It all seemed too good to be true… and it was. The hope of a promising future with a wonderful man – who seemed to know me so well, showering me with affection, and loving my young children – evaporated into thin air. Having believed that I had a second chance at a serious relationship, I was forced to accept my stupidity when it proved to be completely fraudulent. I was betrayed by someone I thought was a soulmate.
The anticipation of finally meeting my online date of two months was dashed when he revealed that he was stuck in Malaysia and needed to borrow about USD 40,000 from me. At that point I was hit by the realisation of his real intention and the hard truth dawned that this might be a “romance scam”.
Suddenly, I heard a whisper saying “Wake up, Janice.” In a flash, my scattered thoughts clicked together as I remembered a conversation with a good friend who had been misled by a similar “wonderful and amazing” online relationship and had warned: Never give any money to the “special” person you have not met, no matter how well you think you know him. Instantly, I discarded any lingering hope that he was the “persona” he had charmed me into believing. The spell was broken.
Still, I felt sad and grieved for a few days. Then I collected my thoughts and decided to write an email telling him that he was a scammer, asking him to stop exploiting others. Although I never expected him to change his ways immediately or even at all, it came as an enormous shock when he replied with a cruel and degrading message that only served to confirm the ugly reality. Even though I stopped the relationship in time to prevent financial loss and further emotional abuse, I blamed myself for being so naïve as to be deceived into thinking that I could form a “real” relationship within such a short period of time.
However, talking things through with my close friends, I understood that I was the unsuspecting victim of an organised syndicate. They use manipulative grooming techniques to love-bomb their targets, which can be hard to resist, causing hurt and trauma to the lives of the vulnerable. From a different perspective, I was not being stupid, but rather strong enough to pluck up the courage to give relationship another chance. In such situations, one would be prepared to part with hard-earned money to help that special someone with a “problem” or to “invest in a business”. The syndicate was counting on this. After all, who wouldn’t be beguiled by a person who was so convincing?
But the lesson I can share from this is, beware. You never really know who you will encounter online, so it is vitally important to set clear boundaries to protect yourself and your resources. Instead of telling yourself that it is improbable to fall prey to scammers, always be skeptical of decisions made on a whim. These scammers have perfected the art and science of “taking the brain”, winning your trust and love. Further, the heart and mind can be fragile after such abuse. Turn to a close friend who can help you overcome the hurt inflicted.
I have come to embrace the truth that my self-worth is not determined solely by intimate love. Instead, I’ve learned to cling to the everlasting and unconditional love provided by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
By the grace of God I have gone on to build more authentic and meaningful connections with friends at my workplace, home and communities by trusting in His love. I am surrounded by people who truly care and love me and my children. God’s grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12: 9).
Janice Liow is an extrovert who is on a mission to strengthen communities at her workplace and personal life.