By Soraya Grant
After a romance scam, people often find themselves clinging to parts of the scam. It can begin to feel like you will never truly be able to let go and live a life free of the influence of the scammer. But the mental and emotional hold will lessen, and there are some things to keep in mind to help move the process along.
Photos the Scammer Sent
The best way to avoid clinging to photos the scammer sent is to immediately delete every picture from every device you’ve saved them on and then empty your trash files so that you can’t restore them. Tear up any photos you printed out and throw them in an offline trash can. Any time you find yourself hesitating to part with a photo, remember that the vast majority of scammers fake their appearance and steal photos. In these cases, the pictures you are looking at do not belong to anyone you have ever met, online or offline. It is no different than looking at random photos of attractive people you stumble across on modeling sites, boudoir photography sites, or public photo albums. When you look at them, you are looking at a total stranger who has no idea you even exist. While it is rare, some scammers do use their real appearance. It is still a good idea to get rid of all of their photos. No matter how good-looking you find the person, every time you look at them, you are looking at someone who pretended to have a personality, past history, current life, and relationship with you that did not exist. This person did all of this just to get your money, trick you into doing something illegal for them, or hurt you just to cause emotional pain. This is not someone who deserves to have their photo saved in any of your albums.
Plans You Made
Scammers love getting you involved in planning things. It serves as a good test to see if you are willing to do what they want. If you’re willing to give up your afternoons on the tennis court to switch to golf for them, they see this as a sign that you’re willing to do other things they are planning to ask you to do too; like send them money or gifts, reship items for them, or just perform a bunch of random acts they can enjoy knowing they made you do. Becoming engrossed in planning something also messes with your daily rhythms and removes you from contact with friends and family, making you susceptible to brainwashing. Sadly, these plans can also be exciting. Even after you have come to realize the whole situation was a scam, you may find yourself wishing you could attend the school or retreat, stay in the hotel, or go on the adventure. When you find yourself longing for these things, remember that these plans were not made with a loved one who had your best interests at heart. You were goaded into making them by someone who only wanted you to do this so they could mentally manipulate and control you. Cancel all of these plans, and delete and block any messages from contacts or other places connected to them. If you are afraid of being rude to a real person, such as a travel agent or school admissions officer, send a short, polite note explaining that you will not be carrying out these plans for personal reasons.
Because scammers use details they get from talking to you to further their stories, you may find that the plans are very similar to something you actually want to do. If the scammer manipulated you into planning an elaborate trip to Toronto, this may be because they learned you really wanted to visit Canada someday. The scammer that had you researching resorts in the Rocky Mountains probably got the idea when they learned you like luxury hotels.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up this part of your personality, just reclaim it from the scammer by creating fresh, new plans for something that is all yours. Avoid incorporating anything from the scammer inspired plans in your real plans.
This is an especially strong trap for victims of American scammers. Scammers from the United States typically work alone or in very small rings. Mixing in a few real details from their life makes it easier for them to manage all their made up stories. It also saves them from coming up with a reason why they can't take a personal check if they want your money. Adding some real details also serves as a shield in case the victim researches the scammer's name. Once the victim realizes these few real details were all that was real, they may be tempted to cling to them. If your scammer was American, you might find yourself repeatedly reading the official web page of the state where they live, researching their company, or fixated on landmarks in their city.
Some people are able to just make a conscious decision to stop visiting these pages. If the pull is still too strong for you, consider blocking these sites from your computer using the same programs parents use to block adult oriented material from their children. You will still know the password, but the effort of having the block pop up will make it harder to just “check out” the sites. As time goes on, these web sites will lose their appeal.
The Stories They Told
It can be particularly difficult to let go of the person you thought you knew online if they told you interesting stories. Many scam victims have the experience of doing just fine until a song, movie, television show, or overheard conversation brings up something the scammer told. Any time one of these stories pops into your mind, remind yourself that the vast majority of scammer stories are stolen. The person may have really had coffee this morning or like to wear blue shirts, but if they told you an elaborate tale of the road trip they took with their college friends, there is about a 99% chance they got the story from a past victim, a television show, a movie, or someone else they know. One scammer told a victim elaborate stories about his long career as a nurse. He may or may not have actually worked as a nurse for some time, but it is certain that he did not have the nursing career he described. No one person could ever have this many adventures in one lifetime, and the stories seemed oddly familiar. The victim would later hear the same stories again....while watching reruns of a famous medical drama that had gone off the air. The scammer had taken plotlines involving several characters from the show and woven them into stories to keep his victims engrossed in chats with him.
Items Purchased For the Relationship You Believed to be Real
In many cases, the victim makes purchases because of the relationship they believed was real. You may have purchased clothes to wear on the first date, household items for the home you planed to share with your new love, books or sports equipment for the interests the scammer pushed you into, or a new cell phone to communicate with the person. The best way to free yourself from these items is to throw them away or donate them as soon as possible. Do not use them as gifts or pack them away. Get rid of them. You may not be able to do all of this right away, but do the best you can and work through everything as quickly as you can. If you donated your whole wardrobe to a thrift store and bought all new clothes to please what you thought was your new girlfriend or boyfriend, you may not be able to just haul these away and buy new outfits in your old style right away. But you can begin making a shopping list, putting as much money as you can aside, and slowly getting rid of a few items you don't absolutely need in order to get dressed in the morning.