Friday, December 7, 2012

Holidays and Grieving

December has come, time for the holiday season, it’s a time when your excited to be with your love ones, spending time with friends at Christmas parties, laughing and enjoying yourself, watching the excitement and joy when seeing the young ones open up their gifts. 
It’s a time of joy and a time for happiness, but as December approached I began feeling disconnected, grumpy, sad, overwhelmed and not wanting to participate. My excuse was that I was being cooped up inside, over stressed with work, things not going as to my plan. Then it hit me December 3rd was my scammer's birthday.  It had been a year since I met him:  he was suppose to be here by now.  I was suppose to be in a love filled relationship and excited to be spending my first holiday with him. I was supposed to wake up everyday with the knowledge he would be by my side, celebrating not just the holiday season, but our lives together, our future. 
I realized that it had been almost four months since I learned of my scam.  I thought the healing process was over, the hurdle of my devastation, my emptiness, my sorrow and grief. I looked out at the make shift grave I made of him, the ashes I buried telling him my hurt, how my heart was broken, my tears I have cried over losing him, my unconditional love I had for him, my hopes and dreams that we were to share. And when looking at that place, I realized my grief was just really starting, only in a different direction, my emptiness not filled. How was I to get thru the holiday season with the knowledge he wasn’t going to be here? How was I going to put up a good face with the knowledge that there was still a void in my heart. I felt lost I feel lost, I felt everything all over again, the pain, the anxiety, the depression. It was just another chapter in my life opening up again, only this time it was Grieving. 

I tend to think through things, if I don’t understand something I research, I try to find the answers that I seek.. How do you seek something that is no longer there? Will I ever feel happy again? Why is this happening to me? It’s just another twist of answers I seek, same as when I first found out about my scam, but now in a whole different light, it’s about coping with my grief, trying to find my happiness again.
In one way or another, we are all affected by death. Losses are inevitable and are ever present in all our lives. Death as that is what we feel after being scammed, a loss of our love one. Death is universal. Grief is universal. We all must cope with bereavement at some stage in our lives. Even though death can be separated into two categories, long-term illness and sudden death, the loss of our scammer, all death is sudden. The finality of death brings to those left behind a tremendous amount of emotional pain. Grief is not something abnormal, rather it is a normal and inevitable step in our journey through life.
Grief is defined as: 1. conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in familiar pattern or behavior. We as victims of scams have relied upon and expected our daily calls, email, words of love and endearment. 2. a normal, natural and painful emotional reaction to loss. What we feel after we have found out our one true love has deceived us is Grieving is difficult because it involves many intense feelings--love, sadness, fear, anger, relief, compassion, hate and happiness. We feel intense pain, disorganization as if drowning in a sea of painful emotions, the loneliness and emptiness is all consuming. Grieving is difficult work. We make plans for our future with them, we trust, we give our hearts and souls for them and then learn it’s all a deceiving lie. And now we are faced with the knowledge that we are back to healing, making plans for our future without them, learning to heal, learning to accept again we are worthy, we are good human beings worthy of navigating through our lives and through the journey of grief. We hope again, we balance the life we have now little by little, there is no time frame for healing we take each day for what it is and learn from it.
Death is like a great wound it leaves a scar. It may heal and the pain may ease but the mark is always there, the memories. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, we grieve in our own way, the most important thing to remember is:  the object of our love and loss is no longer where he was before, he is now only a part in which we were.
I feel each of us was put on this earth with a plan already made up for us, each sadness, each pain, each joy, each love is a our journey in life. We may not understand at this time why we go through them, but we learn from everyone of them. As I write this a very good friend of mine is not expected to live much longer. He is 91 years old, has lived a good life, knew love and gave it freely. He had losses, he had triumphs, pain, sadness and joy. When I look back through the years I have known him, he made me smile, he showed me respect, courtesy, what a true friend was. I will miss him dearly, think of him often. When one door closes another one opens, and I have found this with my new set of friends here at SOTH. We may be all different people, different cultures, beliefs. But we all share a similar bond, a similar death. We all pull together to help everyone else out no matter how little or big, it all makes a difference.
So as Christmas approaches, I won’t put on a fake smile, I won’t ignore my feelings or my pain. I will take each emotion and learn from them, accept them as they are. I won’t push myself to pretend nothing happened. What I will do is seek the enjoyment from my family, take one day at a time, seek pleasure in the happiness of my grandsons, not feel ashamed of what happened but learn from it. Yes it will be hard and at times lonely, but I will find my happiness again maybe baby steps but I will learn to walk through this life lesson.
I wish all of you at SOTH a Happy Christmas, and a better New Year to come. It will come and by next December less pain, more fulfillment, happiness and the void no longer there. -- Verna

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chatty Holidays, or Miracles in Strange Places

It was about three years ago that I first discovered that chat rooms could be miraculous places.   It started in a group very similar to ours.  They were there for me when I'd been scammed, but they didn't use their chat room.  One member of the email group mentioned that she was feeling really let down -- that she'd expected to be in this new relationship for the Christmas / New Year holidays, and now she'd be all alone. Her pain was shared by many.  We decided to meet in the chat room to keep each other company. 

