The Bettin Kind (Morgan Family Romances)

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It's not that she was intentionally misleading anyone. Petition online dating sites to help stop scammers. She'd get it back as soon as he came, of course.

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When doubt started to creep into her mind, she would look at his pictures or read his messages. Still, almost in spite of herself, she wondered. Little things seemed odd. Sometimes, out of the blue, he'd fire off a series of rapid-fire instant messages—"oh baby i love you" and so forth. It felt almost like she was talking to someone else.

Another time, she asked what he had for dinner and was surprised to hear his answer—stir-fried chicken. To her relief, she got a photo moments later. There he was, sitting on a bench in the sun on the other side of the world.

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Psychologists call this "confirmation bias" — if you love someone, you look for reasons they are telling the truth, not reasons they are lying. We tend to find what we are looking for. And Amy was looking, desperately, for reasons to trust Dwayne, because the money was really adding up. Besides, he'd be there on February She planned to make dinner for him that first night.

She bought all his favorite foods — fresh salmon, sourdough bread, a nice Merlot. The trip would take more than a day: He had to fly to Beijing, then Chicago, and finally connect to Virginia.


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He'd call her as soon as he got to Chicago. His last message was a brief text that he said he sent from the airport in Kuala Lumpur. Then, when the day finally came, Amy's phone remained silent, despite her efforts to get in touch. Something must have gone wrong.

Why hadn't he called or texted her back? He always called.

She tried to tamp down the pinpricks of panic. When she collapsed into bed that night, she thought about how this had been the first day in almost three months that they hadn't spoken. Dwayne finally contacted Amy three days later. He sent a single text. Something about being held up by immigration at the airport in Kuala Lumpur and needing money to bribe the officials. This was the third time that Dwayne had failed to show, the third last-minute catastrophe. Still, she wired him the money. Amy's sister-in-law was the first to figure it out.

Phil show, in which the TV therapist confronted two women who claimed to be engaged to men they'd met online. Amy watched in growing horror. This was the same Beijing-bound route Dwayne had planned to be on earlier. As the story of the vanished airliner filled the airwaves, Amy couldn't help but worry that Dwayne had been aboard — maybe he'd managed to take a later flight?

Finally, he called her. But the call went to her home landline, not the mobile phone she'd been using. They spoke for only a few moments before it broke up. She was relieved but also disturbed — and curious. Something was different.

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The daily siege of calls and emails and messages had ended. Suddenly, she wasn't tied up for hours every day. Alone with her thoughts for the first time in months, everything about their relationship seemed to blur. One by one, she started feeding the photos Dwayne had sent her into Google's image search, trying to trace where else they might have come from.

Eventually, up popped the LinkedIn page of a man with a name she'd never heard. Whoever Dwayne was, this wasn't him. She Googled "romance scam" and started reading. Even as she discovered the truth, part of her held out hope that her case was somehow different — that she was the lucky one. But the spell had broken.

It was like waking up from a deep sleep — those strange moments when the dream dissolves and the real world comes rushing back. Oh, God.

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How much? Looking at the numbers, the figure seemed unreal. If you peruse the archives of Romancescams. In a decade, the site has collected about 60, reports, from men and women, young and old. There's no way. Discover great deals and savings with AARP membership. Some of the most aggressive efforts to track down scammers have come from Australia.

Brian Hay, head of the fraud unit of the Queensland Police Service in Brisbane, has orchestrated sting operations that have led to the arrest of about 30 scammers based in Malaysia or Nigeria.

But so dim are the chances of successfully finding offenders that, he admits, he rarely tells victims about these prosecutions: "I don't want to get their hopes up. Hay has also built a close relationship with Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC , which was established in , in part to rein in the country's rampant culture.

He's inspected the computer logs of scam operations, where teams of Yahoo Boys cooperate to systematically exploit victims, using playbooks that script out conversations months in advance. Some scammers specialize in phone work; others, in writing or computer hacking. Still others work the late phases of the scam, impersonating bank officials or law enforcement in an effort to con victims who are trying to get their money back.

Think romance fraud on an industrial scale.

And they're brilliant at it. Where does all the money go? Investigators fret about West Africa's terrorism links — northern Nigeria is home to the notorious insurgent group Boko Haram — and its role in international drug trafficking. While the EFCC has made some high-profile arrests, only a relative handful of fraudsters are brought to justice. And, as Amy discovered, victims in the U.

The psychological toll is harder to quantify. The trauma is twofold: Besides the financial loss, scam victims endure the destruction of a serious relationship. People have to go through a grieving process. In Australia, Hay has found that face-to-face victim support groups are helpful. But Whitty notes that, for many, denial is the easier path: A surprising number of victims end up getting scammed again.

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Other victims fall into the risky practice of scam baiting, a kind of digital vigilantism: They attempt to turn the tables and lead scammers on with promises of future riches. Her hope was that she'd be able to lure him into giving up something incriminating. She found the neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur that he said he lived in, and she prowled its streets using the Street View feature on Google Maps, looking for some landmark he might have mentioned. Sometimes, he'd still call her in the middle of the night, and she'd hear that familiar voice for a few moments.

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Finally, Amy accepted that Dwayne — whoever and wherever he was — would never show his true face, never give her the confession she yearned to hear. She abandoned her hunt. She made up a story about how she was being investigated for money laundering — this was a real possibility, given the amount of money she'd wired overseas — and even typed it up on a fake government letterhead.

On New Year's Eve , one year after he had sent that first bouquet of flowers, she emailed it to Dwayne, with a note telling him not to contact her. They were done. Get tips and resources to protect yourself from fraud and see the latest scam alerts in your state. Exclusive program for members from The Hartford. You are leaving AARP. Please return to AARP.

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