- What is the color of my hair:
- What I like to drink:
- I like stout
Singles, some for the first time, turned to virtual dating this year when the usual ways of meeting people vanished and the pandemic goes on and on. Online dating sites report record use as lonely singles look for someone to enrich their lives for a day, a month, or even forever. Selective Search, a luxury dating service for commitment-minded singles based in Chicago, is busier than ever this year, with 15 marriages taking place so far, says senior director of matchmaking Sara Heimerl. Public health experts are not discouraging people from dating as long as they do it safely.
More time to communicate
The texts came nearly every morning. I love you. I miss you. I adore you.
Was she okay? It had only been a few months, but Grace knew she and Scott were going to spend the rest of their lives together. She was retired, middle class, a widow with three kids who all now had families of their own.
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He was a successful businessman who worked in solar energy, drove a Mercedes, and had two houses — one in Cuba and another in the US. He was wealthy and promised he would take care of her. Could she help? Of course she could. Grace was in love.
She trusted him. But the money in those s was money Scott had wired in; she was just helping him access it.
Then Grace started getting calls from the bank. The wires were being reversed; they were fraudulent.
By the time she caught on to what was happening, Scott had disappeared, as had all of his online profiles. But how could she not? The vision that Scott laid out in lengthy s and text messages was one of comfort and closeness. My heart belongs to you now always and forever. Later, he began laying the groundwork for the financial fraud, which involved a t business venture in Cuba.
He framed it as an act of generosity — as the wealthier person in the relationship, he was sharing his resources with her. Grace had fallen victim to a romance scam, a complex web of fake personas, fraudulent wire transfers, and fictitious business opportunities.
Then they sweep the victim off their feet, quietly get access to their finances, and vanish. The problem has been exacerbated by COVID, which has provided the perfect cover for romance scammers. Prior to the pandemic, it might have seemed odd to start a relationship with someone without ever meeting in person.
Now, for many older people who are single and also more susceptible to the virus, online romance is the only option.
Questions to ask yourself first
The result is that people like Grace, who are savvy, well educated, and technically competent, are falling prey. The oddities that might otherwise have tipped them off — like the person being stuck in another country — appear ordinary and reasonable during quarantine. To Grace, the damage is emotional as well as financial. They just fell in love.
Video dating takes off
Grace moved to Northern Illinois a year ago to be closer to her two sisters and her son. So she ed up for OurTime. In Januaryshe met a handsome businessman who said his name was Scott F. They started out talking on the app, then moved to texting and talking on the phone. Communication was nearly constant, and before long, they were in a committed relationship.
He had all this money and was going to take care of me. Scott was open about nearly every detail of his biography.
He told Grace his birthday October 16th,his home in Illinois a stately four-bedroom in Oak Parkand his favorite cologne Creed Aventus. He had her speak to his mother, Christina, on the phone so the two could get to know each other.
He discussed what type of health care they should buy and described his new business in Havana: a acre property that he was turning into a resort. He said it would be part of their retirement. Her children, when she told them, were skeptical.
But Grace had no reason to worry. Then, in April, he started pitching Grace on the idea of going into business together. The resort in Havana could be their resort in Havana, he said.
Scott set Grace up with an LLC, which he registered on incfile. Then he opened three checking s. He asked her to pay some vendors he was working with. So she started writing checks. For two months, everything seemed fine.
If Grace had been skeptical at first, the amount of time that passed put her at ease. Then in June, the wires started getting reversed. The bank said they were fraudulent. Sincefinancial losses associated with romance scams have increased sixfold. And while anyone can fall victim, Nofziger says scammers tend to target older people, who hold the majority of wealth in the United States.
Levels of radical honesty
Oftentimes, scammers operate in groups, with one person playing the man or woman falling in love and others acting as business associates or family members. Scott might not have loved Grace, but he certainly loved the thrill of the chase. For Grace, the facade started to crumble when Scott failed to wire the money to cover the transactions that had been reversed.
He stayed committed to the scam, telling her the funds were coming; the banks were just being difficult. But she knew in her heart it was a lie.