Life | Personal Stories | Relationships & Family | Article
They Got into ₱1.2M Debt Because Their Mom Fell for a Love Scam
by Rica | October 26, 2023 | 7 mins read
Despite having friends that she regularly hung out with and a husband by her side, Vivian (not her real name) struggled with loneliness, especially after her children grew up and most of them left home.
What the mother of four longed for was someone who would give her undivided attention, which she didn’t feel like she was receiving from her husband. She eventually did find the special someone online.
Vivian enjoyed the conversations with her special male friend that would take place regularly, until money changed hands. He and the money then disappeared out of her life.
This is the story of a typical love scam that too many people are falling for.
What is a love scam?
Scammers are now making their way to their victims by tugging at their heartstrings. They play on your emotions to convince you to send them money, gifts, or personal details that make it easy to access your money .
According to the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group, around ₱19.4M was exhorted through love scams from January to August 2023. Only online selling and package scams have managed to make people lose more money than love scams. However, love scams are also the least reported type of scams, with only 266 complaints filed in the same time period. Many love scams often go unreported for many reasons, including feeling ashamed if others found out that they were duped of their money because of a love scam, or simply not having enough evidence to make a case.
Unfortunately, Vivian is one of those victims who didn’t manage to file a complaint due to insufficient evidence. “The first time my mom was scammed there were no traces, no anything,” recalls her daughter Cass, a business owner.
The National Bureau of Investigation asked them for documents they couldn’t produce and the bank secrecy law prevented them from getting further proof for their case.
“It was really hopeless, the scammer had done a clean job. We just accepted the fact that we got scammed.”
Scam Number 1
Vivian and her scammer would regularly message one another on Facebook, which was also where they met. After a while, the scammer then asked for personal details, which Vivian willingly gave to him.
Soon she got a call on her landline, telling her that her niece was in trouble and needed ₱1.2M.
Vivian panicked. She did not have the money in her bank, so she pawned the land title of her house to a loan shark and borrowed the rest from friends, promising to pay them back with interest.
“We believe that my mom was hypnotized since it was done via a phone call,” shares Cass. “She was asked to deposit the money and then tear the deposit slip after. And that’s exactly what my Mom did.”
By the time they found out, there was little more that the sisters could do other than to help pay back the debt. Cass and her sister Melissa, who works for the government, shelled out whatever amount they could afford to. Andy, who is working as a nurse in Australia, took a loan from work to cover the balance.
Andy took two years to pay off the loan, and during this time, Melissa and Cassandra took on the burden of supplementing their parents’ allowances, shares Cass.
Scam Number 2
Unfortunately, Vivian fell for a scam a second time.
“One day my mom was asking for money from my sister, Melissa. She said it was for an investment,” begins Cass. “When my sister checked my mom’s phone, she immediately realized that it was a scam.”
Melissa told Vivian to cut all communications with the guy on the phone. But it was too late. Vivian had already borrowed ₱400,000 from loan sharks and sent it to the scammer.
Once again, it started on social media. But this time around, no intimate messages were exchanged but the scammer gained Vivian’s trust and “promised that her money would double once she invested a certain amount”, according to Cass.
When the sisters found out about first scam, they sympathized with their mother and felt sorry for her that she had been scammed. However, this time around, the feelings were different.
“We were really angry at my mom because this was the second time she’s gotten herself in trouble. Had she not made friends with strangers online, this would not have happened. She should not be asking for attention in the first place because my dad is still alive. That part is really painful for the family,” reveals Cass, adding that the sisters initially vowed to never speak to Vivian again.
However, after the family spoke in depth about what had happened, they learned the motivations behind Vivian’s “investment”. “She wanted to help us, to give us a surprise treat for once. Rather than her asking money from us, this time, she wanted to do something for us,” shares Cass.
Still, the sisters didn’t want to send the wrong message that their mother’s behaviour was perfectly fine. Hence, this time around they helped to pay off just half of the ₱400,000 as they wanted Vivian to be accountable for her actions.
“The other half she pays for it every month with the allowance she shares with my dad that now comes from Andy and Melissa,” says Cass. “This time I feel my mom’s learning her lesson as she has to cut down on household expenses like food, utilities, etc.”
The two incidents have been a reminder for Cass and her sisters to regularly communicate and check in with their parents.
“Open communication is a must. Things like this could have been avoided if we were constantly checking up on them, at least see what they’re up to,” she says.
She adds to remind parents to “never trust strangers and avoid chatting with random people. These are professional scammers who are preying on innocent victims.”
How to avoid getting scammed
Protect yourself from scams by recognizing the signs of potential fraud:
- Always be suspicious. You can’t trust everyone.
- Be mindful of what you post online. It can be used to scam you.
- Use trustworthy websites. Be aware though that scammers can be lurking here too.
- Never click on links or open attachments from unknown senders.
- Once you detect a suspicious person, do a thorough background check. Involve friends and family if you need extra help.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions. If a person seems too good to be true, be on your guard.
- Take any attempt to communicate directly as a red flag.
- Never share personal information, financial or not, that may be used against you.
- Be suspicious if s/he can’t meet you in person.
- Never send money to someone you do not personally know.
No matter how lonely you may get, it’s always best to be on high alert when meeting people online for the first time. Otherwise, it’s easy to become a victim of scammers who want to get your money through any means possible. Remember, it’s when you’re at your most vulnerable that they prey on you.
*All names in this article have been changed for privacy