Learning the hard way to recognize a scammer
This is the rest of the story (I posted the beginning on May 15, 2020, Blog Post #3 – Is It Ever Okay To Be Scammed?) of how our adult, special-needs, vulnerable son got scammed.
From January to August of 2020, our son was sending a scammer (who claimed to be his girlfriend) a substantial portion of his hard-earned wages.
On some level I think he must have begun getting alarm bells, especially because this scamming person never wanted to FaceTime with him, which is a very common way for deaf people to meet and chat.
Over those months we tried a multitude of ways to at least limit the damage she was causing him, with little success:
- Blocked her phone number from our master account so he wouldn’t get any text messages from her — but they switched to communicating by WhatsApp.
- Went to our attorney and got a court order giving us the legal right to manage his money. But we ran into snags when we then tried to create a bank account that we controlled but he couldn’t access. It seems his employer’s policy was never to deposit wages into any account without the employee’s name on it. And his bank said they had to allow him to access any account with his name on it. Catch 22.
- Kept believing he was smart enough to learn about scamming and to understand he needed to protect himself. I helped him practice saying “no, thank you” to the scammer who kept asking for more money. It didn’t work.
So every payday remained painful. I watched him continue to spend all his available money on her, and he watched me continue getting upset and mad.
Finally I told him he MUST give me a certain amount of every paycheck so I could pay his necessary expenses (utilities, internet, gym, rent) and help him save for his vacation. He agreed. At least that limited the amount he had left to give the scammer.
Then, around the end of August, after 8 months of sending the scammer money, things escalated. The scammer walked him through how to set up CashApp to start sending cash instead of game cards. When he asked me for help adding her to his bank account, I realized she was trying to take control of all his money.
I was livid. I told him he MUST keep his bank account private. Then I added up all the money he had given her for the past 8 months. It was a substantial sum. When I told him the total of all the money he had given her, he was shocked. I told him she was the winner for getting his money and he was the loser.
Finally, I believe he understood. He started telling her “no” when she asked for more money. He told me they had big fights over money because he wouldn’t give her more.
So, that day in August, he finally blocked her and deleted the apps he used with her from his phone. He was truly adamant that he was done with her.
I had hopes the police could track her down by her bank account linked to his in the CashApp, which they said they could possibly do if they were able to get a search warrant for CashApp. But, when he showed the police his phone, he had removed CashApp in his blocking of her, and he refused to put it back, saying he wanted nothing to do with her. So the police could do nothing.
Now it is November and he is still adamant about writing her off, which is great! And he’s left with a broken heart over having no girlfriend.
While I’m afraid he will always be vulnerable, and it was expensive, this was a valuable lesson for him to learn. We hope it will help protect him against future scammers.
After this experience, he added several additional requirements to his search for a sweetheart — that she be polite, truthful, be willing to FaceTime with him frequently — and not steal his money.
LESSON LEARNED: Understanding the truth isn’t the same as accepting it, especially when that truth is painful.
LESSON LEARNED: It may have helped him realize just how much she was costing him if after every payday I had updated him on the grand total he had given her.
LESSON LEARNED: Maybe I should have used the words “you’ve lost your money and she’s won your money” sooner to help him understand the truth.
LESSON LEARNED: Even those without obvious disabilities can find it difficult to tell the difference between a real sweetheart and a false one.
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