How Scammers Can Lure Victims with “Future Faking”
The Real Reason Those Fantasies Of A Wonderful Future Together Never Came True? It Was All Lies!
But it sounded wonderful – right?
Adapted from a Psychology Today article by Elinor Greenberg Ph.D.
According to Psychology Today …
Most normal relationships follow a fairly predictable pattern. If the couple’s religious views do not forbid it, the couple dates, has sex, meets each other’s friends, moves in together, and gradually gets to know each other’s family. Over time, they either become more serious about the relationship and get engaged or they decide that they are not well suited and break up. There are variations on this basic pattern, but generally, most people do not make serious plans for a future together until they both feel fully committed to the relationship. This usually takes a year or two.
However, Romance Scammers Do Not Do A Normal Courtship
They are totally focused on winning over their victims, so they speed everything up and increase the intensity – these trigger emotions that help the scammer to control the victim.
A romance scam is a bit like dating on adrenaline. Everything that a normal couple does in the course of a year, they do in a few days without ever actually meeting. Scammers do not care if the victim is a good match because it is all faking anyway. Instead, they use a variety of strategies in an attempt to get the victim to fall in love and commit to them rapidly without the victim fully being aware of it – even though they are telling the victim that they are the love of their life and their perfect mate. After the victim is fully committed, that is when the heavier manipulation begins and it gets worse.
We have talked about the psychological manipulation associated with emotional control through the use of Amygdala Hijacking – we encourage you to take a look as well.
Of course, this is a cruel “courtship” manipulation strategy that scammers use to reel in a new victim. It works by making elaborate and detailed plans with the victim for a future life together. Most people have heard about “narcissistic love bombing,” showering someone with over-the-top compliments and gifts (scammers do that too,) but not everyone is aware of “future faking.” Scammers do exactly the same thing!
What Is Future Faking?
Future faking is normally a courtship strategy in which romance scammers talk to victims in elaborate detail about all the wonderful things that the two of them will do together in the future – the plans for visiting and living together, how they will explore the most romantic cities in the world, or even how many children the two of you will have and what to name them. All the while, the scammer sounds very enthusiastic and sincere – but it is all lies.
What makes it future faking, and not just planning a future, is that none of this is ever going to happen. Instead of being on the road to bliss, victims are now on the road to disappointment and financial loss. What usually occurs is that shortly after scammers believe that the victim is fully committed and in love with them, everything starts to change. Now that the chase (grooming) is over, the good times diminish – and the inevitable crisis or emergency will be sprung on the victim with the requisite demand for money!
Scammers use a variety of techniques to capture victims and keep them engaged, such as future faking and even sleep deprivation. They are not very good at sustaining a normal relationship timeline or dialog. During the grooming phase of a romance scam, the scammer creates positive relationship drama.
Future faking is cruel because it is exactly what it sounds like, a big fake. But it is just one of many lies during the romance scam. What initially brings great happiness to a victim will end up as a series of traumatic disappointments as the truth is discovered.
What Does Future Faking Look Like?
Imagine a victim is ready for a serious relationship (even if they do not know it) and they meet this very appealing person online. Everything moves fast. By the second or third week of conversation, this new person seems wildly in love with the victim. The scammer praises everything about the victim – though in a not really listening kind of way. The new lover has already decided that the two of them are the perfect couple and to the victim’s surprise, starts planning a future together.
The victim may be hesitant but quickly becomes enthralled with the fantasy developing. After all, the victim barely knows this person, but the victim thinks: “Isn’t this too soon to make this type of commitment?” However, on the other hand, it is nice to finally be communicating with someone who seems to really like them – “love at first chat,” so to speak!
This is all done so convincingly that the victim will start to buy into the vision and begin to imagine a possible future together – a future with no more bad relationships, no more loneliness, and no more wondering whether they will really find someone. So, the victim gets swept up in the emotion and positive drama and decides to go with the flow to see what happens next. This is also where the fear of missing out (FOMO) comes into play since the victim will not want to risk missing out on true love by being too skeptical or untrusting.
Now this person (the scammer) who the victim hardly knows starts describing the great times the two of them will have in the months and years to come. The scammer describes in vivid detail all the amazing things the two of them will do together, the romantic walks along the beach, the trips you will take, and even relatives and close friends that he or she wants the victim to meet, and vice versa.
The victim simply gets caught up in it and invites this person (the scammer) to be their “plus one” at a family wedding in the near future or to other significant events in their future. Of course, the scammer immediately agrees. The victim will breathe a sigh of relief and think: “They must be serious. Why would they agree to go to [name the event], if they weren’t in love with me?”
It’s All Fake
Of course, it is all lies, and if you could compare stories with other victims of the same scammers you would find it is largely based upon scripts. This is how scammers work – in teams, but following written scripts that they buy from suppliers who have perfected these models. The result is that they work – enough times that the scammers can succeed in their criminal enterprise.
This is but one of the dozens of manipulations that scam victims are subjected to during a typical romance scam. But this future faking takes place in other kinds of scams too, such as Lotto scams where the scammer will talk to victims about what they can do with their fake winnings, etc.
However, one of the more insidious aspects of future faking is to plant these plans so firmly in the mind of victims that it becomes a lingering form of manipulation that continues long after the scammer has been discovered and blocked. These plans (actually fantasies) continue to influence the victim making it very hard to let go and re-take control in their lives. We see this often when interviewing victims for assistance and support, that the victim cannot communicate the hard facts but instead stays fixated on the fantasy plans and drama.
For any victim to be able to move forward and to recover, they must be able to fully accept that the stories, the drama, the fantasies, were just that – all make-believe and lies. They need to be put into a box and forgotten. This is extraordinarily hard for many victims to accept – some never do. But it is an essential component of cleaning house to enable victims to move forward into recovery.
If you are a victim that has trouble letting go of the fantastical story then we strongly recommend that you contact a local trauma counselor for personal support. Here is a directory of trauma counselors and therapists to help you: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd