I wrote this article because those of us with disabilities should be aware of scams that target the disabled population, my experience involved a romantic encounter. Those of us with disabilities often year, for companionship, somebody to love, and for a significant other to love us as well. Many of us with disabilities experience friendships that grow distant and as a result, we become vulnerable to being taken advantage of, manipulated, and scammed. For example, I have a cousin with a disability as well who fell in love with a scammer on Instagram, sent them boat loads of cash via wire transfer, and he was so desperate for romance in his life that he did not see the scam that was obvious to everybody else. When confronted about this scam my cousin would become defensive and say things like, “You are stupid, we are getting married” or “We are engaged.” Romance scammers can be very convincing to those of us with lonely hearts and it is worth being aware of. With that said, a romance scam happened to my cousin, it happened to me, it can happen you, be careful with new love and relationships after experiencing a disability.
My Sweetheart Scam Experience
I was paralyzed, sitting in the dining area of the hospital when woman approached me and said, “Let me help you with your sandwich.” Being paralyzed, and alone, I was receptive towards individuals offering me help. This woman both brought and fed me outside food, frequented my hospital room, and spent time with me in the recreation area during the hospital rec time. My meeting with this angel actually had me feeling lucky that I was shot in the head because my tragedy put me on the path leading to this amazing chance encounter. These wonderful visits quickly made me excited about being hospitalized and I told myself, “I need to get this amazing woman’s contact information.” Being in the vulnerable position I was in, I did not think anybody would have the heart to take advantage of me, especially this woman. This sweetheart came off innocent as a baby and seemed as if she could not hurt a fly. Additionally, despite the language barrier, she spoke Spanish, this woman who was nurturing me shared an affinity with me and my circumstance. When my rescuer said that she had to relearn how to walk after breaking her hip, twice, and when she promised to teach me how to walk again, I was hooked. I was looking forward to the help in my recovery however, I was not expecting a relationship, isolation, and being used for a J-2 visa.
How Some Sweetheart Scams Start
One night I randomly ran into the woman from the hospital in a clothing store and she asked me, “Can I come over and bring you mango’s?” I was drawn to this woman’s tender and nurturing personality. The way she would feed me when nobody there for me, the way she would look at me like I was the only guy in the world, and the way she would laugh at my stupid jokes even though she did not speak English. Additionally, I lived close to the border of Mexico a year earlier and I was excited about having a Spanish speaking friend. With that being said, now that I had the opportunity to spend more time with this amazing person and I thought she would make an amazing friend so I gave her my phone number, address, and invited her over. When my new friend got to my house it was not only her as she brought her cousins, aunts, and friends over and everybody bombarded my mother and I by saying, “She will help you get better we will not accept any money, this is out of love so your mom can run errands, and, by the way, are you single?” As I was overwhelmed with people and questions, my mother was taken aside by one of the cousins who was pitching a persuasive speech of her own of how my family and I would benefit from this friendship at no cost to us. With that being said, my new friend began coming over every night for two hours as she was dedicating her life to my recovery, at her expense. The first thing she brought over was a Lego kit with a very tiny pieces. The pieces were hard for me to manage and she began helping me by holding my hands and getting very close to me and it was inevitable that our bodies would get close and we started holding hands. Hand holding led to romance, which led her to becoming jealous and controlling of who I spoke to, both online and in person, which led to isolation. My scammer was so good that my family did not want to visit me or have any communication with me when she was around and didn’t even know it.