I don't remember which one of us suggested it.  I do know that  it began with one single suggestion.   We are a group of women and men who had one thing in common -- we had all been scammed in one way or anotherWe  met that Christmas, and shared our stories.  Before long, we were laughing together.   Sometimes our conversation was light hearted and superficial.  Other times, it was intense and personal, especially as new members found their way to the chat room and needed to share their pain and disbelief.  

Our trust in others had been damaged by faceless strangers who only pretended to love us for financial gain.  But over time, we began to trust again, slowly and surely.  As we shared our pain, our stories, we found that we were not scorned or judged.  We found others who had experienced similar situations, and could tell us how they handled their feelings and emotions, how they learned to move forward.  We encouraged each other when times were bad, and celebrated when times were good.  Most of us had families -- but this new family shared a bond that was and remains special.  

The holidays can be acutely lonely times.  It can seem that everyone else in the world has a loving family and/or children, and that we're shut out in the cold. Its also a key time for scammers to ramp up their game and promise to come home for the holidays -- and for some of us to be left waiting at the airport for a ghost as that horrible sinking feeling sets in.

Scams of the Heart will "leave the light on for ya" and greet you with caring and compassionate members who will soon become friends.  You don't have to be alone any more.  Come on and join us -- what have you got to lose besides that horrid loneliness?   //mw

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This week, our guest author is Laurie S.  Thank you Laurie for sharing your experience! -- M

Life takes many twists and turns and we end up in some of the strangest places sometimes. If someone had told me 6 months ago that I would be doing the online dating thing and would meet a scammer, fall in love and feel complete and utter devastation I would have laughed at them, ME? online dating, are you crazy?  Well, the last laugh was on me but there is always something good that comes out of everything, you just have to look for it, it’s there, you will find it.

I found the most wonderful, caring, compassionate and loving group of people I could have ever hoped to meet and they come from all over the world.  Scammers don’t discriminate, they get everyone, everywhere, but in the end we are the winners.  We did nothing wrong, we were only trying to help a fellow human being and for that we can always take pride.  There is a song that refers to those people we see standing on the corners with their signs that say “I will work for food” and the song asks if you helped that fellow human being that day, he might just be an angel sent to test you.  Think of your scammer as one of those tests and know that you did the right thing.  

This may sound really strange to most of you but I believe this experience has been a major turning point in my life.  It has made me step back and take notice of ME and what I am about and just what I want out of life.  I had mentioned to the email group a while back about a book that I had to read for a class I was taking, it is called Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson, it is a strange read but a good book, makes you take a look at yourself and what those little voices say to you all the time.  There is also another book that went along with the class called Suma the Elephant by Gary Shoup, it is about an baby elephant that is found lost by a bunch of monkeys that keep him in chains and treat him terrible.  When a group of fellow elephants come along and try to get him to go with them he is afraid, he chooses to stay in those chains because it is all he has ever known… that what we want to do?  I think not, I am no longer staying in my chains and I don’t want to see anyone here do that either.  Good books and I suggest them but only if you are going to be open minded enough to try the suggestions in them.  Life is about choices and I choose to live, how about you?  Don’t let your scammer win, I don’t intend to and I don’t want you to either.

Stay blessed my friends and keep healing and know that you are worth every moment that you spend on yourself.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


This month, I asked a few members of SOTH to write about their experiences.  This is the first of the two stories. Thank you to Darbycat for sharing her thoughts with us. -- mw

