A review of the BBC Series ‘For Love or Money’ by CAAGe Counselling Psychologist partner, Wendy Gregory, and advice.
The ‘For Love or Money’ series has been broadcast on BBC and follows a couple of cases each week of people who have been groomed and defrauded, mainly by people that they have met on online dating sites or apps.
Most cases follow a similar pattern, with the victims often middle aged or elderly and looking for love. The people they meet go to great lengths to create a convincing and attractive online profile, which is, of course, totally fake.
Contact can go on for quite some time online and via telephone, but one thing is quite striking: they don’t actually meet the person face to face.
The perpetrator usually claims to live in another country. Once they have hooked them, they love bomb their victims (often having several on the go at the same time), telling them everything they so want to hear.
Then the hit comes: they ask for money. Initially this is a small amount and seems perfectly plausible, with the perpetrator often claiming that they are on their way to meet up, but for some reason can’t access their bank account, or else that they need the money for an operation for themselves or a relative and again, can’t access their bank account.
This process is repeated several times, with the amounts requested getting larger and larger each time. Some victims have even sold their house to raise money for their groomer.
On the surface it is easy to watch the programme and think, “How could they have been that stupid?” However, the presenters don’t judge the victims and make it clear that this can happen to absolutely anyone. Whilst they don’t get the victims’ money back, they do usually manage to trace the perpetrator and expose them, which in itself can bring closure. As a victim of grooming it is very hard to give up hope that this person is for real, so once they finally do, at least they can move on with their life.
So what are the warning signs?
From the programme there is a clear pattern to watch out for: the groomer will find all kinds of excuses to not meet up with their victim, keeping contact via email, Whatsapp or telephone.
Contact will be frequent – often several times a day. They will claim to be a successful business person or professional. They will start by asking for small amounts of money, then up their game.
However, as the programme shows, it is not hard to do some checking up.
- Most groomers have a fake, stolen identity, complete with photographs. This will usually have been taken from someone’s public Facebook page. By putting a photo into Google and asking for a reverse search, you can find out where it came from.
- Simply typing in a name to Google brings up a great deal of information and you may find that this person is not who they say they are.
- Some signs are more obvious; the groomer may claim to be American or European, but actually have a strong African (for example) accent.
If someone asks you for money, however small the amount, run!
No genuinely successful person leaves themselves unable to access any funds.
Finally, if you do find out that someone is grooming you, don’t be afraid to report it to the police: you may find that they are already familiar with this person. Fraud is a very serious crime and you will be taken seriously.
If you’ve been groomed, for whatever reason, please help us by completing our anonymous research survey: here