Advice from Amy: Romance Scam or the Real Thing?

By Amy Dickinson | March 4th, 2022

Perhaps these red flags are not heart shaped after all

man on laptop photo by prostockstudio dreamstime. For Ask Amy column on a romance scam

Advice columnist Amy Dickinson responds to a 69-year-old who is in an online relationship with a woman from the Philippines who needs financial assistance. Is it a romance scam? See what Ask Amy has to say.

Dear Amy:

I met a young woman online about eight months ago and have messaged her regularly. We also have video calls because she lives in the Philippines.

Long story short – she has a lot of issues with employment due to COVID-19, she has no family, her area was devastated by a typhoon, she has few friends, and health issues.

She received a job offer in Canada and the company was going to pay for her airfare and put her up in company housing. She was supposed to start next month.

I helped her to buy clothing and prepare for the move, but now she has been diagnosed with medical problems and has to take a six-month treatment regimen for uterine cysts.

I have helped her through many financial issues.

I feel more of a father figure than a boyfriend and just feel a lot of pain for her. I am wondering how long I should help her financially.

Should I cut the cord and tell her I cannot do this anymore?

Although I could afford to help her, it is financially and emotionally draining.

To top it off I am 69 years old and she is 26.

– Concerned

Dear Concerned:

I am genuinely sorry to be the bearer of this news, but every detail you have supplied about this person points to the likelihood that you are the victim of a “romance scam.”

The missed opportunity for employment, the devastating typhoon, the near-miss move to North America – all of these dramatic episodes are designed to bait the hook and then to keep you on the hook, supplying more funds with each new drama that disrupts the relationship.

Even the nature of her sudden-onset medical problems is a classic “tell.”

The global pandemic has devastated the well-laid and legitimate plans of many, but it has also created opportunities for scammers to take advantage of big-hearted people.

7 common senior scams has a number of helpful articles describing current scams targeting older people. (Do a search using keywords “romance scams.”)

Quoting their helpful advice: “Rule Number One: Never send money to someone you’ve never met in person.”

AARP also has a Fraud Watch Network Hotline (877-908-3360). I called and spoke with a telephone counselor, who without judgment asked a number of easy-to-answer questions. Callers are then connected with a fraud specialist who can give advice about what you are dealing with and how to handle the relationship (including how to end it safely).

They can also connect you to enforcement agencies.

If you have children or a close friend you can talk to about this, be very honest and ask for help. Scammers often slip under the radar because victims are too embarrassed to talk about it, but elders are finding ways to take back their power – and I hope you will, too.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from a 69-year-old potentially involved in a romance scam to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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