on the Squidoo site, please leave us a comment here, or on Squidoo, or email us at  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Romance Scams

Thanksgiving is a special time for getting together with family and friends. Unfortunately, romance scammers know this and they use it to try to move closer to our hearts.  Promises of travels to meet for Thanksgiving abound and victims go to the airports and sit and wait...and wait...and wait...until they realize nobody is going to show up.  

Then the inevitable email shows up, or the text, or phone call.  There was a delay.  There was an accident. There was a customs issue.  Whatever the problem was, they need money...your money.  And only you can help them.  They will come up with all types of scenarios that left them stuck at the airport on their end, or in the hospital, or even in jail as some have claimed, and the only way they can get home to you is if you send them money.  They might even have you talk to someone else on their behalf.  It might be a customs official, a policeman, or doctor, or nurse.  It might be a lawyer.  It could be anyone they think you would believe to help make their story more plausible.  But no matter who they say they are, they are not real.  They are part of the ongoing scam and their ultimate goal is to get more money out of you.

You are there at the airport...or maybe by now you have gone back home, disappointed and heartbroken that your love is not going to be there with you for Thanksgiving as promised.  What do you do now? "Could everyone have been right?  Is this only a scam and not real at all?  How am I going to explain this to the rest of my family who is expecting to meet him/her? They tried to warn me that it was not real in the first place.  I was going to prove it to them.  I was going to get to introduce him/her to the family in person and they would know he/she was real.  Now I can't do that.  Now he/she isn't coming after all.  Maybe they were right and it was all fake.  What now?"  All these thoughts race through your mind combined with worries about the love of your dreams.  "Could they really be real and be in trouble like they claim to be?  What if they are real and need help?  What if I am right and everyone else is wrong?  What if he/she IS REAL?"

We are so sorry if this is happening to you right now.  Many of our members have been through exactly this kind of situation.  The emotions fill you with confusion and fear along with embarrassment that you have gotten in so deep into a possible romance scam.  You don't know which way to turn except that you have to decide if you are going to believe this person one more time and take a chance on sending more money.  How do you find out if he/she is real or a scammer?  Is there really any way to know the truth?

We can help you figure it out at Scams of the Heart 

We have the tools to find out the truth.  We will also teach you these tools so you can be safe online.  We also have experienced all these same emotions and situations caused by romance scams.  We will share our stories with you and help you deal with whatever is going on in your situation.  The truth is, real people do not ask for money from people they only know online.  They do have other options to get help if they need help other than to ask someone they have only spoken to online and/or by telephone.  Romance scammers play on our hopes and dreams and emotions to get money from us.  They often take even more from us than money. 

We hope you are not waiting for anyone at the airport this Thanksgiving holiday week.  But if you are, and they don't show up because of some scenario like the ones mentioned above, come check us out.  We can help you get through this.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

A step forward!

We're very  excited at SOTH -- we ran our first ad on Facebook last night, and had many new visitors to the site.  Watching the numbers of people who actually clicked on the ad was exhilarating -- better than putting quarters in a slot machine!  The statistics say the ad reached more than 33,000 people, and 112 people actually clicked through.  The excitement is starting to build -- and we are gratified to be reaching new folks who've had their hope stolen and pocket books lightened by ghost scammers from far away places.

To those of you who are new to us, there is hope after being scammed.  You may not feel it now, but if you begin to open up to someone who has been down this road before, your burden will be lightened, and the shame will begin to lift.  The first step might very well be reaching out to us for help.  Come and chat with us at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

