Romance Scams: What You Need to Know

Romance scams continue to be a big problem in the US. Online dating has been a staple for a really long time, but it’s become even more popular since the emergence of COVID. A lot of people have turned to the internet to the internet looking to meet some new people. I think that’s something we can all relate to.

The pandemic magnified loneliness and isolation, especially for older adults and caregivers. It’s a situation ripe for bad actors to build relationships online with unsuspecting people. We’re in a situation that is ideal for romance scammers who want to take advantage of us. We all think romance scams and other fraudulent acts happen to someone else, but unfortunately, nobody is immune and we should all be on guard.

If you want to know what to look for, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you are a victim, this episode is for you. Click the player above to listen or scroll to the bottom of the page for the full transcript.

My Guest

My guest for this episode is Kim Casci-Palangio. Kim is the Program Managing Director for the Cyber Crime Support Network. You might remember we had Kim’s colleague Mark Batchelor with us back in episode 28 of season one. Cybercrime Support Network is definitely something you’ll want to learn more about. So go back to that episode, if you haven’t heard it or see the blog post here.

What We Covered

Who is affected by Cybercrime, in general?

Everyone is affected by cybercrime. Most people tend to think of cybercrime as something that affects large entities, but that is not the case. The truth is that even when you do all you can to protect yourself, you can still be a victim. There are lots of factors that you cannot control. The good news is that you can minimize the risk by educating yourself and paying attention.

What do “Romance Scammers” look for?

Romance scams are not exclusive to older adults, but older adults do tend to be more vulnerable. Why? Older adults:

  • have easy to access retirement funds
  • often have good or excellent credit
  • have equity in assets like homes they can borrow against
  • are more likely to be isolated from others
  • may be oversharing on social media or need to adjust security settings
  • answer their phones and emails more and accept more friend requests
How do scammers engage their targets?

When scammers are trolling sites, they’re looking for your personal information so that they can find a commonality. They learn a little about you so that they know how to approach you. There are many ways this could occur, but here is a common scenario. Maybe you’re online playing a game, and the scammer plays for a while to befriend you as they glean more information about you. Eventually,  after they have discovered your vulnerabilities and gained your trust, they declare feelings for you. The request for money will likely come next. This piece is covered in much more detail in this episode, so be sure to make time to listen to it.

Is your loved one being victimized? Red flags to look for

Initially, your loved one may show excitement for a new relationship and you may see all of the signs of falling in love, but as things progress you may see things that don’t seem right like:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Becoming secretive
  • Making unusual withdrawals from accounts
  • Spending sums of money with nothing to show for it
  • Making endless excuses for the new relationship (why they and you have not met them in person)
What to do if you or a loved one falls victim to a romance scam
  • Report! You can report cyber crime to the FBI at
  • Gather any and all evidence to give to the authorities: saved information, messages, pictures, etc. about the individual
  • Close compromised accounts
  • Pull and check credit reports. Request your free reports at
  • Place a freeze on your credit (this will trigger a contact when any attempt is made to open a new account)
  • Seek support from others who have been victims. To learn more about the Peer Support Program for victims of romance scams discussed in this episode, email

***Visit the Cybercrime Support Network resource library for more helpful resources.

Thanks for Listening!

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Romance Scams – What you need to know

Guest: Kim Casci-Palangio

[00:00:00] Liz Craven: The Sage Aging podcast is brought to you by Polk, elder care guide your guide to all things, senior care and resources. Find the 2021 guide in English and
Welcome to the Sage aging podcast. I’m your. Liz Craven, Sage aging will connect you to information and resources. You need to navigate the aging and caregiving journey. I’ll bring you education, inspiration, amazing industry guests and caregivers spotlights to shed some light on the topics of aging information and resources can be so hard to find if you don’t know where to look, but don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax. As we chat. Are you ready? Hit subscribe now and let’s get started.

Hello friends. So glad you’re here today. This is episode nine of season two of the Sage aging podcast. So much has changed over the last couple of years. Not the least of which is the dating scene.

Online dating has been a staple for a really long time, but it’s become even more popular since COVID has really kind of put us in a position where we needed to stay home. More. A lot of people have gone to the internet that hadn’t been to the internet before. Just kind of looking to meet some new people.

I think that’s something we can all relate to. This coupled with the loneliness and isolation that people are feeling creates a situation that’s really ripe for bad actors to build relationships online with unsuspecting people, just looking for love. We can relate to that, right? And especially as caregivers, you’re already overwhelmed with the day to day and you already have so little time to do the traditional things that we would do when we’re looking to meet someone.

