I have just learned that the man/woman I have been in a relationship with is a romance scammer. Now what do I do?
If you found your way here because you learned you were being scammed, you may be at a loss for what to do next. It’s never easy to learn that the person you have been in contact with is a romance scammer. You thought you had found the perfect person. He/she was attentive, romantic, and always knew just what to say. You may have already invested a lot, emotionally and financially, into a relationship that you are now just beginning to realize does not exist. So where do you go from here?
Note that we are using “he” here, but the same applies whether the scammer is male or female.
1. CUT OFF ALL CONTACT WITH THE SCAMMER AND ANYONE CONNECTED WITH HIM. This is the most important thing you can do. Remaining in contact with your scammer will only cause further harm. Continued approaches from him (which may include continuing to plead his innocence, manipulating you with guilt or phony confessions, or even becoming verbally abusive or threatening) will make it much harder to accept what has happened and move on. Block him on messenger, filter his emails to trash without reading them (better yet, change your email address if it’s feasible), don’t take any phone calls from him.
2. Don’t beat yourself up. Falling for a scammer doesn’t make you stupid, desperate, or deserving of punishment. It makes you human. You were looking for someone or something, and the scammer convinced you he was what you were looking for. The scammer is very experienced at using lies, guilt, and manipulation as tools to get what he wants.
3. Don’t allow this experience to derail your life. If you were walking down the stairs, and you tripped over an object you had left on the top step, would you just throw yourself down the whole flight of stairs because you felt guilty about tripping? Of course not. You would get up and keep walking, and you would probably learn to avoid leaving things on the stairs in the future. As difficult as it is, that is what you need to do here--learn from the experience, and try to get back on course. If the feelings are overwhelming or you find yourself on a destructive path, you might want to seek a professional counselor or appropriate support group.
4. If you have lost money, report the crime, but do not allow yourself to get hung up on false hopes of getting your money back. In reality, chances of getting your money back are virtually zero. The scammer is most likely operating from another country, and everything he has told you is a lie, so you have little to no real information about him. When a scam crosses international borders, a tremendous amount of money, red tape, and political activity is required just to initiate an investigation, and with few resources available, only the largest of losses (typically hundreds of thousands of dollars) will trigger an investigation. However, reporting the crime is still important, because our governments need to understand the severity of the problem if we want them to take stronger action against it.
5 Review the information you have given him. If he has your name, address, phone number, and photos, there’s really nothing for you to do. If you have given him your social security number or other identification, bank account information, credit card numbers, passwords, or you have opened any accounts for him, take action. Follow your country’s process for reporting possible identity theft. Report your credit cards as compromised and replace them. Contact your bank about actions to take on bank accounts. Change your passwords, and –this is very important – change any password reset questions to something he can’t guess.
6. Post the scammer’s information, including the text of his emails, to help alert others who may be current or future targets. Scammers frequently use scripts – a series of prewritten emails – that they send to multiple victims. They often keep these scripts even when they change names. There is a good chance that the scammer has sent the exact same emails you received to dozens of other people! Posting those scripts can help another victim or potential victim.
7. If at all possible, resist the temptation to confront him, send him proof he is a scammer, or show him he is posted on an anti-scam forum. It is a normal reaction to want him to confess and feel guilty about the harm he has done. The truth is, if he confesses he will just tell more lies, and he is not going to feel guilty. To a scammer, your whole relationship has been a business transaction. He learned a long time ago to see victims as nothing more than a source of money, no matter how much he pretends to care. When you point out what he has done wrong, he will learn from your information and will make his scam more believable next time. If you point out that his current name and email are posted, he will create a new fake identity, and the victim who googles his new name won’t find the important evidence that he is a scammer.
8. Be aware of, and watch out for, future scams, especially recovery scams. If you suddenly start receiving emails from someone claiming to be law enforcement or some kind of official, saying they can get your scammer arrested, money back, or they can get you some kind of victim compensation, understand that this is most likely another scam. Ultimately you would be asked to provide sensitive information, pay some kind of fees, or even told to send more money to the scammer so they could "catch him in the act." In the end, these are all just an attempt to get more money from you.