We all know Neil Sedaka's song about how hard it is to break up with someone we love.  We fall in love for all sorts of reasons and many times it is one-sided at best.  When both partners have declared their undying love for one another, the breakup that follows can feel as though you have been totally destroyed forever.  But what about when you find out that the person who has sworn to love you and marry you turns out not to even be real?  Oh there are times when we start to figure out that someone we know personally wasn't really the kind of person we thought they were.  But in a Nigerian type romance scam, it's a totally different scenario.  And unfortunately, even your best friends or family members may never understand what you are going through or how it could ever have happened to you in the first place.  That is, unless it happens to them too.  
All of us believe we are too savvy to get caught up in something online so sinister and devious as a romance scam.  But it is often just that kind of thinking that gets us trapped even deeper, or keeps us trapped because we just don't want to admit to ourselves or our loved ones that we had been fooled so badly.  Does this make us fools?  Hardly!  These scammers are so good at their "jobs" of convincing us they are really who they claim to be that it is hard for us sometimes to dispute what they say.  They have photos, Facebook and MySpace profiles, hefty friends' lists complete with family members listed, and lots more.  They sometimes have their webcams that just don't work right but for those brief moments you can see something in the cam that looks like the photo they sent you.  It just has to be real!  Or does it?
So, okay, you now realize that this person you thought was real, might not be real after all.  What do you do now?  It's break-up time.  It's that time in the relationship where you have to say your good-byes.  Only this time, it's not because you caught your real guy cheating on you or that you just fell out of love.  It's not that you were arguing all the time or your paths were just not going in the same directions anymore.  No, this time it's that this other "person" you have given your heart to doesn't even exist anywhere on the planet!  It's like reading a romance novel and falling in love with the hero or heroine of the story.  It's like falling in love with a movie character portrayed by a good looking actor.  It's just not real at all.  Only it's much much worse than any of that.  This "person" was responding to you, carrying on an ongoing conversation with you for weeks, maybe months or even a year or more.  This "person" was so perfectly matched for you and you couldn't believe how wonderful they were...except suddenly they started having little financial problems that grew bigger and bigger, and only you could help them.  They depended totally on you because no one else could take care of those problems.  Your love depended on your help and if you didn't help you were made to feel horribly guilty.  And afraid.  What would happen to this love of your life if you didn't do something to help when they needed you the most?  What if they died?  Or ended up in jail?  Or could never get home to you?  So of course you did what you could to help.  And then everything comes crashing down on you and you find out that the love of your life was nothing more than a set of stolen photographs, webcam videos, and a lot of well-written lines of love. Oh okay, maybe not so well-written. 
What happens when you find yourself breaking up with nobody?
What happens when you find out the beautiful woman you were falling in love with was just a group of young black men in Nigeria or Ghana pretending to be this woman? 
What happens when this too-good-to-be-true man you counted on to be your husband turns out to be a wisp of smoke, a character out of your worst nightmare come true?
The day you realize you have no choice but to delete and block this person from all further contact online and by phone is the day you feel like everything inside you just died.  Breaking up with a ghost.  How do you do that?  Especially a ghost who won't let you go?

The moderators and members of Scams of the Heart understand what you are going through.  We've all been through it ourselves.  Some of us have lost great sums of money while others have lost nothing more than their self-esteem and ability to trust others.  All of us have had our hearts broken no matter what else happened.  We've all had to deal with friends and family members who just don't understand.  Many of us have had the unhappy experience of waiting for a love at the airport only to realize nobody was going to show up. Just another ghost of a relationship that never really existed. Many have paid for medical bills for procedures that never took place. Some have bailed their lover out of jail when there was no lover and no jail to be bailed out of.  Others had the difficult experience of getting involved with a real person who only wanted to get a green card out of the relationship, or maybe even more than just the green card.  Some of us have paid for actual real medical treatments for real people who only used us for what they could get out of us before we figured them out.  But one thing we all have in common is this.  The relationships were not real.  
Everyday we learn of new ways these romance scammers con us into believing they love us only to find out they are actually after our money or other benefits. This is Halloween season, the season of ghosts and ghouls and other things that go bump in the night. If you are dealing with a ghost of a romance scam, let us help you.  Halloween is just the beginning of the biggest holiday season of the year with Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the other holidays around the world taking place in the next couple of months.  We know how the scammers use these holidays to make promises to come "home" to us and be a family.  Don't go wait at the airport for a ghost this year.  Come talk to us in the chat room, or join our email group if you are more comfortable with that.  Either way, we are here for you.   cp 

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Holiday Season Is Approaching.....

The Holiday Season is rapidly approaching! Halloween is right around the corner and then we will be having Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas. The two latter days seem to be prime times for scammers to hit on more unsuspecting victims. My scam was started a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. This is the time of year when loneliness is most keenly felt and the scammers are definitely aware of it! They make promises of coming home to you and making your holiday the starting point of your life together. They weave that wonderful fantasy and make it sound so perfect and you fall for it! You can't wait for them to be there so that you can be together and have that perfect romantic holiday that you have always longed for 

Please be on your guard, when on the social networking and dating sites. Don't allow yourself to become a victim. Watch for all the red flags, such as love poems, all the lovey dovey talk and the fantastic promises. Above all, DON'T send any money. As much as you want to believe this wonderful fantasy, stop and think! Protect yourself and don't fall for things that are just too good to be true. 

The holiday season is a time of joy and happiness, but also a time of reflection and spending time with loved ones and true friends. Please stay safe and be careful. If you are suspicious of someone that contacts you and you feel something isn't right, follow your gut instincts and walk away. Don't have any further contact with them.

Make sure that this holiday season is a safe and happy one for you and your friends and loved ones. Have a terrific Halloween everyone!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Great News!

