by Soraya Grant
You just learned you have been scammed. It happens in a variety of ways. Sometimes the victim realizes that there is something wrong with the stories their online love has been telling, does some research, and reads stories that are too close to theirs for anything else to be going on. Other times someone at the bank or Post Office recognizes the telltale signs of a reshipping or money scam and points them out. Other victims meet fellow members of the online community where they met the person, learn that others also believe themselves to be dating the person, and trade stories only to find that "their boyfriend/girlfriend" has been pretending to be different versions of the same person, or different people entirely, and getting money, favors, or gifts from several people. No matter what type of scam it was, or how you found out, it probably feels like your world is crashing down around you right now. There are several things you will want to do at this time. Some of them will help you heal. Others will only lead to more difficulties.
Things to Do:
Spend some time learning more about online romance scams.
The web site you are reading right now features over seventy articles and other posts about romance scams. Take an afternoon or evening and read as many of them as you need to. If you would like to talk to someone, Scams of the Heart also has a chat room and a yahoo group available. An Amazon search for "romance scams" will also generate a list of books you might want to purchase or find at your local library. MTV's show Catfish also illustrates many warning signs of scams and can provide comfort to those going through a scam.
Take some time for yourself as much as possible
In the best case scenario, you will be able to call in sick to work for a few days, or arrange with your professors to miss classes for a few days, arrange for children to spend a few days with an aunt, uncle, or grandparents, and give yourself time to heal from a very real trauma. At the same time, we understand that everybody does not have a job with paid leave available, professors that will allow them to miss class without penalty, or friends and family who can care for children. You may need to struggle through your daily life, and steal some time when you can, but please do so, even if it's only the two hours while a young child is in preschool, the time between your last class and dinner in the cafeteria, or the drive or ride home from work, let cleaning, extra work, and any errands that aren't absolutely necessary slide for a bit and take some time to process what happened to you.
Delete, block, and otherwise get rid of everything related to the scammer
Delete all their emails and empty your trash can. Erase any photos they sent you. Block them from contacting you on every web site you used to communicate with them, including your email and messenger accounts. Throw any flowers or uneaten food gifts away. If the scammer sent you any jewelry, scarves, teddy bears, or other small objects, donate them to the thrift store or a local non profit. Erase any web pages you were saving related to the relationship you now know to be a scam. If you bought anything for yourself or your home, because of the scammer make plans to replace it as soon as possible.
Things to AVOID:
Never give in to any urges to physically harm yourself or others
The only people who are at fault during a scam are the people who planned and ran the scam. You, your friends, your family members, your pets, and your coworkers did not do anything wrong and none of you deserve any type of harm to come to you. If you feel the urge to hurt yourself or anyone else, go to the nearest hospital, call a suicide or crisis line, or visit the crisis chat web site as soon as possible.
Never confront the scammer
Most of us who have been scammed wanted nothing more than to sit down and write the scammer a long letter detailing exactly how we figured out they were a scammer and what we think of them and their scams. If you must do this, write it out in your journal and keep it for yourself. Do NOT send it to the scammer.
The person you were talking to is very different from the person you believed you were talking to. No matter how sweet the character they portrayed seemed, the real person or people on the other side of that internet connection are not going to be sorry. One of two things will happen; the scammer will either pretend to be sorry, promise to reform, and lure you into a second phase of the scam, or they will lash out at you. Either way, the scammer or scammers will use your letter as a tutorial to help them run more successful scams in the future. This is one aspect of coping with a scam where SOTH does not support the actions of the hosts of Catfish. That show does a wonderful service, but it is still a reality show, and all reality shows fudge the truth of the situation a bit to make for more entertaining television. Never confront a scammer...online or offline.
Don't pour your heart out to random people online
Scams of the Heart members would be more than happy to sit and listen to the story of your scam. If nobody is in the chat room, join our yahoo group, and post a message to arrange to meet someone in the room as soon as they can get there for you. If you have any difficulties navigating the chat room or yahoo groups page, or think nobody has seen your post, the email addresses of the moderators are available on our site. Someone who understands what you have been through will be there for you. Joining a random chat room or forum may make the situation more stressful. Many people do not understand what an online romance scam is, and may brush your situation off out of sheer lack of knowledge. Others have joined an unmoderated chat room looking for an online hookup or fight, and are going to push for that with anyone they talk to rather than listening to what the person wants to discuss.
Now is not the time to make any major life decisions or changes
The moments, hours, and first few days following the discovery of a scam are going to be confusing, painful, and scary. You are not in your best frame of mind right now. Do not drop out of school, quit your job, or spend large sums of money right now.