Deborah – A Romance Scam Victim’s Story

Deborah – A Romance ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. Victim’s Story

SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Scam Victims’ Assistance & Support

Every Romance Scam Victim Faces An Uphill Battle After Their Scam

Most victims face traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. that can last indefinitely if they do not find proper professional support.

SCARS recommends that all relationship scamRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam? victims get both local trauma counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. or therapy and join a professionally managed support groupSupport Group In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers., and stay away from amateur anti-scam hate groups.

The following is the story of a victim of what is the most common type of romance scam, however, in the last two years “Pig ButcheringPig Butchering Sha Zhu Pan 殺主盤 “Pig Butchering” This is a scam type that originated in China involving the scammer developing a relationship with the victim - sometimes romantic sometimes not - and leading the victim to invest in a fake company or asset. These typically target smart younger women.scamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. have also become common and follow a different approach – click here to learn about there.

Deborah’s Story – A Romance Scam Victim

Provided courtesy of U.S. Homelands Security Investigations (HSI).

“Deborah” fell hard when she met her Spanish lumberjack on a dating site in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was 66, somewhat attractive and looked uncannily like Deborah’s late husband who died just months before the pandemic hit.

“I was missing not having him here to talk about, you know, what was going on in the world and everything,” Deborah said. “So, somebody suggested to go online through a dating service … and this guy’s pictures shows up and he’s just you know, no George Clooney, nothing gorgeous, but in fact, he had a resemblance to my husband.”

For Deborah, who was in her late 60s and looking to start over after the loss of her husband, it was a perfect storm.

“Bernard” was attentive, caring and a widower himself. He told her he was born and raised in Madrid. He was married to his first love for 35 years before she died of cancer. Five years ago, he and his young daughter moved to New York to be near his mother and take over his father’s logging business.

He said he had one last job to do in Canada and then he would be home for good and they’d have time to find out about each other. He had rented an apartment near her in Manhattan Beach, California, and he would soon be home.

“He’s asking about my kids,” Deborah said. “And I was having some back problems at the time, and he said, ‘What are you doing to take care of yourself?’ It was really just slowly developing into this wonderful relationship.”

But just a few weeks later, it all started.

These scams often follow a pattern. Someone reaches out, often on a dating site or social media. They’re affectionate, validating, and incredibly attentive. They’re attractive, but not to the point of drawing suspicion. And they claim they’re foreign-born, which helps explain the accent and grammar.

They claim to live nearby and usually set up a date to meet, only to have urgent business take them out of town or overseas. They usually have jet-setting international jobs like engineers, contractors, oil industry professionals, military, diplomats, investors, and even lumberjacks.

The courting (grooming) can go on for months. Then the charmers will say they’re in a jam (an emergency) and need money quickly.

“Maybe two or three weeks later, one of his machines broke down and he had to pay for the repair,” Deborah said. “It was another little red flag that I should have known, but I was blinded to it because I was overwhelmed with the possibility of a future, and he seemed like a wonderful man.”

When Deborah told him he resembled her late husband and sent him a photo, he agreed and said she looked a little like his late wife and said he would show her photos when he saw her.

But that meeting never happened.

The first time “Bernard” asked for money, he said he’d be home in three days and would pay her back then. But suddenly his trip was delayed and then another emergency required her financial support.

“I kept thinking, if I don’t give him more, he won’t get home and I’ll never get back my original money. It snowballed from there,” Deborah said.

Deep down, Deborah was continuously questioning his validity. But Bernard knew exactly what to say to keep her going with manipulation and a script of details of his logging business which included photos and promises of a wonderful life together once he returned.

Of course, Bernard was not a single scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. – but a team that was focused on exploiting Deborah.

The usual red flags continued to pop up, but each victim’s psychology tends to force them to be ignored. While living in the forest, Bernard claimed he had several laptops and phones stolen, so he learned to bring a cheap phone and computer with him. That’s why the camera on his laptop or phone didn’t work, he would tell her when they tried to FaceTime.

