If there is a single tool a romance scammer uses to be successful in their crime, it is the digital world. Once they hook a victim, they manipulate to keep the relationship online and avoid the physical at all cost. Think of the digital as Google Hangouts, SMS messaging, Whatsapp, Signal or email, mainly lacking human contact.
By not stepping into the physical realm of a romance scammer, the scammer avoids detection. They use excuses of why they can not speak or video. Like, they are in a military hot zone, and it is top secret. The oil rig has radiation and using a video could cause an explosion. Or working a large government contract, in a remote area and there is no mobile service. The dumber scammers claim the phone camera is broke, or they are shy.
The lack of phone or video conversation bides time for the victim to fall prey to the scam. Instead of expecting what one should in a so-called normal relationship, victims accept digital communication as the norm. And begin to believe it is a long-distant relationship. An online relationship is not a long distant relationship.
A word of caution, because you had a phone conversation or a short video with an online acquaintance does not mean anything. Mr. Romeo Scammer tricks you by muffling the conversation or faking the video.
Next, the scammer inundates you with attention; attention not seen since a teenager. Eventually, you stand alone waiting for more from the mysterious person while they claim to be off working somewhere in the world. You then accept for now that life with them is email and text. A huge mistake!
Then comes the carrot, promises of a visit. Unfortunately, it is a piece of false hope. You mark the calendar; you tell your family and friends. Unfortunately, the timeline is a tool to take the lie deeper by allowing time to go pass, and the bond between victim and scammer grow.
Next comes the disaster, no one arrives at the airport. A family death, can you help with the burial cost? A solicitor contacts you, and bail money is needed. Their boat is stranded, they require you to pay for their luggage. Then promised that once the troubles pass, they will be smiling on your doorstep.
Becoming a victim of a romance scam does not happen overnight, it unwraps in stages. Each aspect slowly brings you into a digital prison where you want to believe with all your heart that the person you are involved with is real. Yet, there is that little voice in your head telling you that you should know better. In fact, the voice is yelling that you are in a horrible act of deception.
Frank M. Ahearn identifies romance scammers worldwide.