I was so very depressed after learning I was a victim of being scammed. I just could not understand what was happening to me. How could this person use me like that and how could I have allowed this to happen. I have to share how I met him and why I could not understand. I was divorced 15 years ago, remained single trying to focus on raising my children, healing myself from a 10 year failed marriage. I was not ready to put myself out in the dating world, did not like who I was and did not want to make my children go through the process of bringing someone new into there lives. Divorce just does not effect the couple, it effects the children more so than a marriage full of resentment, arguing. They feel at least my parents are together. Anyway after getting them raised and on there own and me liking who I was finally, I decided to do the online dating thing. It wasn’t that I could not meet people or interact with them, but it was the new social media way of finding a potential companion/relationship. I did my research into online dating, the supposed safe way of meeting people.. I never heard of romance scammers and it didn’t even cross my mind they were out there. I signed up to a paid dating site, had my share of mutual responses both local and out of state men. I met this man who was widower looking to get back into dating after 3 years, we conversed on that site several times before he gave me his phone number and asked to speak with me over phone. Even this went on for about a month and then we met in person, had a brief relationship before he took a job in Malaysia.I checked out his contract with whom he was suppose to work for, checked out business and made sure it was the truth. He even said he understood if I didn’t want to continue with him being so far away and for a long period of time.. We kept our relationship online and by phone for over a year, never once did he ask me for money, never asked for anything but my time and attention, we even had video messaging. It wasn’t until about a month before I found out about the scam, he was due to come back to the states, told me he over stayed his work Visa and needed to stay longer work to come up with funds. I started to receive gift cards to help him make purchases and to ship to him so he could get the extra funds. I never thought I was doing something wrong until I was visited by a Postal Inspector telling me I was being used as a mule to purchase things and reship, that gift cards were stolen from other people. You can image my shock, my slap in the face. I confronted him immediately, I was outraged. I was being prepped all along, that my so called relationship with this man was a fake.
Anxiety immediately took over, I couldn’t think, sleep, eat or concentrate at home or work. My daughter found SOTH, where I immediately went to for help. As I’ve said I did not know there was such a thing as romance scams. I wanted answers, needed know why this happened to me. I eventually had to seek Mental Health therapy. That was my eye opener to depression and how the medical field and public really did not know how to treat my type of depression. I asked how can this be? How can the medical field not know that there are people out there suffering from devastation from romance scams. Why isn’t there any adequate help and resources out there? So my search began: I found a lot of subjects on credit card scams, scams on natural disaster relief programs, financial institution scam. But not one article on romance scams. Wow that said a lot in it’s self..
We go thru a lot of emotional changes after we have learned we’ve been scammed. It is best described as we suffer a loss much like divorce, death of a spouse or end to a long-term relationship. It is similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The devastation of losing the person we thought loved us but betrayed us is overwhelming. We experience embarrassment, humiliation, our self esteem is crushed, we become angry and want revenge, we want answers to something that cannot be answered. To us we believed we were in a relationship, to them it’s just another job, we are just another person to help them in there crimes, we are not even considered a human being to them, that is why we cannot understand or find the answers. And then depression sets in to the fullest. We miss and crave the attention that our scammer gave us, the sweet words, the attention we so wanted and most of all the love we had. It is documented that 6.7% of the U.S. population suffers from some type of depression. These symptoms range from everyday struggles, the up’s and down’s of daily living to chronic mental health conditions such as Bipolar, Manic depressive and the list goes on. We all experience loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, anxiety, sleep deprivation, lack of concentration and mental fatigue. With romance scam we reach all of these symptoms quickly in such a very short time. So that was why I was floored that our Mental Health professionals know so little of what we are going thru, why they have a hard time understanding what we are going thru. Most just want to give us medication as they do not know who to counsel us.
Most therapies tell us we need to confront what it is that is causing our pain, our depression. Find answers and begin our closure. It’s just not that simple for us as romance victims. We try to get by each day with the interaction, we try everyday to find ourselves again, we grieve, we cry and then we accept what has happened and we talk with people who share the same experience as we do.
Our healing begins by shutting out these people, by not letting them back in, we begin by educating and protecting ourselves from them, learn there language, learn who the scammers are online from the real ones. Help educate others about them. We cannot change who the social media site allow on there, money is there motivation and as long as they receive there fees they are not interested in what happens. We heal by knowing we are special people, we have large hearts, are caring people and never give up on that. We learn to like who we are again. We all have depression in our lives, some may require medication to assist us for a time and that’s okay. And we when we feel down, talk to someone in your group who understands. We all learn from every experience in life, some lessons are harder to learn from but in the end we can, we survive. We are the winners.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hi all,

It's been a busy month at the SOTH email group and chat room.  I'd like to welcome 60+ new members in the past 30 days -- wow.  The scammers must be getting dumber, because you all are a very bright group.  I love, love, love the support I'm seeing you give each other. 

We've had lots of changes internally in the past month. Cindy has decided to leave the group to pursue other interests, and while she is missed, we of course wish her well.  We hope her photography ventures bring about the desired change in her life.  

Share has had some major changes in her world as well, and may not be as active as before, but she is checking in and holding her head high.  When the dust settles, she'll be back and better than ever!  What doesn't kill us really does make us stronger. 

Finally, I'd like to welcome two new moderators in training to the gang.  Shirley is our resident songstress, a founding member of SOTH, and has lots of wisdom to share with us.  I had the pleasure of meeting Denise in person in August, and while she's still a bit wet behind the ears, I have a gut feeling that she's going to be a mighty powerful advocate for our members. It won't take either one of these wonderful ladies much time to get up to speed -- i can see their lovely hands at work already.

A sneak preview into October:  it's my hope that we'll be able to welcome a mod for our "Euro's" (Our European members) soon.  Stay posted. . .

Mary W

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

85 Days Til What???

Well, what can I say?  We've had a very busy summer at SOTH.  It's almost Labor Day already and that gets me thinking about how close the holiday season is.  You saw it in the title here.  It is only 85 days until Thanksgiving here in the USA.  While everyone gears up for the change of seasons, we are gearing up at SOTH for the holidays.  It's not parties we are thinking about either.
 I would love to believe we may be able to prevent some people from getting all excited about meeting their new romantic interests for the holidays only to be left waiting alone at the airport for someone who is never going to arrive as they promised.  To me, this seems like one of the worst parts of these scams.  All that happy anticipation boiling down to deep disappointment in just a few minutes just makes me almost want to go set up a booth or room at the nearest airport just to be there for anyone who was waiting on a phantom that did not show up.  But the best I can do is prepare myself for the holidays at SOTH.  The busiest time of the year always seems to be that time between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day and sometimes on through to Easter as these fakes pretend they are going to be "home" for the holiday.

Consider this my little booth at the airport as I hope to send out the message to anyone who may be reading this right now...if you are using online dating sites to find love, please be very careful and please read everything you can find online about romance scams so that you can also be prepared for the holidays.  If you are emailing someone, check the FULL email header (not the abbreviated one we all see on our emails) to find the IP address of the person you are emailing.  Don't be concerned about invasion of privacy.  It's out there for anyone to see and to be safe in this world, it's something we need to learn how to do to protect ourselves.  If you have received photos, run them through Tineye and Google Images to see if those photos have been stolen or used on other profiles in the past.  If these come up without any convincing information as to whether the person you are talking to is a scammer, then contact us so we can help you figure it out.  It's so much better to be safe and know than to risk your heart being broken and your bank account cleaned out.  And it's much better than waiting at the airport to find out the truth.