Despite interventions from her daughter, son, and close friends, Deborah continued to secretly send money as each new “emergency” arose.

“The red flags were there, and I knew it. I even told a friend, if someone told me the same story, I’d know in an instant it was a scam,” she said. “But there was a continual voice in my head saying this guy is different. I know he’s telling me the truth and when he gets home, we’re going to have an incredible life together.”

Realizing that a substantial chunk of the savings she and her husband put aside for retirement was gone, Deborah started recognizing this was not what it appeared to be.

The turning point involved a bank transaction in the UK.

Bernard was finally on his way back home to California. He sent Deborah the details of his flight the night before he was to fly.

The next morning, he called her from the airport.

“He was at the airport,” she said. “I could hear airport noise.”

But another call comes in from Bernard after a slight flight delay. He says security is stopping him and he is not allowed to board. He tells her he will call her back.

When he calls back, he is heading for jail.

“He was being detained because his accountant was caught embezzling $4 million from all of his clients,” Deborah said. The man who was supposed to being paying Bernard’s taxes to the Canadian government for doing business there had absconded with all his money. He now needed to get funds to get out of jail by paying the $400,000 in taxes he owed to the Canadian government.

Bernard told her he is going to make her the beneficiary of the money in his London account so she can write the check to pay for his taxes and then transfer the rest of the money to him when he got home.

“Again, I’m thinking, well what’s the harm in this?” she said. Meanwhile, Bernard was becoming more desperate and demanding in their exchanges and her uneasiness with the situation continued to grow.

While emailing the bank in London she noticed an odd discrepancy in the letterhead from the bank.

The banker’s signature line on the letterhead was different from his email address.

“I saw that right away and I said to Bernard, I don’t know if I trust this,” she says.

Bernard agreed and said he would write an email and copy her on it.

In response, the banker explained that the bank has different domain names depending on different transactions.

He suggested she come to London for two days so she can sign all the papers and get them notarized.

“I am not going to London,” she says. “Are they out of their minds? They say, OK, we can do it by proxy, but you have to send a fee of $26,000.”

That’s when reality set in. Deborah called the bank’s main branch and told them the situation. She sent all the documentation between her, Bernard, and the fraudulent banker. Two weeks later she got a call from the head of the legitimate bank’s fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. office in London.

“That’s when I heard it from some outside official person,” she said. She was then referred to the head of global fraud at the bank’s Toronto office who contacted DHSDepartment of Homeland Security The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the U.S. federal executive department (under the President) responsible for public security, roughly comparable to the interior or home ministries of other countries. Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cybersecurity, and disaster prevention and management. in Los Angeles. They took up the investigation to track down Bernard and the complex crime organization he was likely connected to.

“Three days later, I’m eating breakfast in my robe and there’s a knock on my door and there’s two guys standing there and they’re telling me they’re agents with DHS (Department of Homeland SecurityDepartment of Homeland Security The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the U.S. federal executive department (under the President) responsible for public security, roughly comparable to the interior or home ministries of other countries. Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cybersecurity, and disaster prevention and management.),” she said. “I was so paranoid. I am thinking, no, you’re fake. You’re part of the whole scam.”

The two agents finally earned Deborah’s trust and she agreed to use a recording device in a call to Bernard, among other ways of gathering evidence. HSI also put Deborah in touch with an emotional support group and she joined a private support group for Victims of Romance Scammers on Facebook. She is getting help from a therapist to learn to trust again.

“It’s hard to forget as I am left with this enormous debt, which reminds me every day. It has been a year and a half now. I just try to take it one second, one minute, one day at a time,” Deborah said.

Getting Help!

SCARS Offers FREE Services to scam victims worldwide managed by victims’ assistance professionals. In fact, SCARS is also a victims’ assistance partner to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The trauma following a relationship scam is serious and it will not simply go away by itself. To find local counseling or therapy worldwide visit these two directories:

To join a SCARS Victims ONLY Support Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SCARS.Avoidance.Information.Public.Group

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By the SCARS™ Editorial Team
Society of Citizens Against Relationship ScamsSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Inc.

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