We now have a new Yahoo Group! We are very excited about this addition to be able to help all those who are going through the heartache of a romance scam. Please do check out our egroup


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It Works For Me

After my scam, I was dealing with all sorts of feelings, emotional, mental and physical. I ran the gamut of all the emotions, pain, heartache, desolation. Mentally I kept chastising myself,"How could I have fallen for this?" "Where was your head?"  Physically I felt worn out, like I had run a race on a treadmill and no matter how I tried  I just couldn't catch up!
My mind was constantly whirling, "if I had only done this or done that" I just didn't know what to think or believe anymore.
The daughter of my friend up the street was a power walker. She really loved to walk and told me it set her mind free, not to mention the physical benefits, cardio vascular workout and helped her keep her body toned. I thought why not? So I started to power walk. I started out slowly, only a few minutes a day. Lo and behold I started to see the benefits. 
After a couple of weeks I had gradually worked up to about a half hour a day. Then after another month I was up to 45 minutes. I felt so good when I did this, like I was finally taking charge of my life and doing something constructive. It worked for me! Up to this point I have lost 38 pounds and when I don't get out and walk I feel so blah! lol  I now walk an hour to an hour and a half a day and it really energizes me and has also helped my self esteem and confidence. Of course this might not work for everyone and you should check with your doctor first to make sure you are physically capable of doing this type of exercise.
For me it gives me that physical outlet for my frustration and anger over what happened to me. Swinging your arms is also an excellent way to get rid of anger. It also gets you out into the world again and into the fresh air! It revitalizes you! It gave me hope that I could get back to myself and my life and gave me a freedom and joy I hadn't experienced in a long time. It may seem simple, but it works for me and it might work for you!

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Anniverary to Remember

I believed I’d fallen for an Irish immigrant by the name of “Daniel Hayes,” a man my age, a clever scientist employed by a well know Pharmaceutical company. I was horrified to discover that I’d been taken by a Nigerian romance scammer. I’m a smart, college educated, professional woman – how could this happen to me? I’m not wealthy, nor am I a socialite. Why would a scammer target me?

The long and short of it is that it has nothing to do with your age, intelligence level or education. Scammers, no matter which country they’re from, find their marks by sending out thousands of ‘winks’ on dating sites. They use stolen credit cards to sign up with fake profiles, and of course, they use those “free” weekends to establish connections. They use special software to comb thousands of sites where you may have left an inadvertent product review, or signed a guest book for a friend who has passed on. I’ve seen more than one on “LinkedIn” or “”. They use these sites to legitimize their faked profiles. Then, they send out an innocuous sounding email which you might answer. I have friends who were targeted on “MySpace” or “Facebook” and thought they were safe because they weren’t involved in online dating.

Many stereotype the victims of this crime as lonely hearts: overweight, middle aged women who have nothing better to do with their time. However, in the two years that have passed since my scam realization, I’ve talked to men and women, from their mid twenties to their late seventies. I’ve talked to a scientist, therapists, nurses, long haul truckers, insurance people, accountants and students, from the US, Canada, Australia and everywhere in between. I’ve learned that the stereotype is wrong. And no matter what you look like or might do for a living, the pain of having your trust betrayed and your pocket book emptied is the same.

Two years later, my life is back to some semblance of normal. While working my way through the stages of grief, I was unemployed and sent out over a hundred resumes. I finally found work, but in my spare time, I chatted with other victims, and together, we transformed into survivors. Our chat room exists for the sole reason that someone was there to talk to each of us at our moment of despair. I hope you never have to feel that degree of devastation. But if you do, I hope you find a group like ours, ready to help you feel less alone, and to find your way to recovery. /mw

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Taking Care of Me

One of the things we have been talking about in the chat room lately is that no matter what we are going through, we still need to put some focus on taking care of ourselves.  For one thing, after a scam, after a broken heart, it is so easy to fall into depression.  Depression can mean different things for different people.  For some it may involve isolating oneself.  For another it may involve loss of sleep or too much sleep.  Others may overeat, or not eat at all.  There can be many ways depression manifests itself in one's life.  
Lack of sleep is a big problem for many victims of romance scams.  For some it may have already been a problem before the scam, like with me.  For others, it is something they never dealt with before the scam, but because the scammers use sleep deprivation as one of the methods to help gain control over us, the sleep deprivation can become a serious problem.  Lack of proper sleep is one of my issues but it was a problem for me before I was scammed.   For me, not getting enough sleep makes any kind of mental, emotional, or physical problem I am dealing with even worse.  Luckily I can usually get some sleep during the daytime, but nights are the hardest for me.  One reason is that I have always been a night owl and my brain seems to function better from the late afternoon until an hour or two after midnight.  But if I could go to sleep then, I would be okay.  This week I had to go to the doctor to see if I could get a change in prescription because the sleep aid I was taking was no longer working.  Tonight I try something new.  Hopefully it will do the trick.

Besides solving sleep problems, we need to take care of ourselves in other ways.  We may need to take a serious look at what we are eating, if we are eating, and how much we are eating.  We might need to see if we are avoiding social situations or time spent with family.  If we need to take care of physical conditions that we are neglecting, then that should be put at the top of the list of things to do to take care of ourselves.  

