I’d like to believe that I’m Internet savvy, but a recent personal experience needed me to tell you that as a widow you need to beware of romance scams. From doing some research, I’ve learned that they are hitting hard and heavy, targeting widows and widowers, and it’s vital to know their tactics because these scammers are slick! You need to be prepared with this knowledge on the off-chance that it can happen to you. Here are 13 signs of a romance scammer.
Online Scammers Are Savvy
Out of the blue, I was contacted by a handsome fellow through Instagram. He was gorgeous, which allowed me to continue the conversation with him. After just a few messages, he made me feel wanted, appreciated and loved. He was so good at getting past my defenses. I should have clued in when the first thing he asked was where I would want to go on vacation with him. He then told me how intellectual I was, and how he admired me.
He told me that he was originally from France (swoon!), but that his parents and wife had died so he had moved to North Carolina to work on an oil rig as an underwater welder. I had no idea what this was, so I Googled it – good pay, months away on the job, requirements are a passion to swim and a healthy work ethic. All positive things in my book.
Widows and Widowers Are Prime Targets
He knew I was a widow, and he said he was a widower too. That he was trying to find love after his wife of 22 years died, and he’s been single for 8 years. He connected with my vulnerability, and seized upon it. Every time we texted, he made me feel like I was this amazing creature that he couldn’t wait to support no matter how crazy my life was. He broke so many barriers within me, and I wanted to be happy again. It felt so real, but yet not. His story didn’t fit. It was too close to a fairytale to be real. Something felt off.
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The pictures he sent were beyond delicious – so, freaking, handsome! Yet, he pushed back on video chatting. He had this weird tale about how pirates at sea had an inside contact with a video camera, so they were able to attack the ship with insider knowledge. That ten people died, and since then there was a strict no-camera policy. It was so weird, and over-the-top. But I believed him – he connected with me, and I wanted to connect back. Overall, the conversations we had were littered with bad grammar that I chalked up to his mother tongue being French. Yet, the paragraph he sent me explaining this was grammar perfect. In hindsight, this was my first clue that there was more than one person in this facade.
And yet, even with these suspicions, I continued the conversation because as a lonely widow I craved this attention. The exchange made me feel beautiful, wanted, and back on track with my life.
Thankfully, a friend reached out to let me know that underwater oil welder scammers are apparently a thing. I had no idea. Seriously. Google it. That heads-up broke my bubble. It took some time, but I was able to connect with the actual texter. It was a scammer ring. It totally broke my heart, but thankfully it didn’t break my bank account.
Romance Scams Are Real
When I checked the profile for who he was following, it was all older, single women. Most of them widows. I reached out to one of them, asking if this particular person had been chatting with them, and my suspicions. She told me that he had begged for money, but she refused to pay. The game was up, though as good as it was to know what the truth was, it still hurt a lot.
It turned out that my gentleman caller was a young African boy, with a older handler who monitored his calls. It was the mentor who had written the explanation about why video chatting was forbidden, which it why the style was so different than the usual texts. I was able to break past the facade, and even got the boy to show me his face and admit his lies. It was heartbreaking to see how scared he was at being caught by his handlers.
The next day, the texts continued as if nothing had happened. That no truthful conversations had occurred, even though I had saved them before deleting the app later that day.
13 Signs of a Romance Scammer
Since then, I’ve learned that this is not a new thing. Widows and widowers have been targeted by scammers for a long time, and now during this time of crisis it’s really ramped up. The possibility that you will be targeted are higher than ever.
Here’s what you have to know.
All or almost all of the posts in their feed have been posted within a short time frame
If you check their profile, it will become obvious that it was set up very recently. This is true whether it is on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social medium. There will be little interaction, a very basic profile summary, and little to no followers. This doesn’t mean that the Private Account that just followed you is a scammer, but it does raise a red flag to be careful.
A profile picture that look like stock photography or is too perfect
My “gentleman caller” was drop dead gorgeous. The pictures provided featured a grey fox, with great fashion sense, in an everyday location. When I showed them to my sisters, they even remarked how he should be in modelling. Turns out that the pictures were of an actual male model who is quite famous on Instagram. Funny thing is that he’s gay, and taken, which means he wouldn’t have been interested in me at all even if this had been real.
Really odd English, bad grammar. When you try to press, they respond with vague answers.
This one really confused me. My “gentleman caller” claimed he was from France, which helped explain why his English grammar was a little off. Not badly, but enough to make it a little jarring to read. Easy to pass along, if they’ve already admitted that English is not their first language.
But then there were the strange responses. If asked specific questions, they would defer. For instance when I asked where he grew up I was expecting a specific city or town; he responded “France”. If I asked a question that required specific knowledge, for instance to describe a day in the life as an underwater welder, the response was “I was underwater today”.
If it feels off, there’s probably a reason why.
Their friends are all the same social bearing as you - all your age range, widows.
It wasn’t until I took the lens from myself to look at the other people he was following when it became apparent that I was a small cog in his target market. All of the profiles he was following were older single and widowed women. I was younger than most, which as a young widow isn’t an anomaly, but the similarities were uncanny. We were all hand picked for a reason.
They claim to be American or a Frenchman, currently working in another country.
They will pretend to be American – like most of their targets – or from a romantic country. They will claim that they are working in another country so that they can keep their distance and avoid any local connection. In this time of Covid, it makes it much easier to keep that distance as boundaries are closed and social distancing is enforced.
They are in the military, or weirdly, an underwater welder working on an oil rig.
Both professions require a high work ethic, and hint at a substantial salary. This is attractive to anyone, especially widows who are looking for those characteristics in a potential partner. It also provides a safe way to explain why they cannot physically connect with you. Their job is the reasons they can’t drop everything and run to you, even though they profess they would love to.
Recognize and Regroup
They insist on chatting on another app from where you first met them.
Most platforms are very good at recognizing and banning false motives. That’s why they will insist on trying to get you to chat with them on an app that doesn’t monitor data as much as the original platform does. It’s a way to avoid detection – don’t fall for it.
They have "off" names.
This could be two first names as their full name. Or a name that is from a romance novel. Or they have two first names: James Scott.
My scammer claimed to be from France and went by the name of Alexi Parsi. Paris, the capital of France. In retrospect, it was so evident that it was false.
They have one picture, but no comments.
No workplace or education history. Just landscape pictures and pictures of dogs. Pretty pictures with no substance. Nothing unique about them at all. Just beautiful puff stories of nothing.
They claim to be newly widowed, looking for a companion.
They claim that they are looking to connect. They flatter you with compliments to make you feel special. But when you probe deeper they deflect. See above about vague answers.
They have really atrociously large salary jobs.
As a widow/er, you’re missing companionship but also financial stability. Who doesn’t want to land a big earner to support them in their time of financial uncertainty? Seeking out bereaved persons is a main reason they target us. They want to connect on an emotional level – you help them now with a little bit of cash, with promises of huge dividends in the future. Classic scam. And it works – if you’re not careful.
They promise to be the one you are looking for, and will pull your strings to get there.
These guys are good. Really slick professionals. They get under your skin by exploiting your vulnerability, and promise the world. You’re in a place of instability, and out of the blue someone beautiful who claims they love you and want to support you emotionally and financially is a dream come true. They know how to dig in – it’s all human behaviour which they are using to their own advantage.
Overall, you as a widow have to beware of these scammers, because they are real. They will show up in every social media you are in, and produce themselves as widowers looking for love.
Do Not Let Them In.
You’re Not Alone.