The “sweetheart swindle,” also known as the romance scam or sweetheart scam, is a type of fraudulent scheme that preys on individuals seeking companionship, love, or romance. It involves a perpetrator who creates a false persona, often online, to establish an emotional connection with the victim. The scammer typically presents themselves as an attractive, caring, and trustworthy individual, manipulating the victim’s emotions and desires.
There are several stories of Sweetheart Swindles. Here is part of one:
Jim spent much of his life building a real estate empire on the West Coast. In the process, he became a millionaire, profiled in newspapers and on television. But in 2007, when the recession hit, Jim lost his vast fortune. At 76, Jim is running a small resort in Lake Tahoe, working to slowly rebuild his finances, when he receives a mysterious call. The woman on the other end of the line asks for Jim by name. She introduces herself as Desiree and asks if Jim remembers her. He doesn’t, but Desiree is unfazed, claiming to have met Jim at the resort while she was a guest. She wants to get to know him better and before the call ends, Desiree has arranged another trip to the resort to visit a flattered Jim.
Desiree arrives with a business opportunity for Jim, who quickly realizes she thinks he’s still wealthy. She’s visibly disappointed to find that Jim’s house is no longer a mansion but a renovated Airstream trailer. At every turn of the visit, Desiree finds a reason to ask Jim for money — she needs investors for a new business and money to pay a family member’s mortgage — but Jim isn’t in a position to lend or invest money. Desiree decides it’s time to go home.
When Jim returns from taking her to the airport, he has an uneasy feeling. He looks to make sure the checkbook the resort keeps to pay vendors is still there. It is, but the stash of cash he keeps in the same drawer, the little savings he has left, is gone. Jim immediately contacts the authorities, but Desiree, who will eventually come to be known as the “Sweetheart Swindler,” is just getting started. The sweetheart continued to take all of what was left of his money and swindled others too.