Don’t Let Them Call You Sweetheart

by J_Pratt


Romance Scams: Don’t Let Them Call You Sweetheart

Among the most painful scams are those in which the victim believes the villain truly cares for them. This connection allows the miscreant to exploit their affection, abusing them financially as well as emotionally. These are known as Romance or Sweetheart scams.

Ginny was in her 20’s and had a number of friends with whom she would meet up on Saturday nights to “hang out”, have some laughs – and hopefully meet up with that special someone. One night, good friend Grant introduced her to a handsome friend-of-a-cousin who was staying with him for a few days. They hit it off right away.

Kevin was a delightful guy, friendly, funny and seemed to be genuinely interested in Ginny. They met again several time over the next couple weeks. Ginny was smitten; she was beginning to feel that Kevin just might be “the one”.

Several days later, Kevin told Ginny he’d like to stay a little longer because he wanted to see where their relationship might lead, but he was running out of cash. Since his bank didn’t have a branch in her town, no one would cash a check for him. Ginny immediately volunteered to take him to her bank and have them cash the check for her.

The next morning, Kevin wrote a check to Ginny for $1,000 and she cashed it at her bank, giving it all to Kevin. He said he would pick her up at 8pm for a celebratory night on the town.  When he didn’t show up by 9pm, she called Grant to ask if he knew where Kevin was.

Grant said he didn’t know and didn’t care. He had cashed a $1,000 check for Kevin 2 days ago and he hadn’t seen Kevin since. The bank had called that morning to tell him that $1,000 (plus a fee!) was being taken from Grant’s account because that check had bounced, and since Grant had actually been the one to cash it, he was legally responsible for it. When he called his cousin to see if he knew where Kevin might be, his cousin informed him that he didn’t know any “Kevin”.

The next day, Ginny received a notice from her bank, telling her that her account would be charged $1,000 (plus a fee!) for a returned item. She never heard from Kevin again.

Think only naïve young girls would make a mistake like that? Keep reading.

Sam was a man in his mid-50’s. Recently divorced, he wasn’t quite ready to start dating. One day an email popped up in his inbox from a Julya in Rumania, looking to strike up an online friendship a “nice, honest person in America”. She had included some pictures of herself – what a knock out!

They began emailing almost daily. Julya talked of her desire to come to the U.S. one day, find a good job and then a trustworthy man who wouldn’t misuse her, for her to love and care for.  But she was making barely enough money to support herself and she realized her dream was only a fantasy, so she would have to settle for just an online relationship.

Sam was touched by Julya’s beautiful soul and sad story. He suggested that – and he hoped he was not being inappropriate – he would be willing to help her get to the U.S. and find a job.

At first, she only needed a few hundred dollars for some application fees, which Sam willingly wired. A few weeks later, she needed several hundred more to pay the Rumanian government for papers and permits. Then there were other costs – taxes, tolls, tariffs, fares… bribes. The amounts grew with each request. Each time Julya assured him that this was the last before she would get on a plane to come to him.

After sending thousands of dollars over the course of several weeks, Sam was convinced someone was taking advantage of Julya. He decided to call the U.S. Embassy in Rumania to see if they could help her. It was then that he learned that a “Julya” was known to be perpetrating this advance fee scam against a number of “lonely American men”.

Besides being crushed and embarrassed, Sam was also much poorer for the experience.

Social engineering” is a technique used by many criminals to part trusting individuals from their assets. And it doesn’t bother them one bit if they break someone’s heart while doing it. When it comes to romance, don’t let your heart overrule your head.

  • Check out all “friends-of-friends”. Make sure to investigate the new people in your life, especially if they claim to know someone you know. Check them out thoroughly with people you trust before letting them into your life.
  • Be extremely cautious making online friends. If you want an email-pal, be sensitive to the possibility of being manipulated to provide information about yourself (or others), to agree to meet or to send them money or information. Trust that “gut” sense that something doesn’t feel right and end such relationships quickly.
  • Never mix money with romance. As soon as money becomes an issue in a relationship, be very, very careful. Don’t give or help anyone get money that you aren’t willing to lose.
  • Never agree to forward or deliver packages or money to others as a result of an online relationship; this is a popular technical used by criminals to protect their real accomplices from being identified when receiving illegally obtained goods or money.


FPF2A co-founder & FraudAvengers Director of Business Development Jodi Pratt is a 35-year veteran of the financial services industry. A pioneer in the area of fraud management, Jodi has spent the last 20 years creating, developing and implementing fraud solutions. She currently provides consulting and expert witness services to businesses via Jodi Pratt and Associates.