It's not easy for me to always do the right thing to take care of me.  I have a lot of physical issues I am dealing with.  The physical issues effect my social life at times, as well.  If I am not eating properly, meaning the kinds of foods that are healthy for me rather than those that are harmful for me, then I don't feel good physically.  Add that to lack of sleep and I can shut down physically as well as emotionally and mentally.  Everything is connected.  We need to get our lives into a healthy balance, physically, socially, emotionally/mentally, and spiritually.  Once I had a counselor who had me draw a circle and divide it into quarters like a pie.  Then I was to label each part as follows:  physical, emotional/mental, social, spiritual.  After I had done that she had me list the activities in my life that fit into each quarter.  When I was done, if there was anything off balance, I could readily see where I needed to do the most work.  This is something I have not done in a long time and think it would be a good time to do it again in the process of taking care of me.  I already know I am off balance in a few places. (Ha ha, those of you who know me, no comments here please.  LOL)  

The main point here is to look at your life and see if there is something that you might need to do to get yourself back into balance so you can take care of you.  When you go through something like a romance scam you are going to come out of it a little lopsided in some way or another.  Taking care of yourself is of prime importance now.  Whether you are new to having been scammed or it's been awhile, it's never too late to start taking care of you.  In AA and Alanon it is said that it is a "selfish program".  That is because to heal, to recover, you have to put yourself first at least for awhile.  Just like a car can't go anywhere until you put fuel in the gas tank (or plug it in for these new electric cars), you can't be expected to function properly without being fueled and refueled as needed.  Waiting until you are on empty while you expend all your energies on others does not help you or them.  Sometimes we all need to take a little time to take care of ourselves.  Daily, weekly, monthly, annually.  When we neglect ourselves, we end up not working properly at all.  We all need our batteries recharged sometimes, just like our cell phones and other electronic gadgets do.

What is it that you need to do today to take care of you?  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What The Heck Is Squidoo???

Our Squidoo page is up and running.  Please take some time to check it out, vote on the polls, post your comments.  It is still in the process of design and growth but keep your eyes on it as it may end up being as much fun as it is informational.  If you have suggestions on topics you want more information about, let us know and we will do our best to post whatever we can for you.  So, okay, take the plunge and find out what Squidoo is.  Check us out at Scams Of The Heart on Squidoo! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A 4th step inventory

One of my co-volunteers on this site wrote about the stages of grieving last week.  She did a wonderful job of illustrating some of the signposts along the way from discovering you've been scammed to coming out the other side, healthier and smarter.  I want to talk about one way of healing today, the twelve step way.  I wrote about my experience with steps 1-3 about two weeks ago.  I've been thinking about how Step 4 applies to romance scams since then.  

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."  My first take on this was "Really?  I didn't do anything wrong -- I merely got caught up in a scam because I have a big heart and believed the wrong person. . . why do I have to do all  this work?"  Well, you don't -- unless you want to try a proven method to "get over" the hate and anger you're likely to feel at some point after the scam.  

Inventory is really a lot easier than it sounds.  All it takes is a pen, paper, and willingness to look at your part in this whole ordeal.  In AA, we make a list of the harms, resentments, fear and sex conduct and how this affected our relationships with others and ourselves.  I believe strongly that the same approach will benefit scam victims, and help them move from victim to survivor.  So give this concept some thought, and if you decide that you'd rather be happy than right, then send me an email --, and I'll help you get started on your very own inventory.  /mw

Call Me A Pollyanna!

Call me a Pollyanna if you will, but I always try and look at the bright side of life, the positive side, I have never been one to give up, no matter how big the odds, or whatever the circumstances. I am beginning to believe that is what pulled me through the despair and heartache and back into the light. I looked at the positives in my life , I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my mouth. I am relatively healthy and have a good mental outlook. I will not let this crime that was perpetrated on me  take control of my life and cripple me. I will survive and I will succeed at whatever I set my mind to. I will find love, joy, happiness, and peace again in my life. It feels good to say that and assert myself! Try it and you will see that it works! It feels good to be a Pollyanna!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Romance Scams Work--How Mind Control Works

I've been researching today to try to find a way to respond to the friends and family of the lady who is now in Ghana with the scammers.  It is very hard for those who have not experienced being caught up in a romance scam to understand that the scammers exert a kind of mind control or psychological manipulation over the victims to get them to do what they ordinarily would never do.  Victims caught in this web of deceit will find themselves doing anything from simply giving out personal information like phone numbers and addresses, to sending small or large sums of money, and on into illegal activities such as cashing fake checks or reshipping packages.  Some even end up so enchanted (if that is the word for it) that they will get on a plane and fly to Nigeria or Ghana to be with this person.  At this point often the scammer has confessed to being a scammer, but has truly fallen in love with the victim and has been changed into a good person.  Then it normally becomes a green card scam so that the couple will marry and the scammer now can move out of their country into a much wealthier country, IF they can get the visa approved.

