The Love Scam Support -project enhances wellbeing and recovery through social support, counseling and peer support groups. The project also raises awareness and breaks taboos about the phenomenon of romance scams. Our services are available nationwide in Finland – online and offline. Although we only operate in Finland, we are very interested in learning about international studies, services and any new developments that have to do with the phenomenon – please get in touch and we’ll talk!
Head planner, Love Scam Support -project
The Love Scam Support -project in a nutshell
- We develop low-threshold interventions to support recovery of romance scam victims
- We provide support individually and in peer groups for romance scam victims and to the people close to them, and for the perpetrators
- We offer infromation about romance scams
- We raise awareness about romance scams and how to avoid them
- We train professionals to become aware of romance scams
Support for romance scam victims and their close ones
Peer support groups
Love Scam Support -project offers free peer support groups:
- For romance scam victims
- Focus on peer support and psychoeducation of romance scam phenomenon
- Sharing experiences, discussions, assignments, practical tools and tips to support recovery
- Guided by professional instructors
- Fixed program with 5 spesific themes
- Themes include e.g. self-knowledge and emotional skills, exploring and strengthening personal boundaries and safety plan to prevent future online harms
- 5 weekly meetings (face-to-face or online), 2 hours at a time
Love Scam Support -project offers free individual support:
- For romance scam victims and/or their close ones
- Focus on recovery process
- Counceling regarding ways to recovery financially and steps of criminal procedure
- Confidential discussion, assignments and practical tools and tips to support recovery
- One-to-one meetings with specialized client worker
- Themes varies, usually themes include e.g. developing self-knowledge and emotional skills, exploring and strengthening personal boundaries, and exploring life-cycle and past relationships
- 1-5 meetings (face-to-face, via online or telephone), 1 hour at a time
Love Scam Support -project is administered by two Finnish non-profit organizations Sosped Foundation and Maria Akatemia. The project (2023-2025) is funded by the Funding Centre of Social Wellfare and Health Organizations (STEA), which operates under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland.
Information about the romance scam phenomenon
What is a romance scam?
A romance scam is a financial fraud in which the perpetrator intends to defraud money. The person experiencing a romance scam, the victim, believes to be in a long-distance relationship, although in reality, the significant other is a criminal or a group of criminals. In Finland, 9 million euros were lost to romance scams and document frauds in 2022 (Finanssiala ry).
There is a strong stigma associated with the romance scam phenomenon, and the effects on those who experience it are innumerable. Besides economic consequences, shame, guilt and depressive symptoms, the victim has to face the dream of a romantic relationship falling apart. In addition to psychological effects, many victims face financial challenges, such as debt. Experiencing a romance scam often leads to problems in close interpersonal relationships. Getting into debt might cause conflicts and the victim might isolate from loved ones.
Romance scams often follow a typical pattern
Contact with the victim takes place either on social media or online dating platforms. The perpetrator might send a similar message to countless profiles simultaneously to create the first contact.
When contacting their target, a romance scammer tries to appear trustworthy and successful. It is common for the perpetrator to say that he works in a respected profession, such as a soldier, a doctor or a business manager. To support this lie, the scammer often uses pictures of people who actually work in these professions.
The perpetrator builds trust with the victim often for several months. Reciprocal messaging is continued until the victim has started to trust the perpetrator enough, and the romantic relationship has become strong.
When the victim believes in the genuineness of the romantic relationship, their judgment may drop significantly. When in love, a person cannot think clearly, and intelligence, education or common sense are of little help. The amount of trust in the relationship can remain strong even if the victim has passing doubts about the intentions of their romantic messaging partner. The victim of the scam might ignore all kinds of warning signs, gaps and inconsistencies in the perpetrator’s story, because they want to believe that the relationship is genuine.
In “the money stage”, the perpetrator’s requests for financial aid begin. Often the perpetrator urgently needs financial help, for example, to enable the first face-to-face meeting or to avoid some sort of crisis situation in their everyday life. By first establishing a relationship of trust with the victim, the emotional commitment is strong at this stage, thus making it likely that the victim will want to help and send money to the scammer.
Only after these initial stages (contact, trust, money) can it be said, that the next stages of a romance scam differ for the victim and the perpetrator.
The victim may gradually become growingly suspicious of the situation, begin to question the perceived romance, and share doubts with their loved ones (family and friends) or even with the perpetrator. The scammer’s options are either to disappear from the online conversation (so-called ghosting) or to try to strengthen the emotional bond with the victim by asserting reliability so that the scam can continue.
The final stage of a romance scam is the disclosure of the situation. The victim is left alone to deal with a huge disappointment and financial losses. It can be extremely difficult to comprehend and accept that the perceived love was actually a financial fraud. The emotional reactions of the victim can be strong. At this point, the perpetrator disappears from victim’s life, and depending on the situation, either has to bear criminal charges for their actions or gets away unpunished. The victim has to decide whether to press for charges and how to proceed in handling the situation.
One shouldn’t stay in this kind of situation alone without help and support.