And so. Here we are. We’re in a situation that makes it really great for romance scammers who want to come and take advantage of you. And I know that we all think that that happens to someone else, but unfortunately it happens more often than we realize. And it might surprise you to learn who the victims are.

My guest today is Kim Casci-Palangio. Kim is the program managing director for the cyber crime support network. You might remember we had Kim’s colleague mark bachelor with us back in episode 28 of season one cybercrime support network is definitely something you’ll want to learn more about. So go back to that episode, if you haven’t heard it.

Welcome to the show, Kim, thanks so much for joining me.

[00:03:09] Kim Casci-Palangio: I’m glad to be here.
[00:03:11] Liz Craven: Well, I’m so glad to have you. And I think that these are the types of conversations that we can’t have often enough. I think that we all feel like we’re pretty smart about the way that we interact with people, whether it’s in person or online, but I think there’s something that we can always learn. But before we get to that part, I’d love to learn a little bit more about you. How did you find yourself in a career with Cybercrime Support Network?
[00:03:41] Kim Casci-Palangio: Well, I spent about 24 years in the government sector. I worked for six years, for the state government. I worked eight years in a congressional district office. And then I spent 10 years working as a city clerk. 24 years is a long time and I was looking to do something, but I was looking to continue to help people. Service has always been something that I have wanted to do for a career. And so, I found out about the cyber crime support network.
Really was excited about the work that they were doing, you know, this helping victims of cyber crime and scams. I thought that this was a way that I could continue to serve and work for a nonprofit, really doing something that has never been done before.

[00:04:29] Liz Craven: Well, I’ll tell you, it’s incredible. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a little bit about all that you all do, and it’s incredible. I think that. It can be a scary thing when you have some kind of issue that you’re dealing with and to not know where to go and not know where the resources are. That’s a big part of the problem. And probably one of the reasons that these types of crimes are so under-reported, and it feels to me very similar to when caregivers are
scrambling to find resources and information about caregiving, the same way the information is there. People just don’t know where to find it. So I’m really excited that this seems to be a centralized place where people can get really good, solid information and more importantly, help if they’ve been a victim of a cyber crime.

[00:05:23] Kim Casci-Palangio: Absolutely.
[00:05:25] Liz Craven: So let’s talk about who is affected by cyber crime in general, really quick, we’re going to get, we’re going to dig deeper into romance scams, but I think that there’s a misperception by people that cyber crime happens to somebody else because I’m smarter than that. Tell me about who is typically affected by cyber crime.
[00:05:48] Kim Casci-Palangio: So everyone is affected by cyber crime. And at some point we probably all will be affected by cyber crime. I think people think of cyber crime as big entity that, you know, cyber crime happens to large corporations and not something that’s happening that they have to be leery of, or they think, like you said that, well, I’m smarter than that.
I wouldn’t fall for something, but really cyber crime and scams are everywhere. So it can happen in identity theft, where you’re doing everything that you need to be doing to protect yourself, but you swiped a card at your local store and they got hacked and therefore your identity got hacked.

So it’s very easy to be a victim of something like identity theft or an imposter scam like a romance scam, a lottery scam an IRS scam. Perhaps you got a call from your local electric company saying that you’re in danger of being shut off, you needed to pay your bill. And you thought that it was the electric company. Maybe they used

booking software and the phone call came from your electric company or came from your bank card. Also, online shopping scams. We’re all shopping online. It’s very easy to purchase something online and not receive the product or receive something different than what the product stated it was. Or Perhaps you thought you were shopping on your favorite site and you shopped on a spoof site, a site that looked like your site, but when you actually spent the money, you were not on that department store site.

There are also lots of unemployment scams you could be doing absolutely nothing. And somehow your identity got stolen and somebody else is using your name to collect unemployment. It could be a vacation. So you’ve purchased a vacation spot and it was fraudulent. You were on the vacation site that you always go on, but somehow you clicked somewhere and you veered off that site and you didn’t realize you did. IT scams, when you call for help

and you think you went to the place you wanted to, but you clicked on a phony website and got a fake IT scam. So, so many ways and we try to do the best we can to protect ourselves, but really everyone can be a victim of a cyber crime or scam.

