Romance scams prey on the increasing loneliness in society

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By Sabrina Almeida

Around Valentine’s Day, provincial police warned Ontarians about possible romance scams. According to the Better Business Bureau victims on both sides of the border have been defrauded of millions of dollars in the past couple of years. The US Federal Trade Commission further revealed that romance-related cons generated more losses than any other consumer fraud reported last year.

Surprised like I was? Research shows that lonely hearts are a big business especially around sentimental occasions like Valentine’s Day when individuals without a partner are desperate for some acknowledgement. Thanks to social media and dating websites, scammers have been able to widen their reach and fill their coffers. While the typical victim is over 40, divorced or whose partner as died, a senior and not tech savvy—all types of single people are vulnerable.

A friend whose romantic feelings were not reciprocated right from her teenage years has been taken advantage of on numerous occasions. Loneliness makes her susceptible to those just out to have a good time or make a fast buck. Desperation to find love clouds her judgement. A successful career has done little to fill the void in her personal life as she dreads coming home to the empty apartment every night. From dating websites to matchmakers—nothing has helped find that special someone. Sadly, a string of mistakes hasn’t insulated her from new ones either.

At a recent gathering, an unattached 30-something relative became the centre of attention as family started to encourage her to find a prospective groom. The advice came from people who had also married in their mid 30s. One of the ladies shared that establishing a career forced her to put romance and dating on the back burner, probably just like the one in the hot seat. She said there was little time to socialize, let alone think about settling down. A common reason many men and women are delaying or even forgoing getting hitched. However, some of these accomplished professionals start to get lonely as the years wear on. This makes them vulnerable to love scams and con artists later in life.

One female friend borrowed money from another to give one such conman who came to meet her from Spain. I was suspicious about his motives when she sent me his model-like photos but couldn’t express my apprehensions without making a statement about her looks. He disappeared as soon as he got his hands on the tidy sum and she was too ashamed to admit what had happened. Unfortunately, this did not deter her from visiting online chat rooms and taking a trip to Europe in the quest for love. Being dumped by her husband for a younger woman affected her self esteem and made her determined to prove she was desirable. Whatever the cost.

Millennials and Gen Y though much younger and tech savvy are equally vulnerable. A digitally-dependent lifestyle and consequent lack of social skills causes relationship issues. After all, it is hard to find romance if you are sitting at home and playing video games or communicating only through social media. As a result, many in their late 20s are turning to dating websites to find partners. The school, community and work place are typically where people build meaningful relationships. However, this cannot happen without physical interaction and communication. Added to this is the culture of instant gratification where most young people do not have the patience to build and nurture a relationship. But rushing into things has its price. How can a person you’ve never met be in love with you? Connecting via social media or a dating website is no substitute for the real face-to-face contact and meeting. Scams are a pricy and heartbreaking way to discover this!
Looking too hard or making finding someone the centre of life can also lead to trouble. More than one person has had their dreams smashed this way.

In the end it is important to distinguish what you want from what you need. The relationship needs to feel right not just look right! So take your time to get to know someone through physical meetings before giving them your heart and money!!! -CINEWS

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