Okay a quick change in topic to announce that we have added a new moderator to our group.  We now have four moderators who are ready, willing, and able to help you navigate your way through the internet jungle.  We'd love to tell you all that it's a safe place out there.  But we can't do that.  What we can do is help you learn how to be safer online, especially when online dating or using social networks such as Facebook.  So help me welcome our new moderator, Angel, to the fold.  Along with Mair, Share, and myself, Angel will be there for you to reach out to if you need help dealing with romance scam issues.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Anniversary Coming Up!

I can't believe that it has been a whole year! I also can't believe that it has been a year and a half since my scam ended! Back then I went through what I think was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was so down and so lost with no idea what to do next. I found the group and slowly but surely gained my confidence and self esteem back! I learned to trust again, although it was a difficult road. 

Now here we are with our group celebrating a year of existence. I could have gone my way I suppose, but I chose to stay and help others recover from the devastation. I am so glad I did! Not only have I helped others, but it has helped me too. Every story I hear makes me stronger and able to help someone else through to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Along the way I am meeting wonderful, caring people also and to me that is priceless. Some heal faster than others, but they do heal and that is the most gratifying thing to me. To watch someone start to laugh and smile again is worth everything to me. To know that they will go on with their lives and find happiness and contentment is just so uplifting.

So on the eve of our Anniversary I hope  that everyone stays safe on the internet and that you are scammer-free. If you suspect that you are the victim of a scammer, please reach out for help. We are here for you!


A Big Anniversary Celebration Is In The Works

The month of August 2012 is a big month for us at Scams of the Heart.  Our main website including the chat room officially opened on August 7, 2011 which means we will be having our first year anniversary.  And for our group, that means a party!  Not just any party, either.  We continue to have our holiday parties and member birthday parties, and sometimes parties for no particular occasion, but this anniversary party is going to be the King of Parties!  Beginning Friday, August 3rd and ending Sunday, August 12th, this party will be more than a week long celebration of memories from the past year and even before that to our goals and plans for the future of the group.  We hope all our members and friends, old and new, will join us in the fun.  We have a lot to be thankful for!

To join the fun, or to come and get help if you are involved in a possible romance scam, just click HERE.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Steps To Healing From A Scam

Here is an article written for us by a guest writer. it is very informative and may give you a new perspective on the whole experience of being scammed and what the writer did to help the healing process.

