With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is not just in the air, but also online. The most common goal of dating, whether online or offline, remains constant: to love and be loved. This takes work, and it’s why the dating scene should be approached with practicality, and awareness. It’s also why those seeking love online should take extra caution to protect their hearts – and their wallets.
“Date with your heart and head,” shares BC resident Barbara, who was defrauded of $300,000 in an online dating scam last year, costing her the sale of her much-loved condo. A widower, Barbara, at age 76, joined ChristianMingle.com and connected with David Winters, a man she personally never met. He claimed to be a German engineer working on an oilrig project in the Gulf of Mexico. They emailed, texted and phoned, so she did not heed the dating website warnings about staying on the website or not sending money. Shares Barbara, “This man was sending flowers, love messages, Bible verses, (and) even shared my favourite hymn. He absolutely swept me off my feet with promises. He got me off the dating website immediately after we connected.”
Love Bombing Scheme
“Love bombing” is what Dr. Kim Polowek, clinical psychologist and criminologist professor at University of the Fraser Valley, in Abbotsford, would call it. Polowek says in “love bombing” scammers overwhelm victims with demonstrations of affection, charm, flattery, and crafting their emails to play on the victim’s values and interests. In her research on romance fraud and schemes, she found that anyone can fall prey, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, business women and teachers.
In November 2013, thestar.com ran a story of another BC woman falling prey to a similar scam resulting in a loss of over $1.3 million – the largest alleged romance fraud noted in Canada. The intent is the same: “Using the emotional connection to defraud a person,” says Cpl./Cap Richard De Jong, Media Relations Officer with North Vancouver RCMP.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), Canadians were swindled of close to $14 million by online romance scams in 2014. Many cases go unreported due to embarrassment. A Google search of “online dating scams” produces nearly 2.4 million results with stories, warnings and tips to avoid victimization. It’s a rampant crime, often operated by organized crime.
Promises of love, although bogus, can persuade an individual to do almost anything. It is prudent to inform a confidante of your dating activities to keep you grounded or for support if something goes wrong. If you are meeting someone overseas, register with the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate on your whereabouts.
“Stay on the dating site a long time and do not ever, ever send money. Don’t go off the site until you know you are talking to a “real” person, and have personally checked the individual thoroughly. Don’t take their word,” advises Barbara. Despite her chagrin, she is bravely speaking with the media to warn other women, particularly seniors, and less internet-savvy folks of these scams.
Joy and Blessings in the Midst of Trials
When a local TV station interviewed Barbara on her story, the reporter wanted a screen shot of her ChristianMingle.com account, which she had abandoned. She agreed to login, but forgot to sign out when the reporter left. The next day, a message came on. It was from the man Barbara would eventually marry. “I checked him out…phoned the church he attends, and spoke with the pastor’s wife who knew him. Out of this pain, he brought me much joy and happiness. My husband and I felt that God has blessed, and brought us together for a reason. God gave me a wonderful Christian partner, my first Christian husband. My mother in heaven would be happy about this,” she laughs.
Looking back, Barbara shares: “I wasn’t listening to God. I realize now, I really get a sick feeling when I was transferring money to the guy.”
“I am learning to forgive, and I think I have forgiven him. The book Total Forgiveness by Pastor R.T. Kendall has helped me a lot. God is good all the time. Just listen to God, don’t shut Him out. By God’s grace, I have come through everything very well. My husband is very understanding of all this. He is a pensioner like me.”
“Most people jump into new relationships too quickly. Take time to really get to know the person,” writes relationship experts, Ron and Tina Konkin of Relationship Lifeline. They suggest writing ahead of time a list of top 10 things you want in a partner. When you meet a potential partner, review if many of the individual’s attributes made your list. Attributes like poor clothing choice may not be deal-breakers, but an attribute like integrity is not something you should waiver on when you see a lie.
“People often marry thinking they can change a person. That doesn’t work. Going into relationships with realistic expectations are important.” The Konkins add that healing from past hurts, and learning how to resolve present and future hurts are important before making a commitment.