“I was looking for love in all the wrong places, Lookin’ for love in too many places”
Updated: Feb 12
Two second grade teachers Wanda and Patti from Gulfport Mississippi wrote those lyrics and pitched them to an old High School contact who had gone to Nashville. Songwriter Bob Morrison then tweaked the song and floated it to Paramount Pictures. A country & western singer Johnny Lee and an emerging actor called John Travolta then sent the song into Cowboy heaven in 1980!
What would those teachers make of the lyrics today? Too many victims of the romance scam are indeed looking for love in the wrong place. That place is called the internet.
According to the Federal Trade Commission victims lost over $219 million in one year to this scam.
And it is all so preventable.
The scammers steal an identity, a photo, a career. They post an enticing profile - sometimes posing as ex military or as a professional - on a dating website and go trawling for an unsuspecting lonely individual who is searching for love.
Once an initial contact is made the fraudster will persuade the victim to leave the formal website and communicate through a private channel. And then the lies and deceit flow freely. Gradually the scammer woos his or her victim by focusing on areas of known interest for that victim. Soon an Ethernet emotion of attachment and bonding transfixes the victim. Photos are exchanged. Words of affection are reciprocated. But still no actual FaceTime or Skype or Zoom call. Why not?
There is always a reason. If only the victim can understand that by revealing their true identity the crook’s game will be exposed. But love is blind.
Ultimately plans are made to meet up. Feelings reach an intense crescendo. But then a disaster befalls the scammer. And now he needs money- quickly. He describes an urgent international trip that has turned into a nightmare; maybe a medical emergency or a wallet has been taken after a violent mugging. Or an unexpected cash shortage is preventing him from securing a killer contract deal which would set him up financially for years.
The victim withdraws cash and wire transfers to a foreign bank. The crook has his pay day!
The money is gone along with the anonymous suitor who may try to fleece again with the same person or simply move on to the next potential candidate for exploiting.
That picture is repeated day after day in every corner of this country and beyond.
And it is getting worse. Since the arrival of Covid19 we have all become more isolated and more dependent upon our laptops and smart phones for socialization. And the crooks out there have seized the opportunity to find perfect victims who are all looking in the wrong place for that elusive solution called love.
So what is the remedy?
It is not location, location, location any more. It is education, education, education.
We have to warn people. We need every financial institution to be on the lookout for an unsuspecting customer or member who comes into a branch to withdraw a large amount of cash. Respectable dating websites must up their game on screening potential applicants and cooperate with subpoenas from detectives.
Law enforcement and prosecutors must be given the resources to aggressively hunt down and hold accountable these merciless criminals who prey upon the hearts of lonely romantics.
We should also encourage victims to come forward and be willing and brave enough to tell their story without fear of reprimand or scorn.
But ultimately it comes down to head over heart. Do not let your emotional side of your brain dominate your actions. Be careful! Be skeptical! Be wise!
Before parting with hard earned savings - stop, talk to a trusted friend, listen to that nagging inner voice that is telling you that something is “not quite right” with this picture.
He may sound perfect; he may say all the right things; he may be what you have dreamed of for many years; but you still have not actually seen him live on camera. And he now wants you to send him $10,000?
Sometimes it is hard to let go of a hope, a fantasy, a voice, a comforting word, a flattering compliment. But we have to face reality. And too often the reality is cruel.
However, it is a gift to find love, true love. I was fortunate enough to find it 47 years ago in a Baptist church in San Diego. And in the words of yet another song...
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of”.
But first we need to ensure that we are not looking in the wrong place.
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