But how does this all work?  How in the world do these scammers get control of us in the first place?  Each of us knows we are much smarter than that...right?  You'd have to be stupid or desperate to fall for some scam like that....right? WRONG!!!  Romance scam victims come from all walks of life, all educational groups, and all financial groups.  Doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, moms, dads, rich, poor alike have been lured by love into the darkness of this mind control.  

I don't claim to know how mind control works.  But we are all effected by it every day of our lives through the media, commercials, tv shows, movies, etc.  Romance scams start out very simply with the first contact and moving into a quick intimacy which leads the victim into believing they have found the true love of their lives.  When friends and relatives begin to see the truth and try to warn the victim, the scammer convinces the victim to pull away and lie and do other things the victim would not normally do.  But the victim, by that time, is hooked enough to be more afraid of losing their new love than of losing friends and family.  When the scammer sees this happening, they move on to the next phase of the mind control.  If we can't convince our loved one they are being scammed, or something in their mind doesn't catch on at some point, the risk grows greater that they will end up in Nigeria or Ghana trying to get a fiance visa or spousal visa for the scammer.

For those of you who may be interested, I have included some of the links I found today.  Maybe they will be helpful, maybe they won't.  cp 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Emmanuel Ekhator -- Nigerian Scammer

I received an "Offline Message" from a friend today about Emmanuel Ekhator.  He is a Nigerian con artist who was actually arrested and extradited to the US, according to the Washington Post, a pretty reputable news source. 

At first glance, this is really good news!  But reading further, i learned that "Prosecutors say the scam ring extorted more than $31 million dollars from more than 80 lawyers and law firms." Oh, so that's what it takes to get an alleged creep extradited: $31 million and a boat full of lawyers.  This leaves me feeling pretty ambivalent.

It's a good precedent, no doubt.  I hope it helps in the arrest and extradition of men who scam money for love.  I really do.  But does it help ordinary folks who have their life savings and self-esteem stolen by one of these creeps?  You tell me -- chime in here and give us your interpretation.  The original article is here:


Chat Room Upgrade

The chat room software upgraded last night and we have a whole new looking chat room!  Mair and Share have been enjoying adding some new sounds as well as some other nice effects including adding our butterfly logo to the actual chat room.  It's looking a whole lot more modern and user friendly now.  Also, for everyone who lost the ability to copy and paste due to the java updates, copy and paste is now working again with this new upgrade.  We are growing to as our numbers are continuing to climb slowly back to where they were in the old chat room.  We hope everyone returns to the family soon.  We miss everyone who is still not back.  cp

Friday, August 12, 2011

Life Does Go On

We are all saddened that we seem to have failed to save someone from the clutches of this scammer. However, we did everything we could to help this woman realize that she was being sucked in. Sometimes people are so lonely and so in need of love and affection, that they lose themselves. I am saying prayers for this soul and hoping that she does get home safely. 
We need to redouble our efforts to see that this does not happen to another woman. This is the best thing we can do for this unfortunate soul, We can continue to educate and help those that have been victims to heal, recover, and move on with their lives. It is so true that we can't save them all, You can't help someone that doesn't want to be helped. It is a frustrating feeling when you just cannot make someone see that they are being taken advantage of. However, for us, here, life does go on. We must continue on and try our best to help those that really need our support, compassion and caring. That is the best tribute we can give to those that we have lost.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"You Can't Save Them All"

