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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Protect your heart from the romance scammers 

Crimes of the heart are big business: about 1,000 sweetheart scams were reported in the UK over the past year, with financial losses as high as £800,000

Illustration by Mathew Kurian
Illustration by Mathew Kurian

“I told my wife she needs to get another lawyer, that I am going to hide everything from her in trusts," a male friend told me recently.

"She is upset," he added. "But I don’t want someone coming along when I die and taking half of everything I’ve built up. The same goes for my daughter. Imagine she gets married in her 20s and he takes half her money - or worse, he spends most of it and stays married to her.”

His daughter is 10. Talk about forward planning, or forward worrying but he does have a point.

His concern is that his wife and / or daughter would be duped after his death - when they’re vulnerable. No one knows what the future holds, or whether he will die first, but chances are he will. So he’s protecting his loved ones. Unfortunately, his wife thinks he is being mean and unreasonable.

Perhaps I should share the following story with her, about another woman, who was the victim of a gold-digger:

His name, Stud, should have been enough of a warning but she still married him. Stud spent his time lounging around on the beach while she worked. It was her second marriage; her children were grown and she had financial security and Stud. But not for long.

She is now living in a room in a shared house back in her homeland. Being of an age when employment, much less the option of obtaining a mortgage for a home for herself, is no longer a viable option, her children are traumatised by seeing their mother descend into destitution, while Stud enjoys half her once worldly possessions as her divorcee. Her children see the money as hers first, theirs second and never Stud's. I can only imagine how she must feel.

I was told this story by her friend – as a warning of what can happen, in response to a soon-to-be divorced woman being told to shake off her ordeal and go find herself a rich husband.

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Read more from Nima Abu Wardeh:

Beware of your smart device - it could be stealing your money

The emergence of the millennial backlash against handling money

The bitcoin conundrum - how do you value something that has no value?

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Some get rich through a good marriage, others through a good divorce, or by targeting vulnerable lonely hearts looking for love. There are names given to this sort of thing, like: Sweetheart Scam.

This is serious crime. The modern day Lothario or lothariette (both men and woman are perpetrators) can hide behind the internet, create identities and elaborate stories to extract hard cash from their ‘love’.

It’s reported that on some United States dating sites, as many as one in 10 profiles is a scammer’s. The FBI in the US estimates that US$197 million was lost to romance scammers and similar frauds in 2015.

In the United Kingdom, about 1,000 romance crimes were reported in the past year, with financial losses ranging from £50 ($66) to £800,000 (D3.8m).

These figures are not the true total, because, frankly, it’s embarrassing and some people don’t want to lose more than the money, and so the crime goes unreported.

There is copious advice out there to prevent you becoming a victim; things like: don’t transfer money to someone you have never met. Other tips include checking out your online romance by looking for his / her digital footprint, photos, and getting a feel for the big picture. Also, be honest with yourself. Take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself if you really look a likely partner for the gorgeous photo you were sent?

Everyone deserves the chance to be in a loving, respectful relationship. Unfortunately, our interconnected world means someone out there can groom an unsuspecting potential victim, because we leak information. Death, divorce and dollars; it’s all on the web if someone looks hard enough.

In the case of the gentleman this column started with, his solution is to have his wife hire a separate lawyer, and for them to decide what’s best for her protection. The husband will not be sharing details of what he’s doing with the wealth he’s built up, but will be leaving a will, and trusts that to disperse money in a timely manner.

He sees it not as his money, but a future opportunity that he is preserving for his child, while protecting her and his wife from any unsavory charlatan. I hope they love him for it, and never fall victim to a crime of persuasion.

Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist and blogger. Share her journey on finding-nima.com