Because we live in a world broken and distorted by sin, the deceiver is hard at work. One of the current ways Satan is at work in the lives of men and women who desire a loving romantic relationship is through online romance scams.
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 16, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.”
Jesus says, as recorded in Matthew 10, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
We are taught to be alert and wary of those who are self-seeking and so will say and do anything to have their own way. This would include those who would deceive through flattery and lies in order to gain money and goods.
Those who have been deceived by a romance scam often feel ashamed and embarrassed. They may not want friends and family to know what has happened to them. They will also feel significant betrayal by the scammers who purported to be in love and devoted to them.
Most important is that anyone being deceived in this way stop all contact with the scammer immediately.
Here are some practical ways to become wise to online romance scams, how to guard your heart and wallet, and how to heal if you have become a victim:
– After meeting on a dating website, the scammer asks you to communicate off the dating site by email, chat room, texting.
– The scammer is very charming, bestowing compliments, and rapidly falls in love with you. He or she says all the right things so that you feel special and chosen.
– The scammer is never able to meet with you in person due to various circumstances (being out of the country for work or military, plans a meeting but cancels at the last minute, tries to fly home but something happens).
– The scammer may be foreign and use poor grammar.
– The scammer may claim to be widowed and have a child to care for on his/her own. This can solicit compassion and trust.
– The scammer works hard to prove she or he is real by providing copies of official looking documents and photos.
– Scammer begins asking for money, material things, and financial information. (Cell phone so that communication can be continued, money for plane tickets, visa, passport, other travel documents or fees, or an emergency or crisis used all their money.)
How to act on wisdom gained
1. Call local authorities and report scam/fraud.
2. Call FBI ad report scam/fraud. (www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams; Internet Crime Complaint Center (https://www.ic3.gov/)
3. Report scammer to the dating website.
4. Utilize other resources for reporting and gaining insight. (cid.army.mil, consumer.ftc.gov, fraudaid.com, romancescams.org)
How to Heal
1. Share with trusted friends and family what has happened so you can grieve together, begin healing and find protection.
2. Seek prayer for protection and healing.
3. Meet with a counselor or minister to process the betrayal, anger, grief, doubt, confusion, and begin rebuilding your life.
4. Look for a support group in your area.
5. Study scripture to gain understanding of what God has for you and how to receive the kind of pure love that God has for you through Christ.