Monday my daughter and I had Chinese food for supper.  My fortune cookie said, "If you don't fail now and again, it's a sign you're playing it safe."  I don't really know if that applies to what happened yesterday or not, but yesterday I felt like a failure.  I am not in this to play it safe, either.  I am in this because I want to try to help people recover from the devastation of a romance scam, especially because so many people don't even understand what is going on, let alone understand how to reach out to a friend or loved one who has been hurt this way.
When I opened the email yesterday I somehow knew it was going to be bad news.  I didn't want to read it.  Back in June of this year, I had decided to take a few days off from the chat room and take some time for myself that I needed.  That never happened because I got an email that day too.  A woman (I will call her Madeline) had found me on the Romance Scams email group site and contacted me to see if I could help a friend of hers.  Madeline had given up and was seeing me (me???) as one last chance to reach out to this friend of hers and get her out of her relationship with a scammer.  I was not and never had been a moderator of that site.  I don't know why she chose me.  Shortly after Madeline's email I received an email from the friend telling me that she needed my help to know if this man was a scammer or not.  She had included in her email various pages from the email group site that had posts of mine.  Let's call her Claire. Claire and I emailed awhile and then we moved to Yahoo Messenger to make it easier to communicate.  She was desperate she said.  
Right away I emailed Mair, who was a moderator at the email group at that time.  I also contacted another moderator who was online at the same time and got her involved with helping Claire.  It was not long before I realized that Claire's story had a different touch to it than I had heard before.   This one involved an old boyfriend from 20 years prior and a very special ring.  The ring made the story very convincing.  Apparently, Claire had received a friend request from someone who appeared to be an ex boyfriend she had lived with 20 years ago.  He had found her on MySpace and wanted to know if they could chat.  He told her many things she said only this man would know.  His pictures on his profile she thought looked like he would look 20 years older.  After some time chatting he mailed her a ring he had given her 20 years ago while they were still together...a ring she had returned when she broke up with him.  So, no problem to this point.  
The problems came when she said he was asking her to send money, and she did send him some.  Eventually more of the story came out as Madeline kept me updated about how Claire was telling all her friends different things and lying because they were all telling her this was a scammer and she did not believe them.  It turned out that not only was Claire sending this man money, but she had become involved in reshipping merchandise for him.  She had several boxes of items to be shipped in her house at the time she contacted me.  By this time I had gotten Claire into the old chat room where many of us got together to support victims through all the emotional and financial issues they deal with.  Once the information about the reshipping came about, more of the moderators got involved including the one moderator that is the "legal expert" of the group.   Between the moderators, the chat room people, Mair, and I, we got Claire to a place of realizing how serious all of this was and how she could end up going to jail over what she was doing if she did not stop now that she knew it was illegal.  She really believed she was helping merchandise get to an orphanage in Ghana.
Let me backtrack just one moment here.  The first night after long chats and emails back and forth with Claire and my two moderator friends, Claire messaged me that she could not deal with it anymore and that she was sorry for what she was about to do, and she went offline.  Of course that message scared me and I told the moderators what was going on.  Claire had given me her phone number earlier so I immediately tried to call her with no answer.  Mair had her home address and she called 911.  I kept trying to get Claire to answer the phone and she finally did.  She was sobbing and sounded very distraught.   The next 2-3 hours were some of the most emotional hours I ever spent in my life as I talked to Claire about how suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem and how her life was worth so much more than all of this.  I listened as she talked to the police who came to the house in response to the 911 call.  After the police left I continued to let Claire tell me how she felt so horribly lost and confused and destroyed.  Everything she had gone through for this man who she loved, thinking he was her former lover, had even led her to selling her home because he had her convinced he was in Ghana and wanted her there with him.
To make this long story as short as I can from here on, over the next week I spent a lot of time trying to help Claire keep focused on the immediate things she needed to do to take care of herself instead of falling to the floor in a heap of depression.  She was also talking to Mair at times and also the other moderator I had put her in contact with.  The other moderator was assuring me that she was also talking to Claire on the phone from time to time as well as online.
Because of the reshipping, the other moderator and I encouraged Claire to contact Fraud Aid and to follow whatever instructions they gave her. From this point on, other than supportive contact in the chat room and on Yahoo Messenger, I left Claire to the more experienced people.  This was how we were instructed to deal with these situations.  "Let the mods handle it."  
A few weeks ago I noticed Claire was showing more activity on her Yahoo Messenger and decided to check in with her by phone.  What she told me shocked me by telling me that as it turned out it really was her old boyfriend and that he was there with her, but out running errands.  Claire said he was there to prove he was real, and was not going back to Ghana.  She said they were going to move to his home in another state.  I let the one moderator know what she had told me and neither one of us really believed her.  
Yesterday I got the email from Madeline telling me that Claire was back with the scammer and was in Ghana.  The scammer had tried to befriend her on Facebook, and was using a photo of Claire and him together as his profile photo.  Needless to say I was shocked!  More than that, I was distressed, concerned, scared for Claire, and angry that the scammer had done this to her.  Mind you, Claire had told me her ex boyfriend's name and shown me his photos.  This man she was with in Ghana is definitely not the same person.  Her ex boyfriend is an older white man, and this scammer is a black man who couldn't be more than 25 years old, if that.  I shared the news with Mair and a couple others who had spoken directly with Claire over the past couple of months trying to help her come to terms with the truth that this was never her ex boyfriend and was in truth a scammer.   We were all in pain hearing the news.  Today I emailed the moderator who was dealing directly with Claire to let her know.  Last night, I shared it with another moderator who is also a friend and was reminded, "You can't save them all."  As painful as it is, this is true.  We can only do what we can.  It's up to the victim to make that break to be free of the scammer's hold over them.
This past two months while I knew Claire, I've also had a few other difficult situations with victims of romance scammers.  It's been almost a year now since I, myself, was scammed.  It didn't hit me so hard.  I was one of the lucky ones.  But once I found out about this crime, and what it does to people, I had to at least try to do something to help.  That's why I am here.  That's why I am writing this now.  This was a learning experience for me, realizing that some of them don't want our help.  At least not yet.  But for those who do want our help, we are here, and ready to support them through their recovery from victim to survivor.  It's not an easy road to travel, but breaking free is the prize at the end of the journey through the grief.  
If you, or someone you know, is involved with a romance scammer, or you are just wondering if maybe you are, please visit our website, and the links given here at the side of this blog.  Get help.  It doesn't matter if you prefer an email group over live chat, or if you prefer live chat over an email group.  Find help wherever it is offered.  Help is out there.  Don't end up like Claire.  We don't know what is happening to Claire now.  We don't know if she will ever return alive.  We suspect she will be expected to help this scammer get his green card to the US, but we don't know what she may be going through right now.  It is not the bed of roses the scammers promise.  Please don't be fooled.  Take that step to freedom today!  CP

