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A Guide for Friends and Family of Romance Scam Survivors

A Free Guide by the Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams [SCARS]

This Guide is intended for Family and Friends of someone that was involved in a Romance Scam

Also available on LinkedIn.com here »


This is presented in the hope that it will help scam victims to explain what happened to them. We hope that by reading this you can understand that the victim was not at fault but was professionally manipulated beyond their will and control.

If you are a victim, we encourage you to share this guide with your friends and family so that they can understand what happened to you. This way you don’t have to explain the “how” and the “why” – this guide will do it for you, just the “what” if you choose to.

If you have experienced a romance scam or know someone that has and are seeking help or would like more information, call please visit our other educational and support information here on our website www.RomanceScamsNow.com or our pages on Facebook and other social media.

Table of Contents

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Understanding How It Happened?

A Romance Scam Is An Unusual Crime. It Starts With Just Saying Hello.

The internet was conceived as a place for all of us to come together, connect with new people, people from all over the world. We could learn about each other’s cultures, lives, and histories, and make the world a smaller happier place. Or so went the theory.

We all know that there are dangers out there, from viruses and malware to pedophiles that stalk their victims online. The old MySpace collapsed because it became a “grooming ground” for Pedophiles until the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and forced it to change. Sadly, that was just one chapter in the long history of crime online. Fast forward to the present, and we now see a situation where organized global criminal cartels are everywhere online.

But How Does It Happen?

It starts with someone sending a message or a friend request, they pretend to be someone that looks real and honest. Maybe a soldier overseas just wanting someone to talk to. Or a woman doing aid work wanting to talk with someone from home. It is a beginning that anyone could fall for and millions have. In the last 20 years, more than 15 million people have become victims of romance scams and another 10 million inside China. This is not a unique or isolated problem, yet few people really know much about these crimes are how people become victims.

Before you leap to any conclusions, such as that these victims are all stupid lonely people (which they are not), just understand that ANYONE can be scammed under the right set of socially engineered circumstances. Anyone! Intelligence is not a barrier either, smart people fall prey just as easily (maybe more easily) than dumb people. Skepticism or distrust is also no barrier or protection. Everyone can be scammed.

Steps To Doom

A romance scam starts with an inherent hard-wired willingness to trust strangers. Studies have shown that we all are more likely to trust a stranger over someone we know. [Learn more here »] You probably have met countless strangers during your life and were inclined to initially trust them until proven otherwise. In the real world, we have the benefit of all of our senses to detect deception but online we have none of that, yet the same instinctive desire to trust is still at work.  This is how the scammer gets through the door.

Once a connection takes place the scammer begins an innocent enough conversation that can go on for days. Getting to know each other just like two real people would do. Obviously being alone and lonely plays a role in this. The scammers do their homework and target people who appear to be of the right demographic and appear to be divorced or widowed – lonely people make easy targets. They also target age ranges that make them less tech-savvy and very overconfident – seniors and teens for example, but in reality, anyone at any age can fall for a romance scam – though about 60% of the victims are women.

The Hook

Once the conversation gets comfortable the fraudster begins to apply a technique that causes an automatic response – a bit like setting the hook when fishing. Wired inside our brains is the older and more primal part called the Amygdala. The Amygdala is responsible for our fight or flight response – our emotional reactions to day to day stimuli, and most people lose their thoughtful control when it kicks in. It happens to you too when you get mad and argumentative – it is your amygdala that has taken control – this is called an Amygdala Hijack [Learn more here »]

The scammer understands how to use this Amygdala Hijack to bypass rational thought by simply saying “I Love You.” The victim is already in a kind of friendly relationship and they are alone and lonely. For most people when we hear those words we feel good. But when you are in a relationship with the hope of something more those words are a trigger in the brain that causes actual chemical changes releasing hormones that are the most powerful drugs in existenc