[00:08:03] Liz Craven: Which is why it’s so important for us to be aware of it and aware of what to do if we have been affected by a scam, because that’s a big part of it. You know, we protect ourselves every day for all kinds of things. And I think with any kind of issue that we’re dealing with in life, it’s important that you know, the resources and you know where to go. So this is wonderful. And I’m so happy to have you here today, but I want to talk about romance scams. This one really hits hard because not only are they coming after your money and your things, but your heart can be broken in the process too. Now romance scams affect adults of all ages, absolutely, but why are older adults so vulnerable to romance scams?
[00:08:53] Kim Casci-Palangio: Sure older adults are more of a target of scammers. You’re right. It happens to all age groups, but older adults are more targeted because they may be sitting on some retirement funds. A nest egg that they put away, easy access to those funds.
They have good or excellent credit. They have assets like homes that they can borrow on that they might have. A lot of equity in, they are possibly isolated from because of the pandemic. Maybe their spouse or significant other has recently passed away. They may be on social media, but not be as savvy, perhaps they’re oversharing or they haven’t set their privacy settings correctly.

They’re also more trusting towards friendships. They answer their phones more emails, more, and they re accept more friend requests. Especially if you don’t have those privacy settings set in, they’re accepting a friend request from someone that they don’t know.

Those are a lot of things to consider.

[00:09:54] Liz Craven: And I also think of the fact that many times older adults are caregivers, I mean, it’s not just Gen X who are caring for their aging parents. There are also older adults who are caring for other loved ones and they tend to be very isolated and they tend to not have a lot of time to engage in personal fun activities, you know, going out and going to the coffee shop and meeting up with friends, for example, or walks in the park. And although they’re encouraged to do those things, sometimes the time just isn’t there and they crave those relationships. I think that makes them very vulnerable.
[00:10:36] Kim Casci-Palangio: Absolutely.
[00:10:38] Liz Craven: So what do scammers look for in a target when they’re online and trolling? What makes someone attractive to someone looking to do a romance scam ?
[00:10:48] Kim Casci-Palangio: So when they’re trolling these sites, they’re looking for your personal information so that they can find a commonality.
So, you know, you’re, you’re sharing information about yourself, perhaps, you know, you, you active in a, in a particular program, perhaps you’re very spiritual. Perhaps you post a lot about the environment or animals, or you post a lot about your deceased loved one that passed away. Spouse. And so they look for these bits of information so that when they connect with you, you feel like, oh, we have, we have something in common.

You know, that person likes what I like, or that person had a similar experience to me. So one of the things they do is they, they troll around and they, they find out a little bit about you so that they know how to approach you. It may start off as friendly. And they, that may last for a while. It may start off as playing a game.

Maybe you’re online playing Scrabble or something else, and the person just, you know, plays for awhile and then they become friends and as they learn and learn more information about you they declare, you know, feelings for you.

[00:11:59] Liz Craven: Scary because we’ve all been there. We meet people online all the time.
[00:12:04] Kim Casci-Palangio: Absolutely. I mean, you don’t have to be on a dating site. To end up in a romance scam. You can just be on Facebook and somebody can friend you and develop online friendship with you, which turns into a romance scam. So it’s very easy. You don’t necessarily have to be looking for it.
[00:12:24] Liz Craven: And another thing, I think that is a misunderstanding is that the people who are victims of romance, scams are uneducated, or they’re just not savvy on the computer. Things like that. That’s not necessarily true.
[00:12:40] Kim Casci-Palangio: It’s not from our experience. And people that we’ve assisted, it really runs the gamut and even how much funds are lost in the process, if any funds.
So from zero funds all the way up to let’s say a million dollars and anything in between. And though that level of funding can be different for each person, so losing $5,000 to one person can be everything that they have and losing a million to another could be a lot better chunk of the money that they had, but they’re still doing okay financially.

So it really runs the gamut as well, as far as, you know, if the person is well educated, if they are tech savvy I’ve had many. People say to me, you know, I asked for proof and it, and I got it, you know, I got a picture of the passport or I got proof that they worked in such and such a location, or I Googled the house where they said they were in, it exists. So some of them have done their due diligence or felt that they did their due diligence and still were scammed.

What are the red flags to look for? What are some of the lies that scammers will tell.

So one of the key things to look for is they declare their love after only a few contacts. Now that’s not always the case. They can kind of prime the person and lead up to that. But many times they declare their love after only a few contacts.

They repeatedly canceled plans to meet every time you try to meet either virtually via video. Platform or in person, they cancel all the time. If they do do a video chat with you, it’s really snowy and you can’t see them and you can’t tell if their mouth is moving. They request money and gift cards and wire transfers.

They often will move the person to chat off the dating site immediately. So they don’t want to be chatting with you on a dating site and they often will move you off of Facebook and other platforms pretty quickly, because they don’t want to draw any attention to themselves. So they usually immediately ask to switch to personal email, text, phone, or some other kind of chat.

They wire, they ask you to wire the money using things like Western union or MoneyGram. They may ask you to set up a new bank account where you can put money and transfer to a bank account that they’ve sent up. Some of the stories that we hear are that they work overseas, perhaps they’re in the military.