Powerlessness, take two

I had a hard day yesterday.  Cindy heard that one of the people we really worked hard to help was most likely in Africa now.  This woman apparently didn't tell anyone, but felt she had nothing left to lose, so she left a note saying she didn't care what            happened to her things and not to try to reach her.  The photo we received, from the apparent scammer's FB account, depicted them laying on a bed, with his arm       pulling her toward him. There was a look of both pride and contempt written across his face.  The other photos in the album make it clear that he is in Ghana, not Texas as he claims to be.  She does not appear to be unhappy. 

To say this affected my day would be putting it mildly.  I've felt powerless before, and I have toyed with the idea of running away to a remote Mediterranean island, but can't relate to giving up and just moving to a third world country.  I know that we did the best we could to get through to her, and made her aware of the dangers that a woman could experience traveling alone in Ghana, but can't help but wonder what we else we could have done?

Sometimes we say that recovery isn't for those who need it, but rather for those who want it.  There will always be those who aren't ready to hear the message, for whatever reason, and that will leave us feeling powerless and ineffective.  Perhaps this is a reminder that we don't actually give the assistance to people, but are merely a conduit for the higher power.  I still don't know why some people "get it" and others don't, but I am grateful today for the reminder that I'm not in charge, and I'm just not that powerful.  /mw

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interesting Article About Green Card Marriage Fraud

Just found this article that I thought might be helpful for anyone even considering a relationship with someone who is not already a permanent resident or citizen of the United States. Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name: Inside the Green Card Marriage Phenomenon

"I can't, he can, I think I'll let him. . . "

I woke up this morning thinking about the twelve steps as they apply to  Scams of the Heart. I've been working a program of recovery for almost two decades now, so it's kind of a natural extension of what I already do.  Sure wish I'd thought of this when I was devastated after my own scam experience, but better late than never, huh? 

To me, a program of recovery means more than just abstaining from alcohol or my other favorite -- dysfunctional relationships.  It means that I've worked all of the steps in order, work with others frequently, stay in service and keep in touch with my higher power on a regular basis.  I don't go to as many meetings as I used to, but when I get that edgy feeling, I do know where I belong.

Now honestly, I'm not here to push my God-concept on anyone.  Having seen these steps work for literally thousands of people in the past, I've learned that they work if one is willing to do the footwork.   I've seen them work for atheists as well as people who put their faith in the "spirit of the universe".  Whether you call your god he, she or it, no matter.  I'm using the pronoun "he" just for simplicity. 

The first step of AA says "Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had be come unmanageable".  If we apply this to love scams, we get "admitted were were powerless over our feelings about the scam (and/or scammer), and that our lives had become unmanageable.  I surely did not understand how I could have fallen for this darn scammer.  I also didn't know how to get my life back to normal.  

Some people in another group told me I had to break free completely.  I get that, it's like not taking the first drink or taking my hands out of the fire.  My life was definitely unmanageable -- as evidenced by the money I let go of so easily or the job I lost partly because I was so engulfed in this fake relationship.  I was curled up in ball, my brain a total fog for the first week without a clue of what I was going to do next.  Unmanageable, check.  

Without consciously realizing it, I slowly began to trust that "a power greater than myself would restore me to sanity."  In the beginning, it was an email group of other people who had been through the same thing.  I began to have hope that I would also recover.  That, to me, is the essence of step two.  Having just had our trust shattered, it doesn't come easily at this stage.  It didn't happen over night for me.  My uncle once told me that if "It took you a  year to get into the woods, it's probably gonna take a little while to get back out".  In other words, if I was involved in the scam relationship for several months, I can't expect to heal in a couple of weeks.  But I can take baby steps, and start to trust other folks who have been through the same thing.