Frequently asked questions
What about the real person in the photos? I really feel like I need to know who the real person is and speak to him/her.
This is a very common reaction when you have been communicating with a romance scammer. For weeks, months, or even a year or more, you have been seeing photos (and sometimes video) of the person who is supposedly in contact with you. It is very normal to start to feel like you have a connection to the person in the photos, or to start to believe the person in the photos is really the person you are looking for. But in reality, the person in the photos has absolutely no connection to the scammer or to you, and is very likely nothing like the person the scammer pretended to be. The scammer simply found a set of photos on the internet that would suit his purpose, copied them to his computer, and started using them. He has never met the real person in the photos. The good news is that the scammer does not generally have the information needed to steal that person’s identity.
The real person is very possibly married, involved, unavailable or simply uninterested. He or she may not welcome contact from a stranger who has been scammed by someone using his/her photos, and may see it as an intrusion into his/her personal life. In some cases, victims have located and contacted the real person, only to be hurt more when the real person responded poorly to the contact. Even if you find the real person in the photos and make him/her aware the photos are being used, there is nothing that person can do. The scammer has saved those photos, and there is no way to get them back. By contacting this person, you may very well be causing him or her stress since he/she can’t control the situation at this point. As a general rule, trying to locate and contact the real person is NOT recommended.
Even though I know that this person was a scammer, I still find myself looking for an email/waiting for a phone call from him. Is this normal?
For weeks or months you poured your heart out to this person. Even though you now know that he was pretending the entire time, you were invested as you would be in any relationship. If you were dating someone in your hometown and the relationship ended, you would likely still miss him/her for a while, even if you were the one who called the relationship off. The same is true here. You will need to grieve and recover from your loss just as you do from the loss of any important relationship. If you find yourself overwhelmed, you may need to consider professional counseling. It is also very important that you don’t let those feelings allow you to be pulled back in to the scammer’s grasp.
My scammer is now threatening to hurt me and/or my family. Am I in danger?
The scammer may threaten you in an attempt to get more money from you, or to try to convince you to withdraw reports about him that are hurting his other scams. It is a good idea to report any physical threats to the police. In reality, when dealing with the type of scammers profiled here at Scamwarners, the risk of physical harm to you or your relatives is very low. These scammers typically target victims outside of their own country. Passports and visas would be required to come to your country, and he may not qualify for them. Even if he did have the ability to travel, coming to your area would cost him significant time and money. His goal is to take your money—not to spend money pursuing you. In addition, he knows that the risk of being jailed for scamming you is relatively low—but if he were to attempt to harm you (or have someone else harm you), the risk of being caught and put in jail is much higher. It’s not a risk he is going to take. The scammer is essentially a coward, hiding behind fake information, taking few real risks.
However, we have seen scammers, when very angry, who have caused some problems for their victims by reporting their victims as scammers, harassing friends, using victims’ names in scams, etc. It is best not to “play” with a scammer who has your real life information, as this will make him angrier and more likely to attempt to retaliate—and while your life may not be at risk, you don’t need to waste your time and energy dealing with these things.
I sent intimate photos/video to my scammer or he says he recorded my activities on webcam, and now he is threatening to publish them. What can I do?
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do. The only advice we can give you is not to give in to blackmail demands, and once again, cut off ALL contact with the scammer. If he cannot reach you, he cannot blackmail you. If he knows that he has power over you, he will continue to abuse that power and demand more and more money. He may promise to destroy the photos/video, but remember he is a liar and a thief, and his promises are worth nothing.
The truth is, in most cases the scammer will not follow through with this threats, because following through will cost him time and money. If he tries to post anything pornographic, most public sites would delete it anyway. In the unlikely event that he does post something, you need to be proactive and contact the site immediately to have it removed. Depending on the threats, you may want to file a report with law enforcement.
Just remember for the future that any photo or video you give to ANYONE is out of your control, and anything you do on webcam can be recorded. This particular issue is not exclusive to scammers - the internet is full of stories of angry people who posted intimate details or photos/video of ex-partners after a relationship ended badly.