Their picture may reflect that they are in the military. We see this a lot. There are military photos. Yes. All the time by scammers. And so they may say that they’re in the military, they’re serving in Afghanistan. They can’t video chat. You, they would love to, but they can’t it’s dangerous for them.

So this is the only way that they can communicate with you. Stories about their funds being tied up. They had a tax issue or an inheritance that’s tied up and they may even involve a phony lawyer who speaks to you. Confirms with you that , yes, these funds are tied up and this is what we need to get the funds released.

And they’re always sitting on something like a million dollars or $5 million and telling you about the life that you guys are going to share. As soon as they get this tax situation resolved they may ask you to pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses to help resolve their tax issue or to get them to their job on an oil rig.

They also may ask you to pay for surgery or other medical expenses. So once they start chatting with you, you get involved in hearing about their family and somebody suddenly has an accident. Or the baby that they take care of is suddenly sick or their dog needs an emergency surgery. They also. I talk about paying customer fees to retrieve something, paying off gambling debts, or paying for a visa or other official travel documents in order to come and see you.

[00:16:28] Liz Craven: Gosh, there’s so many things to look for.
[00:16:29] Kim Casci-Palangio: Yes. Yes. And one more thing I’d like to add is once they kind of have you on that hook, you’ve now given whatever that dollar amount is. Like I said, whether it be a thousand or a million, and so their promise to pay you back and then they might say things like, I’m gathering that money.
I have 4,200 of the 10,000 that you gave me, and I want to get this to you. And so they may send phony checks where you deposit the check and you bounce your account. Or you deposit the check there, they say, you know, here’s a $5,000 check. You keep three and send me back two you know, and and that’s a scam.

So, now you’re out the five because you bounced the check and you sent the money out and you got nothing back. Or they may send you somebody else’s scammed. They may say, you know, take this money and put it in an account and you can keep a thousand of it or you can withdraw it later when our life together begins.

And you’re actually taking part in their scam that they’ve now scammed off of somebody else. And so that’s actually illegal, even though you may not know it at the time. So it’s something that you really have to watch out for, because you might have law enforcement visiting you saying you deposited the scammed money.

This money that came from an illegal source. And sometimes that’s how a person finds out that they’ve been victimized by a romance scam.

[00:17:48] Liz Craven: Oh, how heartbreaking is that?
[00:17:51] Kim Casci-Palangio: Yes.
[00:17:53] Liz Craven: Wow.
[00:17:54] Kim Casci-Palangio: It’s heart wrenching.
[00:17:55] Liz Craven: Do you find that victims kind of along the way they know something is off? I was listening to a story about a lady who was a victim of a romance scam and she says that she knew something was happening, but her loneliness and the things that she was feeling, and the hole that was filling for her overpowered her sense of this is something I shouldn’t be doing. Do you find that the emotional part of it is sometimes stronger than the logical?
[00:18:28] Kim Casci-Palangio: Yes, I too have heard that quite often. And so a lot of people think, you know, oh, it’s a romance scam, big deal, you know, knock it off, stop talking to them. But you know, these are real relationships. Sometimes they go on for years where they’re talking to the person every day and remember that
they know stuff about you by trolling, and then they find out stuff about you by talking to you. So they’re feeding you in essence, what you want to hear. And so you really get sucked into a relationship because it is a relationship. It’s real. And so the emotional attachment is very real. And so I don’t think that we would say those things.

If somebody had been living with somebody for a few years are married , and needed to you know, break off that relationship, but was emotionally hanging on, even though they knew something was wrong. It wasn’t right. It needed to end. So yes, they do see the red flags. Little pieces of red flags.

And they’ll say, you know, but I, I didn’t want to think about that. Or I, I made excuses in my mind, but which we do in relationships, you know, when in regular relationships. So they’re real relationships. And that emotional draw I have had people say, I knew there was something wrong. I don’t know why I sent that last amount of money.

All I can say is, you know, I just, I miss talking to that person. And even after they’ve stopped communication and they know that they were scanned and they know that they lost X amount of dollars, they’re still grieving that relationship, that emotional connection. And they feel that loss and they’ll say you know, I know that this person wasn’t real, and I know that I lost all of this money yet, I still miss that contact every day. We had so much in common or at least I thought we did.