For those who are veterans of twelve step programs, you know what comes next.  Yep, its the God step or step three.  Again, I'm not invested in who your God is, or how you practice your belief.  My own belief is that God has many faces, many names, and that we all get just the smallest glimpse of his (or her) power.  If you don't believe in the same way, that's okay.  Just muster up whatever belief you have, dust it off, and be ready to do the rest of the steps.  That's all. 

For anyone who might want to take a stab at these first three steps, get out a note pad and a pencil (or pen).  Write all about this scam experience and how you feel now.  Be as angry or sad or disbelieving as you need to be.  Just get it out on paper. Every little bit.  If you're afraid someone else will find your thoughts, you can shred it later.  Don't worry about spelling or grammar -- there's no final grade for this assignment, just relief. 

Ok, that's all for now.  I'll keep writing, and hope you'll come back and read some more.  Good night :) 


Monday, August 8, 2011

New FaceBook Page!

We have a new Facebook page up! Please visit us and hit the like button!  ss

Miracle of the Chat Room

Something occurred to me as I was about to sleep.  Mair has always said that there is something about the chat room that is very special because healing takes place there.  She called it the "miracle of the chat room".  I've heard her say it over and over during the past 10 months I've known her.  Tonight as I contemplate our official "grand opening" it dawned on me that it is not the name on the door, or the URL, or where the chat room is located.  It's not the background, the graphics, or the text on the website.  So what is it that creates this miracle of the chat room?

It's the people who are there.  cp

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Logos, Butterflies, and Rebirth

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly," - Richard Bach.
For most of my adult life I've identified with the butterfly.  Mostly, I think, because butterflies are so beautiful, but they don't start out that way.  They start out as sometimes ugly crawly worms called caterpillars.  Some of those caterpillars are very colorful and maybe even can be called beautiful.  But to me, they were something I did not want to get too close to.  (Except wooly worms, which as a kid I thought were quite fun.)  The metamorphosis that takes place when a caterpillar makes and enters its cocoon or chrysalis and emerges as a beautiful moth or butterfly, to me is amazing.

There are many times in a person's life that we might think we have reached the end of our world.  Divorce, death, job losses, evictions, health crises, just to name a few.  But we live on.  Sometimes we wonder how we are ever going to get through it.  Romance scams can cause much devastation to a person's life in ways it is hard to understand unless you have gone through it yourself.  There is a point in the grieving process where you feel like your life is over, all hope is gone.  Yes it is the end of the world, in your heart anyway.

We've chosen the butterfly as part of our logo at least in part because we want people to know that, as bad as it all may feel right now, we are going through our own metamorphosis as we heal from the damage done by these scams.  There is new life out there on the other side of the grief.  And that new life is beautiful.  No matter what any of us has been through in our lives, we've somehow made it through to something new.  The healing that can take place through meeting others who understand because they have gone through it too is a rebirth.  It changes victims into survivors.

The loss of our chat room three weeks ago took many of us into our own new grieving process and creation of our temporary chrysalis or cocoon.  During that group metamorphosis came the birth of our new website and chat room.  We really hope we can continue here to do the work that we did before.  With all our hearts, we want to share our experience, strength, and hope with all who need us.  CP

My Thoughts

Well here we are! We have hatched from the cocoon and have turned into a beautiful butterfly, full of anticipation and promise! We have had a long journey to reach this point and a few minor potholes along the way, but we have made it. I am filled with so many thoughts, but all good ones. 

Above all, is the task ahead. For some it might be daunting, scary even, but for me it is a wonderful challenge! I look forward to being able to help someone climb out of that hole of despair and see the sunlight. to have them come out of the cocoon, dry their wings, and then to FLY! Oh what a wonderful picture in my mind! ss

The Launch Kerfuffle

Oh the excitement of it all!  

We had our first kerfuffle last night, which we were guided through by the traditions.  Our web guru had some preconceived thoughts about the launch of the site, which not everyone understood, and it ended up in a big, sticky mess.  But a few deep breaths, and some talk about anonymity being the foundation of all our traditions, and we were back on track and ready to move on.  Promotion is a tricky thing, and we will have to tread carefully -- attraction rather than. . .

That's the thing about using steps and traditions to guide our work --- there's always an answer.  Thousands of groups all over the world have used them to thrive for more than 60 years in the great tradition of AA.  I woke up this morning thinking YAY, we survived our fist challenge, and we are stronger and better than before.

Three weeks ago today our former leader pulled the plug on the chat portion of her site.   So many people found solace and healing there that it was hard to believe she would do that.  I had already decided to let go of my ego and let whatever happen there just play out.  But i have to admit I'm mighty happy that three weeks later, we're up and running and ready to help the next person who comes in a total wreck and needs person to person assistance in real time, as the chat format allows.  We have a good core group, and I'm ready for whatever the future has in store for us.