Romance Scams: 6 Questions to Save Lives & Livelihoods

March 6, 2024 by Colin Parsons

“People lose their homes, their security, everything. They have already lost their friends, their family, and ultimately some are losing their lives. We don’t want that to happen. As a professional, would it be better for you to question their behavior rather than to see the obituary? I believe so.”
– Debby Montgomery Johnson, Fraud Awareness & Victim Support Advocate

Financial professionals fight crime on the front lines everyday — and their efforts can be lifechanging. For victims of romance scams, tactful inquiry can uncover exploitation at the earliest opportunity, leading to intervention that can prevent devastating consequences. This blog, based on my recent discussion with survivor Debby Montgomery Johnson, explores how the right questions can save lives and the livelihoods of romance scam victims.

Watch for Warning Signs: The Hallmarks of a Romance Scam

Vigilance against romance scams begins with listening for any signs of manipulation that underpins them. Scammers will typically initiate contact on popular dating apps, declare their love quickly, and make constant excuses to request funds and avoid meeting their victims in person. The signs are obvious — pay close attention if a client mentions a new relationship with someone they have never met in person, especially if the individual claims to work overseas and regularly or urgently requires funds.

Questions for Tactful Inquiry

“Talk to them if you get a gut feeling that something is not right. Don’t confront them, because that’ll shut down a victim so fast, they will walk out. They’ll go to another bank. Develop a relationship with them…  Have those open-ended questions where you start a dialogue.”
– Debby Montgomery Johnson

After noticing warning signs, quick intervention is crucial to prevent further emotional and financial damage. Approaching a potential victim tactfully is critical — these questions can help you initiate an open dialogue with them and gather further information.

red question mark iconHow did you meet?

red question mark iconHow has the relationship progressed? Slowly? Quickly?

red question mark iconWhat in-person plans have you had with the person?

red question mark iconWhere do they live and work?

red question mark iconHow does your family feel about the relationship?

red question mark iconHow is the relationship financially? Can you describe any requests for funds or account details?

Saving Lives & Livelihoods

“I sold jewelry, I got rid of my investment accounts like my retirement accounts, all those things I knew better not to do… I trusted that he would get it back to me.”
– Debby Montgomery Johnson

Financial professionals are often the last line of defense against romance scams, one of the world’s fastest growing frauds. For victims, the consequences can mean financial ruin and emotional devastation. Prevention starts with our collective action.

Nasdaq Verafin has been dedicated to fighting financial crime for over 20 years. Trusted by 3800 financial institutions, we analyze over a billion transactions every week in our Cloud, enabling consortium analytics, cross-institutional analysis, machine learning and more — and use these innovations to help our financial institution partners shut down fraud at the earliest opportunity.

To learn more about the scope, scale and impacts of this grievous crime, and why financial institutions and technology are crucial in uncovering romance scams, watch my discussion with Debby here.


About the Author: 

Associate Vice President — Head of Fraud Product Strategy at Verafin, a Nasdaq Company

Colin Parsons spearheads the strategic development of technology solutions to combat fraud at Nasdaq Verafin. Throughout his time with the company, Colin has worked as a development team lead, software developer and in product marketing. Applying the knowledge gained through his roles and experiences, Colin is focused on using technology to solve the hard problems that are persistent within the fraud space.

Verafin is the industry leader in enterprise Financial Crime Management solutions, providing a cloud-based, secure software platform for Fraud Detection and Management, BSA/AML Compliance and Management, High-Risk Customer Management and Information Sharing. Over 3800 banks and credit unions use Verafin to effectively fight financial crime and comply with regulations. Leveraging its unique big data intelligence, visual storytelling and collaborative investigation capabilities, Verafin significantly reduces false positive alerts, delivers context-rich insights and streamlines the daunting BSA/AML compliance processes that financial institutions face today.

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