[00:20:12] Liz Craven: Right. So what can we do if we see somebody that we care about going down this rabbit hole? I mean, obviously they’re the ones who have decisions to make, but are there things that we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones?
[00:20:30] Kim Casci-Palangio: A couple of things that I will say that I have heard from family members. One of those things is that, you know, they knew something was up because the person became secretive and having a secret. Tends to be something that these scammers use with the person. You can’t tell anybody because I’m on an oil rig.
You can’t tell anybody because you know, pirates might come on the rig. If they know we’re here or I’m serving in the military or family members may know that I’m, you know, I’m battling to get this money out, whatever they formed the secret pack. And so your loved one may be kind of, leaving the table and like texting or laughing or making a phone call.

And then when you ask what’s going on, oh, you know, nothing. Just a friend of mine, but you look for those signs you would see in someone that is in love. And so, that’s one thing that you can look for, you know, sudden withdrawl from accounts something else you can look for spending on things that spending the money, but you’re not seeing anything new in the house.

Nothing new has been purchased. We always tell people, the first thing that you need to do is you need to stop communicating with the person immediately. You need to talk to somebody that you trust. And pay attention. If your friends or family say they’re concerned, do a search for the type of job this person has to see if other people have heard similar stories.

You can do a reverse image search of a person’s profile picture through Google to see if that picture has been associated with a scam in the past block your phone, email address, and social media from the. Contact your bank or financial institution to close or change any compromised accounts.

Lots of times when you’re in the course of a relationship you’re sharing personal information, you might share your date of birth. You might go so far as to show you a social security number. You might’ve opened a bank account with this person you might have opened. Any type of account for Bitcoin. And so they may have your information, your account information, your social security number, your birth date your, you know, information on your family.

So, you want to make sure that you close any compromised accounts that you think exists. Gathered together any saved information, messages, pictures about the individual gather that together and keep it in one place. In case you do report it, which we encourage you to do. And law enforcement needs to see.

And reaching out to a friend or family member isn’t yeah, always possible. You know, for some people, they feel uncomfortable with that. They feel ashamed or embarrassed. There are counselors that can help with emotional difficulties and there are things like our program, which we’ll talk about in a little bit and sites to visit to get more information, but communicate with somebody.

And go to an annual credit a place like that to see a copy of your credit report and to monitor it. If you think that your identity or information that you gave to this person if you gave them, if you gave them that information, put a watch on your credit, put a freeze on your credit and, and keep an eye.

[00:23:30] Liz Craven: That’s really great information. And I’m thinking we’ll probably even do a separate blog post on our website with a lot of that information in there, because it’s so important to know what to do. I hate that people feel so embarrassed by getting sucked into something like this, that they will continue on down that path because they don’t want anyone to know.
And so I’d like to tell people who are listening. if you are someone that you know, are dealing with something like this right now, don’t worry about the stigma. Don’t worry about being embarrassed because it doesn’t matter. We need to get people to the right resources and the right help so that they don’t have to continue to deal with them.

[00:24:17] Kim Casci-Palangio: Absolutely. There are resources out there to help don’t feel embarrassed. This happens to a lot of people. And I say to people you know, I hear a lot in my conversations, you know, I can’t believe I fell for this. I’m so stupid. You are not stupid. These people are very talented at what they do their job, you know, all day long is to find a way to get your money.
And they have scripts on how to do this. I often say, you know, think about the old telemarketers, right? They’d have that little sheet in front of them. You know, they say this, you say that, they say this, you say that. And so it’s very similar and they share this information on the dark web. We’ve seen examples of it where they say, Hey, you know, you want to learn how to skim some money off of going on Tinder.

Here’s how to do it or going on, on, you know, a or going on Facebook. They have these little things where they, they share this information out and when you stop giving them the money, if you’ve given them your personal information, they’re going to sell that. They’re going to sell all of it in pieces to get as much money as they can, because that’s what they do.

Right. They’re quite smart. Honestly, it’s, it’s an incredible case study on human behavior. They’ve gone and studied everything about how people react to different situations and they know what buttons to push.

Absolutely. And another thing that a lot of people don’t do in cyber crimes in general, and especially in romance scams, they don’t report.

And I know that there’s a frustration because people feel as though if they do report, you know, what are the chances that law enforcement is going to be able to do anything? What if my scammer was overseas and, and they’re right, it’s very difficult to, to run these kinds of cases down. And there’s a lot of them the more national reporting data that’s collected, the better chance that law enforcement has to catch the criminals and decrease online crime because they’re looking for connections, right?

So they’re looking to put this information together, so they might not be looking individually at that case, but they’re looking for those patterns and that’s very important for Lauren. And also it’s important to report the scan to the dating site or the social networking site, because if the dating sites don’t know, then they can’t protect other people.

So reporting there is very important. You don’t want that scammer to go back on there and do the same thing to somebody else.

