Friday, August 2, 2013

What Should You Do? (Part 1)

by Soraya Grant

The following five scenarios are fictional, but they represent situations that may occur. Any resemblance to any actual person is purely coincidental. As you read, imagine that you are in this situation and ask yourself: What should I do?

Situation 1: Your New Crush
You meet Sam online through a social networking site. The photos on his/her page show a very attractive man/woman. The two of you have been enjoying regular chats for a few weeks now, and you've got a crush on him/her. To your surprise, Sam tells you he/she has more than a crush on you. It's love. You admit you are interested in Sam, but add that you don't really want to make any promises and commitments beyond friendship before meeting offline a few times. Sam is deeply hurt. He/She talks about the connection the two of you have, repeats the line "I really love you" and says he/she wants you to be his/hers and wants to hear you say you are before his/her business trip to Ghana in two weeks.
What should you do?
End all communication with Sam, and use all the delete, block, and ignore functions on every social site you are on, including your email, to make sure Sam can't reach you again. This is a Nigerian/Ghanian scam. Professing love within a few weeks of meeting you online without ever meeting you offline, pressing for a commitment after this profession, and using repeated lines are red flags for all types of scams. The mention of Ghana is a sure sign you are communicating with a foreign scam ring.

Situation 2: School Supplies for Amber
You have been dating Taylor Smith for three months, though you only know him/her online and via the phone. He/she asked you for your "devotion" two weeks after you met in a chat room for "clean adult chat." You normally wouldn't make such a commitment, but you've done your research and know that Taylor really lives where he/she says and works where he/she says. You even found the phone number for the business, called there unexpectedly, and talked to Taylor. There really is a Taylor Smith right where he/she is supposed to be. As you chat, you notice that Taylor seems increasingly distraught over finances. You guys were talking about meeting in a city halfway between your homes for your first date, but Taylor doesn't seem prepared to make the trip. He/she speaks of increasingly severe health problems for him/her, and financial difficulties so severe that he/she cannot even afford school supplies for his/her niece Amber, who he/she is helping to raise. You feel obligated to send Taylor the money for medical care and school supplies.
What should you do?
Do NOT send this person any money or supplies. Leave the chatroom and delete, block, and ignore Taylor from all social sites you are on, including your email. You do not have a Nigerian/Ghanian or other foreign scammer, but you do have a scammer. Anybody, from anywhere in the world, who meets you online, starts a relationship with you, and then asks for or hints for money is a scammer. Taylor also displayed the "claims to fall in love with you early in the relationship" red flag.

Situation 3: I Know What You Did

You thought you were dating Kelly Jones, but it is now pretty clear that it was all a scam. Kelly told you he/she loved you after chatting for only a month, started dropping pretty strong hints for money after the second month, and always claims to be too "swamped" or too "broke" to meet you. He/she had recently begun telling you tales of extreme difficulties at work and suggesting that he/she might lose his/her job. You also started to notice that Kelly repeats the line "I don't lie to people" a lot and doesn't seem to live the life he/she claims to live. He/she is supposedly a lawyer, but when you asked a basic legal question, the answer seemed like a cut and pasted paragraph from another site. Now that you think about it, most of Kelly's courtroom stories sound an awful lot like plotlines from old "Law and Order" episodes. You deleted and blocked all communication from Kelly, but you feel like sending one last email letting him/her know exactly what you figured out
What should you do?
Resist the urge to tell a scammer why you know the relationship is a scam. They will not be afraid that everybody will see these warning signs and quit running scams. They will not be afraid of you telling others in the online community about the warning signs and quit running scams. All any scammer is going to do with this information is take notes so that they can craft a stronger scam next time. Nigerian/Ghanian scammers run their scams as a business. American money scammers run their scams as a second job. Revenge scammers put as much into their scams as you or I would put into a serious hobby. Never write to or call/text a scammer and tell them you know all about what they did. That only helps them scam somebody else. If you need to write it all out, use a private journal and write it all out for yourself.

Situation 4: Me and My Big Bed

You've been in bed for a week following the scam. There was the occasional shower and changing of pajamas, and you did stagger out to the kitchen to pick at the cartons of Chinese food you had delivered and demolish that bag of pretzels that was supposed to be your evening snack for the whole week, but the majority of the time was spent rolled up in your comforter, thinking about the relationship you thought you had, the scam, and the $1,000 you spent on a laptop to send to this person who wasn't even real. This morning you woke up with the urge to make coffee, shower, put on the clothes you normally wear during the day, and take a walk around the park where you used to meet your friends for lunch.
What should you do?
Make the coffee. Take the shower and get dressed. Go to the park. The urge to return to your normal routine and do things you liked doing before you ever met the scammer are signs of healing.

Situation 5: Carrie
You and your friend Carrie have both started going to the same church or social organization's meeting. During break time, Carrie confides in you that she has been the victim of an online romance scam. You call her afterward and hear the rest of the story. As you talk, you learn that Carrie bought two purple tee shirts, a pair of purple jeans, a purple purse, and some purple dishes because she thought she was going to marry a guy who loved purple and wanted to please him when they finally were together offline. Now that she knows it wasn't real, she wants to take all the items to the local thrift store, even though the dishes and jeans are brand new and the tee shirts and purse have only been worn/used once.
What should you do?
Support Carrie. Help her pack up all the purple stuff and take it to the thrift store. If she doesn't have enough dishes to make it through the day or enough clothes to make it through a week or two after getting rid of them, offer to go shopping for replacement items with her if she wants company. In most situations you would want to talk someone out of getting rid of and replacing perfectly good clothing, bags and household items, but after a scam it is best to get rid of as much scam related stuff as possible. Keeping items that were only purchased because of the scammer only keeps reminders of the relationship the victim thought they had around.

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