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5 Ways to Safeguard Your Heart in the World of Online Romance Scams

By Michelle Hill November 28, 2023 Dating

I’m going to start this article with my vulnerability hanging out. There’s no bra that holds vulnerability in and no underwire that can prop it up. It’s scary, and yes, my shoulders are a bit above my chin right now. But there’s strength in vulnerability so let’s tackle the tough topic of romance scams that hits many women 60 and above in the core of our heart and in our pocketbook.

I know what I’m talking about when it comes to relationship deception, particularly romance scams. I’m a survivor of not one but two relationship deceptions; one online financial romance scam way back in the early 2000s when I was first divorced after a long-term marriage, and another more recent one came out of nowhere in person at the gym. Something didn’t feel right almost from the beginning, and that’s why it had a short two-month shelf life.

The Bait of Online Romance

When women enter their sixth decade, we’re often divorced or widowed, and loneliness can wedge its way into our daily journey. Then it happens. A friend or family member suggests we go online to “see what’s out there.” They love us and their motives are pure. They may want to see us find love again.

We take the bait.

We create our profile and wait for clicks, likes, hearts, and messages. Some do find love. Others find long-lasting friendships as I have. And still others find companions to go places with and with whom to simply spend time together.

Beacon of Hope and Potential Minefield

For women who have witnessed the beauty and complexities of life for six glorious decades and more, it’s vital to navigate the digital realm with the same wisdom and discernment we apply to every other aspect of our lives.

In a world where technology connects us across continents, online romance has become both a beacon of hope and a potential minefield. The sweet whispers of love, the thrill of a new connection, and the promise of companionship can be captivating. However, as we wade into the digital waters, it’s crucial to safeguard our hearts against the rising tide of romance scams.

There are five primary ways to safeguard your heart (and pocketbook) in the world of online romance.

#1. Trust Your Instincts

Lots of sweet talk often precedes a scam. These charmers, masked behind eloquent words and charming profiles, know how to create a fairy tale out of thin air. Ladies, trust your instincts, your women’s intuition, your gut. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your intuition, refined by years of life experiences, is a powerful guide.

Personal Story

When I was first navigating the seas of online dating, I was swept off my feet by a handsome man who seemed like a dream. He wowed me with compliments and attention and professed his desire to marry. He was in the investment world and said he was securing our future. Unfortunately, his securing our future meant using my credit card for several large purchases.

At the time, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I didn’t trust my instincts – I was so enthralled, I was blind to the tactics of a romance scammer. When a co-worker instantly spotted his façade, he knew the gig was up. He sat in my living room on the phone with his next target, planning their meeting.

The next day I took him to the airport, never to hear from him again. That was $2,500 later. He swindled the attorney before me for $18k and at this writing has been married five times and has had countless girlfriends.

#2. Guard Your Personal Information

In the dance of online connection, it’s crucial to guard your personal information as if it were a rare treasure. Scammers often use enticing stories to prompt you to reveal sensitive details. Whether it’s financial information or your home address, keep these treasures close to your heart. Don’t share how much you make, where you work, or hint that you have any financial assets.

In the documentary The Tinder Swindler, the featured women shared stories about willingly sharing their personal information with the perpetrator after he had established trust. Remember, the scenario must be set up first, thus love bombing to hook you in BEFORE the ask.

#3. Verify, Verify, Verify

In the world of online romance, verification is your shield. Before allowing someone into the sacred spaces of your heart, take the time to verify their identity. Ask questions, video chat, and if something feels off, don’t hesitate to do a little detective work. A legitimate connection will withstand the scrutiny. Use online tools like truepeoplesearch.com or socialcatfish.com (reverse image search) to check out the person to see if they’re who they say they are. If not, run for the hills with no further communication.

#4. Community Connection

The aftermath of a romance scam can make a woman feel isolated and embarrassed. I know that’s how I felt after I realized I had been duped. It was humiliating to have to go back to the people I shared my new romance with and tell them it wasn’t real.

The harsh reality is that a few people will judge you and think less of you – after all, they are smug in their belief that they would NEVER fall for something like that. They are not your friends. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

Share your experiences with safe, nonjudgmental people within your circle. The collective wisdom of a safe circle of women is a powerful force against the darkness of deception. Women can support and protect one another, but we must be vulnerable enough to share our story.

#5. Educate Yourself

Knowledge is your greatest ally. Stay informed about the red flags. Attend webinars, read articles, and participate in discussions. The more we educate ourselves, the better equipped we are to navigate the intricate dance of online romance safely. This is different from a “there’s a monster lurking behind every face” mentality, which is based more on paranoia. Educating yourself is all about personal and financial safety.

Nurturing Our Hearts

Your heart is a precious garden, worthy of love, respect, and nurturing. Plant these safeguards within your mind and heart so you can cultivate an environment where genuine connections can blossom. If you suspect you’re being love bombed by an online romance predator, tell someone immediately. Look out for the favorite lies of online predators.

