Thursday, February 27, 2014

More Frequently Asked Questions About Romance Scams

By Soraya

1. Why doesn't posting the name of a Nigerian scammer make a difference?

Names mean nothing when it comes to Nigerian scams because Nigerian scammers use made up names and change them in an instant when they stop having success with them. It is okay to post them, because it does alert others that this particular name is currently being used on a fake profile, but it doesn't do anything to stop the scam ring.

2. Why is it okay to post the names if I discover it's been a Nigerian scam all along, but not okay to post the person's name if I find out someone in the United States has been scamming me? Isn't an American scammer just as much a scammer as one from any other country?

Yes, they are. We do not ask you to avoid posting the real names of Americans in blog comments or in the chat room in order to protect or coddle them. That rule is in place to protect the SOTH web sites from liability. To talk about an American scammer in public, simply change their real name and all identifying details to a name you make up, and place an * next to it so we know that's a detail you inserted. For example, if you were scammed by a woman whose real name is AB Smith and she lives in San Diego, California, write it out like this: "I learned her real name was CD Doe* and she lived in Sacramento* California." If you need to share an email address or other information with a moderator in order to have an American scammer blocked from our site, email one of the moderators.

3. Is there anyone who can help me replace the money I lost?

No. As of this writing, there are no non-profits that offer grants to individuals who have been tricked into sending money to scammers,  lost jobs,  or spent money they could not spare because of a scam. You may be able to find resources that fit your unique situation...for example...if you are a college student who sent the scammer your student loan money, you may want to speak to your school's financial aid office about the possibility of grants, scholarships, and work study...or if you lost your job you may qualify for unemployment...but there is no way to simply put the money back.

4. Why would anyone send me flowers, candy, a teddy bear, a box of chocolate covered strawberries, or a piece of jewelry if they were planning to scam me?

Many scammers send gifts. This is done for one or more of the following three reasons: 1. They are setting you up to ask you to accept and reship packages for them and want to verify your address. 2. Tangible objects make the situation feel more real and 3. It creates a sense of obligation in the recipient. (If I drop hints that I don't have the $75 I need to pay my electric bill this month, you're going to feel obligated to "help" me if I sent you a bunch of nice gifts the month before)

5. I went into a clean chat only chat room and tried to warn people about scammers, and they started making fun of me and asking me what was wrong with me for falling for it. Why were they so cruel?

There could be a few reasons. Some people might truly not understand what a romance scam is and what it means to be scammed, and may not realize that they are being insensitive. Other people are simply unconcerned with the feelings of those around them. The people might also be drunk or high and unable to understand that you are not setting them up for a joke. In any case, don't take it personally. If they acted like that when you mentioned it, they would start acting like that when any one of the thousands of people who have been scammed mentioned it too. If you need to chat about the scam in real time, our chat room is available, and everyone here will take your scam seriously.

6. Is there anywhere I can go to heal from this?

We wish. A retreat center designed around the needs of scam victims would be wonderful. Sadly, there are none currently operating. But don't give up. There are many things you can do to heal in your own home and community.

7.   Will a therapist or counselor help me heal from the scam?

Anyone who feels they may need counseling to heal from their scam is encouraged to look into resources available in their community. As of the time of this writing, there are no mental health counselors who focus specifically on scam victims, but any licensed professional should respond to your scam story in a professional and helpful way. If you find a mental health professional who brushes you off, tells you they don't know what to do about that, or makes light of the scam, it is your right as a consumer of their service and as a person with mental health care needs to seek help elsewhere.

8. When will I be over this?

Nobody expects you or anyone else to "get over" a scam as you would a cold. But you will heal from the scam. The process and the time it takes are a bit different for everyone, but healing will happen for you.

9.  If I know the pictures were stolen from random people who had nothing to do with this, what's the harm in keeping them?

If you keep the photos, or anything else the scammer gave you, it will only keep you emotionally linked to the character the scammer played. First get rid of anything the scammer gave you; pictures, gifts, web page addresses, recipes, poems, stories. Then get rid of all unnecessary things you bought because of the scam, such as perfume, lingerie, going out clothes, decorations, or gifts or supplies for the person you thought was coming to stay with you. Finally, replace any necessary items you bought with the one who turned out to be a scammer in mind as you can afford to do so.

10. I can tell my relative (or friend or coworker) is being scammed. Why won't they listen to me?

They are refusing to listen for the same reason cult members don't just get up and go back home when someone tells them they're in a cult, and domestic violence victims don't just pack up their stuff and leave when someone points out their spouse or partner is abusive; they are brainwashed. Scammers use many of the same brainwashing techniques as abusers and cult leaders. Keep talking to the person you are concerned about and keep letting them know you care.

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