Steps to Healing from a Scam
by Soraya Grant
Give Yourself Time, Energy, and Space to Process What Happened to You
Scammers engage in deliberately planned patterns of psychological manipulation. Many of the tactics they use are identical or very similar to those used by abusers in domestic violence situations, cult leaders, and unscrupulous multi-level marketing schemes. You may have lost, or come very close to losing a lot of money or find your finances in disarray because you bought clothes, electronics, furniture, or other items for what you thought was your new life with someone wonderful. None of this is something a person can just recover from instantly. Accept that for a time, you will dwell on the scam. The person you believed you were talking to either shared your religious and political beliefs or the two of you engaged in an enjoyable or enlightening banter on these subjects. The two of you had the same or perfectly compatible career, family, and financial goals, and spent a great deal of time discussing these issues. You were likely charmed by all the "little things" the two of you had in common. When you've just spent weeks or months discussing everything with someone, everything is naturally going to remind you of that person. You may find yourself clinging to tiny bits of the scam as though they reflected reality, even though you know they do not. Some scam victims become attached to videos or photos the scammer used. My own scam was a copycat of the Nigerian scam, run by one or more Americans who tossed in a few real details of the primary, possibly only, scammer's life to throw off anyone who researched them, and I found myself unable to let go of the town I had been made to believe would soon be my home. This period of intense focus on the scam will be incredibly painful while it lasts, but you are not doomed to a life sitting alone repeatedly watching the movie the two of you talked about or gazing at stolen photos or web pages of places you'll never see. Eventually, little gaps will begin to form. My first gap was a criminology book I purchased on a trip to a mall with some people who knew nothing of the scam. I spent about ten minutes picking it out and several hours reading it and pondering the cases it discussed instead of the scam. These gaps will slowly stretch, becoming larger and larger as you heal, until the scam is nothing more than a tiny thread at the back of your mind.
Take Back Some of the Little Things You Gave Up to Please the Person You Thought You Knew
Did you used to love to tend your flower garden, but gave that up to spend time online talking to the scammer? Buy new plants or seeds if you can afford it, and if your finances are depleted, organize your gardening tools or shed or spend some time online learning about the latest trends or techniques for the type of gardening you enjoy. If you love to read, but never got to finish many books due to waiting for the scammer to IM you or log into chat, buy or check out something new for yourself. Have a video, movie or television show marathon featuring that celebrity crush you always avoided mentioning so the person you thought you were in a relationship with wouldn't get jealous. Listen to music you gave up because it was part of a painful story the scammer told, or an artist they claimed not to like. The scammer who victimized me played on my sympathy by insisting that he broke down crying because the song "Drops of Jupiter" by Train was "his song" with his wife who died. While the ringleader or sole copycat scammer did indeed have a wife who died, I have no idea if that was one more detail of his deceased wife's life he was heartless enough to use in an internet romance scam, or if that was an invented detail he or they stole from some former victim...and it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that Train is my favorite band, I've loved that song since it first came out, and I stopped listening to it so I wouldn't ever slip and tell "my boyfriend" that I had it playing in the background. That song has never sounded better than it did the first time I listened to it just because it was a song I liked.
Get Rid of Everything You Added to Your Life for the Person You Thought You Knew
Scammers craft the characters they play into the ideal partner for each victim, but they also manipulate people into making major plans they can use as an excuse to ask for money. Planning to marry or move in together as soon as he gets back from his business trip to Nigeria is a common ploy west African scammers use to set up the "I'm stuck in the country and need your money to get out" scene. If you experienced this, you may have started picking out furniture, looking at houses, or putting money away for a down payment. The American scammer who manipulated me planned a special first date and vacation for the two of us that would require him to travel a great distance, then complained incessantly about being broke until I offered to send him the money for his plane ticket and pay for the hotel rooms. I closed the account I set up for this purpose. Getting rid of realtor's cards, furniture catalogs, and anything else you obtained in preparation for your life together with this person will probably feel just as freeing. Another common scammer tactic is applying subtle pressure to see what little things they can get you to agree to do. You believe you are making compromises for the sake of a relationship, or doing something special to please your man or woman, but the scammer is really giving you a little test to see if you will do what they want. The American scammer had me convinced I should attend a school whose philosophy strongly contradicts my own beliefs, purchasing clothing items in colors and styles I don't care to wear, and changing my grooming and beauty routine habits to fit his stated tastes. I even took out an expensive cell phone plan in order to communicate with him. The process of informing that school I would not be attending, finding a place suited to me, donating those clothes, and getting rid of that phone was the process that finally ended the lasting pain.
Embrace Those Things That Have Always Been True to You Once Again
Sorting out what was you and what you took into your life because of the scam can be a complicated process. Mixed in with all those grand life changing plans and little tests the scammer gave you is a lot of your own thoughts, feelings, tastes, and interests that have been reflected back to you as belonging to the person you thought you knew. It's one of the primary methods they use to make you think the two of you have a lot in common or are compatible. Take your time with this, and be honest with yourself. The American scammer had an "ordinary guy" persona with me. He liked the simple life, in a small home with no designer or name brand labels or need to have jewelry or the latest gadgets. . He even sang me a song he claimed to have written years ago about being "an ordinary guy." Being more Sears and Applebee than Dior and country club myself, I embraced this enthusiastically and was inspired by "my man" to simplify even more. The day I discovered the scam, I first found a marriage announcement in his local paper for the man I thought was my soon to be live-in boyfriend and possible fiance and another woman. Not realizing it was a scam, I told someone else who claimed to be just his friend in the chatroom where we met that this man and I had been dating, but he demanded I keep it a secret. I then went on to tearfully tell the person the relationship was over because he had been cheating on me and had married the other woman. His "other friend" and I discovered it was a scam together, as we traded stories detail by detail, and realized that he had been pretending to carry on nearly identical relationships with both of us, including wanting us to arrange special meetings and dates that required him to travel. The only major difference was...the man she believed she'd been dating had a very different background, a slightly different appearance, and lived a very different lifestyle than the man I believed I had been dating. Her "boyfriend" had already bought her diamonds, lived in a huge house, and had just purchased the latest model smartphone. My initial urge was to start looking for five jobs I could hold at once, so that I could afford to live in a manner that was the exact opposite of the life we discussed, even if I would have to hold my nose to swallow that fancy food and own one outfit because it cost more than a whole wardrobe of clothes I actually wanted. But that would only be an act of cruelty to myself. That person who would rather have a DQ Blizzard than the Golden Oppulence Sundae at Serendipity 3 wasn't the scammer or the person the scammer was pretending to be...that was...and still
The above article was based on the path to healing taken by a romance scam survivor. It is not a therapy plan, nor is it recommend or endorsed by a mental health professional.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fake WebCam Software Exposed!

I was so angry today, so upset that I thought I might vomit.  For sure I was near tears as I watched the promotional video for a software package that claims to allow anyone anywhere to go into a webcam chat room using fake webcam video footage to chat with unsuspecting people on the other end of the internet.  The more I watched it the worse I felt.  How could anyone be so thoughtless as to create such a program?  Just to make money?  At the expense of others?  Greedy...well I won't say what my mind wants to say.

And what happens when the romance scammers use this software to hurt more people around the world?  I want to scream to anyone who will listen...Don't use your webcam to video chat with anyone anywhere until you absolutely know for certain that they are real and not some romance scammer sitting in some cyber cafe in West Africa or elsewhere around the world!  Yes I know that webcamming is really fun!  I know that this technology is amazing how it can bring a big wide world so much closer together.  But I also know that innocent people around the world are going into webcam chat rooms and chatting with strangers they've never met before, believing these people are just like them, real flesh and blood people not pretending to be something they are not.  Then these people are having their video chats recorded without their permission and used to create fake profiles so that the people making these fake profiles can scam hundreds of other people out of their hard earned money and break their hearts too!