Want more information? Read SCARED OF ONLINE DATING SCAMS? USE THESE TIPS!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you or someone you know a survivor of a romance scam, narcissistic abuse, or other relationship deception? What have you found beneficial to help you heal and move on? How would you come alongside another woman to comfort her amid her emotional devastation?

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22 Comments
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TerriJ

A year or two ago, a friend of mine(no not me) fell for a romance scam. I remember when she showed me his online photo and thinking there was something off about it. In our group of friends, a few of us voiced concerns to her and each other. We all respect each other’s choices and space, so nothing more was said. She would mention their long, late night phone calls and things about his construction business. He told her they had a big job in Alaska and he needed to get the heavy equipment transported from the lower 48 to the site. He needed the funding to get the process started immediately and waiting for business financing to go through would take too long. After all construction in Alaska has a small time window. Red flags were flying in my mind when she told me this, but she had already taken the bait, hook line and sinker. I think she may have shared with one of our friends about this devastating romance scam she fell prey to. She was so embarrassed and ashamed, especially since she is normally a savvy and intelligent person. While I would hate to see anyone shut down the chances of meeting someone that could be a wonderful partner, people really need to know the threat is real. Anyone who says they would never become a victim like this is naive.

Last edited 4 months ago by TerriJ
Michelle Hill

Thank you for sharing your friend’s story, Terri. Savvy, intelligent women fall for romance scammers more than anyone else – it’s like all reason leaves them when someone says all the right things they want to hear, and especially if they’ve never fallen for a scammer before – it only happens once.

The first tip off is when the scammer says they’re working on a remote project and need funding within a small time frame and make you feel like you’re their only hope.

I have much empathy for her embarrassment and shame and she’s fortunate to have a friend like you who can stand alongside her while she heals. Feel free to point her toward my website (below) as I regularly post blog articles that could be helpful for her.

You are so right, the threat is real and I’m glad you pointed out that those who have a smug attitude and who think they could never fall for a scammer are indeed naive.

rebecca

I met my husband of 12+ years on-line. I trusted and listened to my gut instincts and I’m glad I did.

Michelle Hill

Congratulations, Rebecca, for sharing your success story! I know it happens and I’m glad you found the love of your life!! You did the best thing ever – “I trusted and listened to my gut…”

Ciara Roots

I stopped the online search a couple of years ago. I didn’t fall for any scammers, but it just seemed that for every legit guy who contacted me, there were 10 scammers.

I went on a total of four dates in the several years I was doing online dating. All were local, and we met in public places. There just wasn’t any chemistry with any of them, even though they seemed nice enough. They just weren’t fun to be with.

I did have conversations with several who were not local, but that got tiresome. I had no inclination to visit a man I’d only talked with on the phone, and I wasn’t about to have any of them stay in my house. None of them were that interesting, so I just decided to let them know I wasn’t interested in a phone relationship.

I’ll be moving in a few months, and in my new community I plan to get involved in organizations and take some classes at the local college. If I meet someone there, that would be fantastic. But I’m certainly not counting on it.

Gerry

I’m male, healthy and wealthy, age 65, wife of 40+ years died a few yearss ago. I found the online dating scene awful. I paid eharmony hundreds of dollars and got zero serious responses. From now on it will have to be IRL (in real life) meetings if anything is going to happen, althought I have more or less given up on finding a female companion in the time left.

Ciara Roots

Gerry, don’t give up. There are so many wonderful women out there looking for a real relationship. Believe me, there are so many more women available than men once you get to a certain age–like around 50.

Michelle Hill

Thank you for your authenticity, Gerry! Scammers operate IRL as well so you still have to be watchful and wise. Case in point, I met a man “in person” at the gym who turned out to be a “future faker,” which is someone who creates a relationship where every conversation and event is to happen in the future. “It’s going to be a surprise” is their mantra. Money isn’t always their endgame – sometimes it’s simply for emotional manipulation.

When I was first divorced in 2000 and tried eHarmony a few years after, I found the same dismal results as you, although I didn’t pay nearly as much.

Meetup.com (not a dating site; it’s based on specific interests like cooking, nature, etc.) and EventBrite.com are both sites where you can join groups with likeminded people. Sometimes you have to search a bit to find the right group for your age and interests, but they’re out there.

I’m sure you experience times of loneliness with your wife’s passing and I’m so sorry for your loss. Joining a couple groups from these sites might prove helpful for socialization with good people with the same interests.

The Author

Michelle Hill is a Relationship Deception Recovery Mentor specializing in helping women reach healing and wholeness after relationship deception. She is also the author of 5 books, including The Heart Swindler-Reclaim Your Heart and Stop Falling for Liars, Losers, and Lunatics, and two award-winning children’s books.

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