[00:26:41] Liz Craven: So the first call, when you’re ready to report, should that be to your local law enforcement or is there a better way to do that?
[00:26:50] Kim Casci-Palangio: So, you could go to local law enforcement. Absolutely. You can. So go on to IC three, which is the FBI’s portal. So if you you know, you can also walk into a local FBI field office and report that way or call, but it’s very easy to go onto the IC three portal and fill out the report right there and hit submit. And, and now you’ve reported and it’s, and it’s done and shared appropriately to Lauren.
Very good. And then comes the important part as you’re looking to follow up and find support. That’s where you all come in, right?

Yes, absolutely. So we have a lot of great information on our website fight I’m going to go through a little bit of it now, but please know that if you go on the website and you follow the, the recovery and reinforcement.

Options. There, there are hyperlinks for everything, and there are lots of resources in our resource library with lots of information there. It’s very easy, you know? And they’re trusted resources. You don’t have to, you know, Google things and try to figure out what you need to go. It breaks it right down for you and provides you those hyperlinks.

But I’m going to go through a little bit of it right now. So one of the things that, you know, you want to do after you report is you want to. And we’ve got some great links on there. There’s an FTC online dating scam information that, that you can click on and learn about. You can learn how to do that.

Reverse image search to identify an individual there’s a YouTube video shows you just how to do it. You can contact your credit reporting agencies to monitor your accounts and put freezes on, and those hyperlinks are right there for you. And it takes you right to the page to set that freeze. It’s a very easy, this concerns.

A lot of people that if I put a freeze on, I won’t be able to apply for credit or the freeze takes like less than 30 seconds to put on and less than 30 seconds to lift. And you can lift it for a period of time and put it right back on again. So that takes you right to them. Makes it easy for you.

You want to reinforce. So once you have notified the appropriate organizations and you’re on the road to recovery, it’s time to reinforce your cyber security, using resources and tools, and some of those would be improving your security. So finding cybersecurity tools to enhance your online safety, and we have that hyperlink there that kind of takes you through that process of, you know, You want to make sure you have good password protection?

You want to make sure you’re using two factor authentication on important. You want to make sure you’re setting your privacy settings on your social media. You want to watch out for how much information you’re sharing on social media. And I often talk about with older adults, things like the grandparent scam, where you get at that phone call or that text in the middle of the night.

And you don’t know if it’s your grandchild, it looks like it looks like it’s coming from them, or it sounds like it. And they need money immediately for something. And so. It’s good to share a a code word with your family members. So if that happens, you know, they, they share a code word so that, you know, it’s really that person that’s contacting you.

And don’t put that code word on your social media sites. That’s something that only you guys know. You want to learn how to manage your online privacy settings? We have a link for that. And we have an FBI online romance, scam video to watch there. That’s that’s very informative. So you want to also implement preventative measures, learning how to run that Google search, like we just talked about for reverse images learning how to do that, to check a person’s name, address, job.

You also want to if you have any doubts or suspicions about an individual consider using an online background search engine, such as been verified. For example, there are a number of them out there that are free or very low charge and download our six steps to better security PDF. This will walk you right through the main six steps that you need to take.

And those are some of the things, but again, if you it’s a lot, and if you do visit our website, those hyperlinks are all right there for you.

And I will link your website in the show notes and the blog posts. This is episode nine of season two. You can find that blog And like I said, I think we’ll probably go a little further and do an extra blog post about some of this, because there’s so much to take in.

And I. Want it to be easily accessible. So we’ll make sure there are places that they can link from our site to yours to find the resources that they need. So thank you so much for all that you all do. This is amazing.

Oh, you’re welcome. We were so. Glad to be able to, to help people to provide these resources.

Yeah. And one place which wasn’t available before, you know, CSN started this project and now we’re growing into these programs, like our romance scam survivor program peer support program. That we’ll talk about in a little bit and, and these programs are targeted to help these specific areas. So we have a program targeted specifically for military and veteran resources.

You know, we talked about how military photos are used often in these romance scams and also identity theft is very common. So, we have a program just for that. And we also have a program now specifically to help romance scam survivors through a peer support person.

[00:32:21] Liz Craven: Let’s talk more about that right now.
That’s a great segue.