Common Signs of Sweetheart Scams
In regards of romance scams, Kathleen Miller, FBI fraud detective said, “The grooming process focuses on isolating victims from their friends and families so they don’t have help when making decisions.” While I was isolated, I was being showered with gifts, affection, my scammer even came over in the morning to cook breakfast and again in evening to cook dinner and desert. If my mother tried to wash the dishes, or get involved for that matter, my scammer would characteristically insist to stay out of the kitchen. This perceived angel from the hospital began volunteering to take days off of work to learn how to get me loaded up in the wheelchair van, take me to therapy, and learn my daily routine, within six weeks of hanging out. One day this woman told me, “Baby, I want to be more intimate with you. If you need help showering, using the toilet, even wiping, do not ask your mom for help anymore, talk to me for help with these things.” I was approached by a woman in the hospital and within six weeks of hanging out who attempted to persuade me to stop having my mother help me with the wiping when I use the restroom, further isolating me from my family and friends. Becoming more suspicious, and concerned, I asked this woman if she was in the United States legally and she said, “No.” I was not bothered that this woman from the hospital immigrated to the United States illegally however, I was wondering why she committing her life towards my care giving needs.
Why the Disabled and Elderly are at Risk
Andy Davis, an immigration attorney said, “A United States citizen can sponsor an immigrant caregiver resulting in an issued visa.” A United States citizen can assist immigrant obtain a visa by hiring and relying on them for care giving needs. By pushing my family and friends away and making me more dependent on her, this woman from the hospital was using me as a stepping stone to fulfill an agenda of her own. I began to realize this woman’s exaggerated love toward me, hints toward marriage, and obsessive behavior was synonymous with both citizenship and romance scams. With that being said, I did not have enough evidence to accuse her of anything and honestly, this woman helped me so much that I did not mind helping helping her get a visa. I was sitting across from her and I asked, “Are you interested in me for a citizenship?” To which she replied, “Go exercise.” I explained to her that she helps me so much and want to help her. Additionally, I made it clear that I will not exercise or do anything for that matter until she answered me. My mother came in the room and asked, “What is is going on?” My scammer did her best to isolate me from telling my mother by telling me, “This conversation is to be discussed only between me and you and nobody else can know about it. I have had it with her inability to answer a yes or no question and I told my mother the truth of what happened. At this point this woman who proclaimed her love for me only fifteen minutes earlier resembled a track star as she ran out my front door never to be seen or heard from again.
Why Some Sweetheart Scams Happen
Being paralyzed, with a brain injury, I appeared to be vulnerable and I was preyed upon. There are many reasons why a predator would scam a disabled individual. In my case the most prevalant reason was for a visa however, getting on the payroll as a caregiver, gaining access to an individual with resources, or inheriting a lifestyle through dating, marriage, or death of the victim. Love is a powerful emotion and con artists know this which is why fraudsters devote significant time and energy in developing both friendships and, “Love” with their victims. I shared my testimony however. I want to assure you that I was not my scammers first target and I am not the the only person with a disability to be duped. If you suspect you or someone you know could be involved with a romance scam then you have already fallen victim and must go no contact immediately.
How to Spot a Sweetheart Scam
- SOMEONE ASSUMING A RESCUER ROLE. SEE DRAMA TRIANGLE
- VAST DIFFERENCE IN EDUCATION STATUS
- VAST DIFFERENCE IN ECONOMIC STATUS
- PROCLAIMS TO BE COMMITTED AS A LIFE PARTNER AND PROMISES TO LOVE YOU FOREVER WITHIN MONTHS OF MEETING YOU
- ISOLATION FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS, BOTH PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA FRIENDS
- DISPLAYING CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR
IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE A DISCUSSION ABOUT INTENTIONS WITHOUT POTENTIAL SCAMMER BECOMING FRUSTRATED, ANNOYED, HURTING YOUR FEELINGS, LEAVING YOU WITH ZERO EXPLANATION, ETC.
I created TBItreatment.org to document my TBI recovery, record my experience, what I do to recover, and things of that nature. You may find that some of my TBI treatment articles are written with bias, which is often a result of my enthusiasm for the results that I got, progress that I had made, and honestly, I just learned about bias vs. unbiased articles a few months ago, at the time that I am writing this, when I returned back to college. On that note, this website is my experience with various TBI treatment options that I picked for myself so it should be expected that I am writing about TBI treatment that is in favor of my biases opinion.