Technology always comes with a price.  Learning how to use it and know the risks is imperative!  But how many using webcams today have a clue about the risks?  How many people are being scammed right now because someone was in a webcam chat room having a little fun without realizing their fun was being recorded to be used elsewhere?  The previous post here in the blog talks about the article that explains how those chat room video chats are being used.  Now comes this information about this software and how the creators of the software use models to pose with fake ID cards from each of the 50 states of the United States, and how there are buttons to push so you can control which video is used, and how the software can "read" what you are typing before you even push the send button?  It even reads it if you delete it and don't ever send it.  This way the person operating the software can be ready with the video clip that responds to what was typed.  You don't even need to be using a webcam to view the scammer's "webcam".  It's horrendous!

Well the "good news" is that the company apparently stopped selling the software to regular people and warns that anyone using the software is a scammer.  Hmmm, I wonder how they found this out???  Did they really expect that good, kind-hearted, honest people would want to use this product?  Money-grubbing greedy people creating products and don't think about the ramifications of those products getting into the wrong hands?  Well come on, how would this product get into the right hands?  They claim to sell it to law enforcement and private investigators.  Find another way than online for the world to see.  Better yet, don't do it to begin with!  (Looks like I am still angry and upset hours later.)  They also promote it to be used by "pranksters".  Come on, really???  The fact is, the product is still available online if you know where to look.  There are probably other similar products available as well.  I didn't have the heart to find out.

What do we say to the victims who come to us for help?  How do we tell them that no matter how real the video chat appeared to be, or how interactive it was, it was still fake?  It's in the whole story.  We know that.  Their gut instincts tell them that.  But it is hard enough for them to let go of the photographs.  And this software program even offers matching photos to go along with the video clips so that people can create fake profiles on dating sites and social networking sites. 

What it boils down to is simple and basic.  Don't use webcams to chat with anyone you don't really know in person, up close, face to face, unless you know for sure that this person is not a scammer.  How many people are going to listen to me if I scream it across the internet?  Webcams are so much fun.  Why stop using them?  Well don't stop using them.  Just use them wisely and safely.  Don't set yourself up to become the target of romance scammers who will record your video chats to use to hurt someone else.  And don't stop listening to your gut if you are talking to someone online and something feels "off" about the whole thing.  If you aren't sure, then don't use the webcam at all.  Get help.  We want to help the victims of these scammers and no matter which side of the camera they might be on, whether they had their chats recorded or if they are the ones watching the faked videos, they are victims of the scammers.

Does anyone remember that old movie NETWORK?  Remember when they said in it something like "I'm mad and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"?  That's how I've felt about this all day.  We can be here to help the victims heal from the devastation of the scams.  But if you read this, please, please use your webcam wisely so you don't become a victim.  If you think you might have had your chats recorded without your permission, or you think you are involved with a romance scammer in any way, please contact us at .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To Cam Or Not To Cam?

Webcamming can be a fun, interactive experience with family and friends. Let's you see the grandkids and how they're growing! It is a wonderful way to keep in touch. However it does have a bad side too.
Did you know that scammers use this tool as a way to pull you deeper into the scam and convince you that they are real? They are experts at manipulating the video so that you actually think you are talking to the love of your life! They can pause the video, look like they are typing, make you think that this is a real person that you are talking to, and thereby convince you that they are who they say they are.
Here is an interesting article that tells you about the way it works:

As you can see these criminals are very clever. They can trick you into believing them, so that you are sure that this person is for real. They steal footage off of webcam dating sites and use it to fool you. Not only that, they are making a victim of the person whose footage they are using, who has no idea they are doing it. 
As the article suggests, a way that you can catch them is to ask them to do something, such as touch their nose, or show you a little of the room they are in, such as a painting or picture that may be hanging on the wall or anything that will cause a reaction from the person. If they don't react that is definitely a "red flag" that something isn't right. Often they will pause the cam when you do this and claim that something is wrong with the webcam.
That is definitely the time to pull the plug and delete and block them.
One rule of thumb is to never WebCam with anyone that you don't know. Don't be willing to cam with just anyone until you have gotten to know the person very well and are sure that they are on the up and up.
The WebCam experience can be wonderful with your friends and family as it does add a personal touch that type chatting and email doesn't, but just make sure that it is a safe experience also.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A New Messenger Poses Threat of Romance Scams

A new online dating instant messenger program has now made it more important than ever to learn how to recognize the warning signs of a romance scammer.  This program has the capability of allowing one person instant messenger access to multiple online dating sites at the same time.  This means that while one person joins several online dating websites, he (it's targeting men right now) can login to this instant messenger program and access all those dating sites at once instead of going to each one by itself.  This means that he can be chatting with women from multiple dating sites at the same time through one simple program.  

What does this mean?  It means that a typical group of romance scammers who have this instant messenger program can do in minutes what it may normally take hours for them to do.  It means contacting more potential victims in one shot where it would have previously taken them much longer to do.  It means that they no longer have to work on one dating site at a time.  They can access who knows how many of the dating sites they "work" on to reach more and more victims.  It means more people are going to get hurt unless they learn how to recognize the romance scam warning signs.

The article is HERE.

