Wolves love romance, especially when vulnerable women are the prey. And women are – 82% of the time.
Modern Day Romance and Virtual Wolves
As far back as 1993, a famous cartoon in the New Yorker showed one dog at a keyboard in front of a computer connected to the fledgling internet, and another dog looking up at him. The dog at the keyboard utters a line which became famous the more we understood about the internet -“On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
Fast-forward 23 years and that saying is more true than ever. Con men (and women) have ruined lives, stolen fortunes and driven some to suicide through the power of the internet. Never meeting in person. All over wires carrying bits and bytes. That is how modern romance scams work–using the psychology of fear, manipulation, urgency and deceit to steal more than money. These thieves steal hope.
Every year the FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center issue a report of the most popular scams. In 2015, romance scams (also called confidence scams) hit women the hardest. Why? For wolves, it’s easy. Because they prey on emotion.
The Psychology of Fear, Manipulation, Urgency and Deceit
- Fear – of loss, companionship, love and attention. The scammer begins to withhold this because of an ’emergency’.
- Manipulation – conning you into believing their story of loss, suffering, tragedy and more.
- Urgency – the scammers need the money now to prevent something terrible from happening. “How can we ever be together if I can’t pay off the mob?” (True story.)
- Deceit – the real impact isn’t always the loss of the money. It’s the realization you’ve been deceived. The way your heart has been torn from your chest and thrown away so casually.
When I was a detective, I specialized in behavioral analysis interviewing. I even taught at the highly-secretive National Security Agency. The key to a behavioral interview is understanding the motivations of the suspect. If I could identify key behavioral clues during the interview, I could develop my theme for the interrogation.
An easy difference to spot was what motivated men and women. There was a big difference, and to ignore it was…criminal. And that’s how real criminals over the internet work. They do exactly what I did in the behavioral analysis interview. Ask lots of questions and do lots of listening. Everybody loves to talk about themselves–eventually. For women, when a man listens it fulfills a form of self-validation. The scammers know this, and the more patient they are, the bigger the reward.
Wolves Wait and Circle
Many scams can take a few months to develop. During that time, the scammer is building trust, pouring their ‘heart’ out to the woman, exposing themselves and their vulnerabilities. How could that not be attractive to a 55 year-old widow? They to a woman’s heart is through her emotions. They way to a man’s heart is through his ego.
That’s why 82% of romance scams are women. According to the FBI:
Romance scams, also known as confidence scams, result in the highest amount of financial losses when compared to other Internet-facilitated crimes.
The average victim loses over $100,000 dollars. In the last 6 months of 2014, the losses were over $82 million. To make this work the wolves promise love, adoration, attention, companionship and a trusting soul to confide in. When things seem to be going just perfectly, that’s when the wolves begin to close in on their prey.
Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.
How To Stop The Wolf
The heart wants what the heart wants. Just make sure the want is real, and not contrived. The warning signs of romance scams vary, but generally look like this:
- Usually in an exotic location, or are unable to meet because they are overseas (like the military).
- Never talk to you on the phone – only chat and email.
- Profess their love for you early on.
- Ask for money (regardless of the reason).
- Threaten (nicely) to withhold their love, attention and affection unless they can resolve their ‘issue’ – which usually involves money (see #4).
Just say no. Unless you can verify their identity, meet face to face or talk to them (like Skype) continue to say no. NO is the most powerful tool you have, especially when the wolf asks for money.