[00:32:26] Kim Casci-Palangio: Great. Yeah. So, we began our romance peer support program. Back in the spring, we’re just completing our first group of peer support and heading into our second. And so, This was something that CSN really wanted to tackle because the stats are that one in seven, us adults have been targeted by a romance scam.
That’s a, that’s a lot,

[00:32:51] Liz Craven: That’s a lot. I’m, I’m actually surprised by that.
[00:32:55] Kim Casci-Palangio: Yes. And so, also the stats on those that report, because remember we said that the reporting level is really low. And so of those that have reported in the year 2020 that’s 32,792. So roughly 33,000 people actually reported in 2020.
And of that number that had reported the FBI stated that there was $600 million in losses. Wow. And that’s just the reported. Oh, so it’s a huge, a huge issue financially, but also it’s a huge, emotional, emotionally devastating issue because a lot of people are afraid to talk about it with anyone.

And so they’re suffering in silence. And there, there are, there are programs out there for them. This is one of them. I should say there, there aren’t a lot of specific programs for peer support for romance scams. So we are proud to have this one. And so, our program if you don’t mind me getting into that a little bit,

[00:33:54] Liz Craven: Please do.
[00:33:54] Kim Casci-Palangio: Our program has some goals and our goalsare to increase the knowledge of romance scams and cyber issues for those people who are affected. So we focus on education on romance scams, but also on other cyber scams that, that might come from the romance scam. Like identity theft and also best practices to stay safe so that we’re not revictimized again, oftentimes people who are victimized by a romance scam or other imposter scam a later revictimized, again, their information is sold out
so they are revictimized again. So working with them to set up those safety meshes measures and to understand the red flags to prepare them. So that they will not be revictimized also to assist with the emotional wellness is another program goal that we have with the peer support program, where we provide a licensed facilitator of the group who works through emotional wellness and provides a resources on wellbeing.

And we also increase their support system. This is a place where they can talk to each other. Others who had the same experience, where they can feel safe and talk about their circumstances or just to sit and listen, but they develop friendships with the people in the peer support group that they can continue on once the group ends.

And so the group is a 10 week process. One hour each week with about 10 to 15 minutes of that cyber education that I talked about and that comes with follow-up resources and a question and answer time for them as well too, to, you know, learn how to do some of these setting privacy settings and things.

And then the last 45 minutes is the peer support group that’s guided by the licensed facilitators and they talk about not only wellbeing, but allow people to just share experiences and really assist each other. And that part has been really heartwarming, to see people be comfortable, to talk about their circumstances and to watch that growth from week one to week 10 and to watch the growth in their cyber Savviness how to recognize those red flags setting their privacy settings.

So one of the most rewarding things about the program is that we start the 10 weeks and, you know, on week one, when someone first comes to us they are emotionally distraught. Not only of the loss in the relationship, but also perhaps the financial loss, they don’t know where to turn. They are leery of going back on their computer. Sometimes they haven’t been on social media. They haven’t used their email. They’re, they’re leery about getting back out there. They don’t trust people. And so one of the most rewarding things that we see from week one to week 10 is that change is the emotional strength coming back.

So I go from, you know, hearing their story at the beginning, which is absolutely heart-wrenching to heartwarming by the end. And, you know, they start by learning that the cybersecurity stuff. They’re able to feed back to us That information and feel strong enough to go back online and get back out there.

They Institute their privacy settings. Let’s say they go back on a dating site or on social media that they know those red flags and they’ll even, you know, repeat those back and say, well, I went on and, you know, I got messaged and this person said this, and I went yet, right. Red flag block, you know?

And so it’s so great to hear that. And in addition to that, to hear them get beat, be stronger emotionally, and to develop these friendships and that they’re helping each other, they’ll come back, you know, on another week and say, you know what you said really resonated with me. And I, I got back out there.

So that it, those 10 weeks. You really see that change from week one to week 10 and , it’s a great program. We’re able to provide this program completely free through FINRA, which is the funder of the program, the financial industry, regulatory authority education foundation, they pay for the program.

And in addition to that, we’re able to partner with give an hour who provides the free the licensed and give an hour works with counselors around the country, who in essence, give an hour of their time and, and often much more than that to programs like this that assist people. And so, we’re just glad to have them as a partner.

They’re a licensed counselor and someone from CSN does the cyber education portion that I discussed that takes place at the beginning of each site.

[00:38:31] Liz Craven: That’s an incredible program. And it sounds like it’s a very empowering program for the people who participate.
[00:38:39] Kim Casci-Palangio: Absolutely. And really in assisting running that program like I said, when you first talk to people it’s, heart-wrenching, you know, sometimes they’re visibly upset, they’re shaken, they’re fearful, you know, they’ve now shared information with somebody that they thought they knew who, you know, is a scam artist.
So they’re, they have so many emotions running through their head, you know, they may live alone. They may not know where this person is located. Their information may be sold. They’ve lost money. They thought they were starting a life with this person. So they have so many things that are going on.

And also just this fear of getting back out there and trusting another person again feeling safe to go online and chat with friends.