There are many websites available to see the warning signs of how to recognize a romance scammer.  Some of the best signs are:
1.  Their grammar does not match their education level they claim to have or job level or location where they live.  There grammar can be horrible one minute and nearly perfect in the next minute.  You notice discrepancies in grammar from one email to the next or from one day to the next, or even within a single chat session.
2.  They push you to move from the dating site or social network such as Facebook to chat on Yahoo Messenger or Skype, although now this new online dating site messenger program could change this as well.  Be very careful of anyone who is pushing you out of your comfort zone.  
3. They push you to use your regular email account instead of the dating site email.  It is much safer for you to remain within the dating site email but if you do switch to personal email, create a specific account just for that and don't let them know your normal email address.  
4.  You have checked their IP address from the email to your personal account and the country of origin of their emails is Ghana or Nigeria or even Malaysia or anywhere else outside the normal range of the area where they say they live.
5.  Their profile gets removed from the dating site almost immediately after they are contacting you.  They do this for several reasons, one being that they paid by stolen credit card and their profile was removed by the site, two being that they don't want you to be able to compare anything they say from this point on to what was said in the profile because they will be creating a specific profile to become exactly who you are looking for.  But the reasons they give for why the profile is no longer available is because they claim to already have found the one they were looking for when they found you.
6.  They tell you they love you within the first few minutes or first few days/weeks.  Falling in love that quickly especially with someone you have not even met in person does not happen.  Real love takes time for two people to get to know each other in all types of situations.  Scammers sweet talk their victims into a false sense of security and romance, creating a dream come true.  
7.  They always seem to have reasons why you cannot meet in person.  Job, family, illness, business trips, car problems.  If you cannot meet your online interest within a few weeks time, become very suspicious.  Remember, it is much safer to keep your online dating parameters within local distance ranges that allow for face to face dates.
8.  No matter where they claim to be, suddenly the mention of Nigeria or Ghana comes into their story for whatever reason.  It may be business trips, or job contracts.  It could be to retrieve an inheritance.  It could be lots of reasons.  Whatever the reason, the mention of Nigeria or Ghana is the 100% proof you need that this is indeed a romance scammer.
9.  They want your phone number, address, or other personal information almost immediately.  They want to hear your voice.  They want to send you a gift.  Do not give out this information to anyone until you know this is not a romance scammer.  
10.  They are sending you love letters or love poetry that is not in the same type of grammar and tone that they normally email you in.  This is because they are using love letter and love poetry websites and doing a copy/paste of the letters into your email they send you.  It's all part of the social profiling/social engineering that they are doing to build up your relationship with them so they can start asking you for money.
11.  They claim to be ready to come "home" to be with you but suddenly they've been in an accident and need money for the hospital, or customs is holding them up at the airport for some reason, they need something called BTA (Basic Travel Allowance) which does not exist, they have been mugged, their child has gotten sick...many many stories and all scams.  They are now trying to get you to feel responsible for them because you love them and they want you to send them money that they will pay you back with when they see you.  Only they will never be actually coming to see you.  They will just find more and more reasons to ask you for money.  
12.  They send you flowers, teddy bears, candy, and soon after that they ask you to accept a package for them from a "client" or some other person they have explained to you.  You are then to forward that package on to them or to another person.  This is called reshipping and is a felony that can land you in prison.  Do not give them your home or work address.  They send you the gifts so they can confirm the address is correct, then try to start this reshipping project through you.
13.  They tell you they cannot cash their paycheck, or some other problem they are having with checks and money while they are overseas, so they ask you to open a bank account for them or just use your own bank account and cash the checks for them.  They may even ask you to keep some of the money for yourself but send the rest to them via Western Union.  Do not do this under any circumstances.  Just like the reshipping, this is illegal and the checks or money orders you receive are counterfeit.  Even if your bank says they have cleared in the next few days, eventually you will end up owing your bank back for any of that money you take out.  Never send cash overseas to anyone you have never met in person face to face.  Don't send cash to anyone you have only met online and/or by telephone.
14.  You talk to them on the phone or in voice chat and you notice that they have an accent that does not fit who they say they are or where they are from.  
15.  They ask you tons of questions but refuse or stall at answering your questions.  When they do answer your questions it is only after a long pause (while they go online and look up the answer).  For this reason, ask them as many questions as you can think of.  If they cannot respond to reasonable questions immediately, do not trust that they are who they claim to be.

There are many, many more warning signs than these alone.  The point is, deep down inside us we have this thing in our gut telling us when something doesn't feel right.  If you are using online dating and you start feeling this thing in your gut saying "Whoa!  Hold up a bit!" then listen to it.  The longer someone is involved in a romance scam the more difficult it is to convince them that it is a scam and the more money they will lose, in addition to being more emotionally damaged.  Listen to your gut.  Don't let a profile photo and a lot of romantic talk get the best of you.  If you need help knowing for sure, just come to us.  That's what we are here for.  You don't have to give up online dating or using social networking sites.  Just learn how to use those sites safely.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Spark Is There!

The aftermath of a scam is devestating, but it can be an enlightening experience as well that can lead to something good. I know that when you first go through this awful experience that it can be daunting and also make you feel like it's the end of the world.

