Romance scams are one of the more interesting, albeit sadder, reasons leading people to financial distress and bankruptcy. There are websites devoted to the types of scams that are out there, but typically it revolves around a person overseas, who claims to be wealthy and has a sympathetic story, e.g. they adopted an orphan and were in the middle of building an orphanage, or maybe they were investing in a gold mine, and their money will come in later. After striking up this “love at first sight” on the Internet, they start asking for money. And they promise that of course after they get married, there will be a hundred times as much money coming back.
And perhaps what is most interesting, is how these people end up getting re-victimized. I will share a few anecdotes. One client was asked to meet one of the other “investors,” to pick up some money and have it electronically shipped overseas. Of course, the other “investor” was simply another victim, and then my client ended up getting investigated by the local Sheriff’s office because they thought she was in cahoots with the perpetrator.
Another client came in with her daughter and son-in-law, and we laid it all out, and the son-in-law became a quasi-conservator over her funds. But he did not have control over everything, and the perpetrator called her back and pretended to be Interpol, saying that they caught the guy, but she needed to send more money so they could bust him. She was a somewhat rational person, but she was so intent on proving to me, her daughter and son-in-law, that this was a real deal that could keep her from filing bankruptcy, she sent them even more money.
More recently, a woman I met realized she had been victimized after draining over $300,000 in retirement accounts, and running up another $100,000 in loans. I had to inform her that even though she could file bankruptcy on the credit cards, she was now going to end up owing the IRS about $50,000 for the retirement withdrawals. One of the things that this otherwise intelligent woman said to me, was “at the time I sent the money, I knew that these scams existed, but I was so certain that this was not a scam, I felt like I had been diligent about this.”
If you or someone you know are victimized by a romance scam, you are not alone, and we can help wipe out debts that were run up as a result.