[00:39:22] Liz Craven: That’s a really good point. A very good point, because how do you trust after that? Not even just trusting somebody else, but trusting yourself to see what’s really there. I would think that’s a big issue.
[00:39:36] Kim Casci-Palangio: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, we talked a little bit about that misnomer, that it’s just people who aren’t tech savvy or people who maybe don’t have a lot of education or, you know, it’s not the case. I can tell you it runs the gamut and they beat themselves up saying, you know, how could I have fallen for this?
I don’t do these things. I pay attention to stuff I’ve asked for proof. I have, you know, something from his attorney and in all of this and yeah. I think the main thing to keep in mind here is that this is a criminal enterprise. You may not even have been speaking to the same person all the time.

You may be speaking to three or four different people that are working in shifts that have scripts that have people with legal expertise to pretend to be lawyers. And those documents may look real. But yeah. And so you’re not stupid. You’re human and you like most humans are kind and good natured and they seek out kind and good natured people to steal your money.

And they don’t think about the emotional toll. Or the financial toll , that leaves behind, they don’t think that the person has given the last penny from their retirement or that they mortgaged their house and that they don’t have the ability to go back to work and make that kind of money again.

Now at this point in life. And so they don’t think about that because they’re criminals and they just want the money and that’s what they want.

[00:40:59] Liz Craven: Right. Hmm. So much to think about and so much to learn. Thank you for sharing that. I love the peer support program and think that probably is going to be a difference maker for a lot of people.
[00:41:13] Kim Casci-Palangio: Yes, absolutely. I can tell you after finishing our first group, that it was beyond my dream of what, of what would happen. And I was really, really glad to see the progress that they had.
[00:41:26] Liz Craven: Oh, that’s great. So we’ve talked about a lot of resources that are available this episode. I mean, people probably have their heads spinning right now with all that has been shared, but don’t worry, check out the blog post and the show notes, all that will be there. So I’m going to ask you, is there anything else, are there any other resources or books or podcasts or videos, things that you can think of that we should add to our list of things to explore?
[00:41:56] Kim Casci-Palangio: I think if you, the best thing to do would be to go on that website, click on romance scams, and any of those videos and articles.
There’s tons of information there. Click on any of those hyperlinks. They’re all really great. We’ve vetted everything that’s on there and recommend them. So. Definitely check those out.

[00:42:16] Liz Craven: Great. Thank you so much, Kim. We have gone over so much. I don’t even know where to begin to recap. So we’ll just say this.
If you, or a loved one. Has had an issue with any kind of cyber crime and you need support, please reach out if you are noticing changes in a loved one, and you think that perhaps they might be a victim of some type of scam. Please reach out. You know, the overarching message is don’t sit with this by yourself.

Don’t be embarrassed by it. It happens to a lot of people coming from all kinds of backgrounds and the basic message here is report it. Get some help and continue to protect yourself and your loved one from having that happen again. And so now I’m going to give you a moment to, if there’s anything else that you would like for us to know about, now’s your time to shine.

[00:43:20] Kim Casci-Palangio: I would, again, highly recommend you visit our site. It breaks down every single type of cybercrime and scan and provides you with that step of the step-by-step instructions. We have a very thick resource library and we have a resource catalog that’s searchable by crime type. So, so please check it out.
And if I could just leave everyone with a few points. Listen to your own red flag. If something doesn’t seem right, it isn’t, and that can be hard. You’re not alone. You’re not stupid. These people are professionals who share how to use with each other in order to scam you. They play on our kindness and our giving nature, and they attempt to groom you and tell you what they think you want to hear.

You do not need to feel embarrassed. It can happen to all of us. Don’t let the scammer isolate you. Things do get better from here and ask for CSN. We and others are here to help you.

[00:44:29] Liz Craven: That is very, very good Sage advice. And thank you for sharing that. And thank you for being here, Kim. This is a great discussion and I’m so happy that we’re going to be able to share this information with our listeners.
[00:44:42] Kim Casci-Palangio: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:44:45] Liz Craven: It’s my pleasure. And thank all of you for taking the time to be here with us today. I think we have probably stuffed your brain with all kinds of good stuff that you’re going to need to explore. And I hope that you’ll take the time to do that again. You’ll find all of the links that you need in the show notes.

Liz Craven
Author: Liz Craven

Liz Craven, along with her husband Wes, owns Pro-Ad Media, publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide, serving the local community for over 28 years. Liz lives in Lakeland and is very active in the local community, specifically in the area of aging. Liz serves on a number of local boards and committees including the Lakeland Vision and Age Friendly Lakeland.