I'm here to tell you it is not the end of the world. As you take each day one at a time and you finally stop crying and get back out in the world, you find that you notice things more. The blueness of the sky, the beauty of flowers, the wonder of a child's laughter. You start to realize that you are, day by day, gaining more confidence and a better appreciation of your own self worth. It's like you have come through a bad nightmare and are finally seeing the sun. 

When I look back, I see that dark place I was in compared to where I am now.  I realized that what happened to me was not my fault. I have come to understand that I am a good, worthwhile person....,that I have a lot to offer the world......that life is good! I feel strong and vital and am once again that happy, vibrant person that I was back before my scam.

Granted it took me time, and a few meltdowns, but I made it! You will too! Believe in yourself and in the innate strength we all have. I have found that friendships mean more to me, my family means more to me, even though of course they always have had top priority with me. I have also made new, wonderful friendships  that have lifted my spirit and made me smile. I have met so many great people online that helped me on my journey with their compassion and understanding.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that even though you don't think you will ever recover, you will! We are all basically survivors and the human spirit is not easy to extinguish. Even in my darkest hours that spark was there. That spark is there in you also and it will flame again! You will find happiness and that special someone! I know I have! Life is good!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Scamdigger is No More

For those of us who have used Scamdigger in the past, it is no longer available for scanning images to check if they are stolen photos used by scammers.  Scamdigger has now been replaced by Google Images I am not sure how it all works as the page is very bare of information or instructions.  Basically it gives you a search box but it does not tell you what exactly to put into that search box, whether it be the URL of a photo or a saved image of a photo.  I am not sure if Google Images will do the job required to help scam victims find out about the stolen photos or not.  For now TinEye is still available. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Romance Scams Using Fallen Military Heroes

As bad as any romance scams are, they just seem so much worse when they involve stolen photos of fallen military heroes.  Recently the parents of Army Lt. Peter Burks have sued two separate online dating websites because the fallen hero's photo has shown up on both sites.  Is it going to have to come to unsuspecting family members joining in the fight to stop romance scammers after they find their loved ones' photos plastered all over the internet in this horrible fashion?  The dating sites don't seem to care that scammers are creating fake profiles using stolen photographs.  All those nice profiles just pad the dating sites to make them look like there are so many more good looking singles out there just waiting for us to fall in love with them...just waiting on us to pay for our memberships just to be able to contact our possible new loves.  In some cases the dating sites offer their services to us for free but it doesn't change the fact that the sites are full of fake profiles and stolen photographs. 

We all feel bad about what victims go through every day because of these scammers.  We all deal with knowing that the photos we thought belonged to the person we were talking to and hoping to meet were stolen from someone and somewhere else.  We do what we can to heal from the emotional and financial damage caused by these scammers.  Some of us even think we should try to find the real people the photos belong to and let them know what is going on.  But should we?  We have to remember that these people are also victims of the scams.  Sometimes unsuspecting victims like Burks' family.  Many times these photos are just stolen from someone else's public profile.  We love to share our photos with our friends and sometimes with the world.  Military heroes' families love to showcase their loved ones' photos to honor and memorialize them.  They should have that right to do so without fear of having those photos stolen and used to harm someone else.  

When a man or woman searching for love through an online dating site finds what they believe is a real romance with a person in the military, the trust factor can be even stronger because this person is supposed to be a soldier and trustworthy.  Why would anyone think the photos are stolen and the profiles fake?  It takes digging and knowing how the military works to break through to the truth sometimes.  Now here is the other side of the scam.  Here is the family of a fallen hero finding out their son's photos were placed on dating sites without their permission (or his, of course).  How do they fight back?  Where do they go for help?  Will fighting the dating site help?  I certainly hope that this family wins this law suit.  Maybe it will help in the battle to stop dating sites from allowing Nigerian romance scammers to join with fake profiles.

Should romance scam victims try to find the real people in the stolen photos?  I still don't believe it is a good idea because it only hurts more people in the process.  But when those people do find out, then what?  Some of them may be former victims themselves and the photos they gave their scammers are now being used to scam others.  Some may just be people who placed photos on public profiles on social networks and now have opened the door to having them stolen by scammers.  No matter where the photos originally came from, the true owners of those photos are victims of the scammers.  If they find out their photos have been used in this way, it will cause pain.  When will dating sites stop accepting fake profiles from Nigerian romance scammers?  What is it going to take?

Our chat room is open, as is our email group, for anyone who is a victim of romance scams. We are here to help you heal.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

The holidays are past us for another season.  How did you all fare?  Many of our group members have been enjoying vacation trips of various lengths and at least one has been delayed in returning home due to weather.  Who would not want their vacation to continue awhile longer even if it is cold and snowy?  But we miss her and hope she is back home again soon. 
To say the very least, 2011 was a very interesting year for us.  We all face changes in our lives and in 2011 the changes for many of us have been big ones.  We've even had a wedding in the group!  We are always happy for good news and good changes.  
We all hope 2012 brings good changes for each and every one of you reading this.  
If anyone reading this is going through a rough time right now because of a romance scam, we hope you will find the courage and strength to reach out for help.  Each one of us knows how you feel and we know that you can make it even if you don't think so at this moment.  You don't have to go through this alone.
Email us and we will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have or just be there to listen.  You may also join our email group or visit our chat room.  We are here for you.

May 2012 bring you all the best.  Happy New Year!