Love scammers were expert emotional manipulators, who targeted people searching for romance due to loneliness and social isolation.

SOCIALLY-ISOLATED individuals with negative romantic experiences may be vulnerable to love scams.

Rekindle Therapy counselling psychologist Cathie Wu said love scammers were expert emotional manipulators, who targeted people searching for romance due to loneliness and social isolation.

“These people, who are mostly women, also lack confidence and self-esteem as a result of previous negative romantic experiences or current life circumstances.

Wu said the victims would usually form an emotional attachment with people who met their emotional needs in a short period of time.

“All they want is to be loved and accepted.”

“When trust and emotional attachment are established through repeated praise, affirmation and assurance, a web of lies is formed to elicit empathy.

“The prospective victims are psychologically and emotionally groomed to be exploited.”

Wu said optimism bias — the judgmental belief people have where they think they are less likely to fall for negative outcomes compared with others — was one of the reasons why people continued to fall victim to love scams.

“Optimism bias will influence a person’s behaviour.

“In this case, the person may underestimate the influence these scammers have on people until they become victims themselves.”

Wu advised those who had unrealistic romantic advances online to share their experiences with others.

“Speak out and confide in a trusted confidante, whether a friend, family member or a confidential non-judgmental professional.

“Find an online forum that provides support for victims of love scams. Make small steps to socialise and talk to people.

“You can only heal your psychological trauma over time after getting love and support from others.”

Ann Gunapalan, a licensed and registered counsellor at KIN & KiDS Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Centre, said most of the women who fell prey to love scam cases did not have a strong support system.

“By strong support network, I mean a network of supportive family and friends whom they can trust, provide emotional support and guide them in important decisions in life.

“As social beings, we yearn for human interaction.

“As humans, we need to be loved and supported. When these needs are not met, people look for them in other ways.

“Quite often, the roads take them on a destructive path, such as a fake web of romance scams.”

Ann said other circumstances, such as being widowed, divorced or age factor, could play a role in their decision.

“Victims of love scams typically feel dejected, ashamed, angry and devastated.

“What happens next is crucial to enable them to get back on their feet.”

Ann said an online romance that sounded too good to be true could be a work of love scammers.

“When someone promises to look after you and asks you to look after him in return, when both of you don’t have much of a shared history, you should hear the alarm bells ringing.”

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