There was a 30 percent increase in complaints about "romance scams" last month, according to Western Union. A "romance scam" is where someone spends months and months having in-depth email conversations with you, and then gets you to send them money. Except for the lack of a proper couch, formal credentials, and some honesty, these scams sound a lot like psychological counseling. So why not reverse the scam?
Yes, any decent person will feel bad for the lonely people misled into thinking they've met, set, a Spaniard single dad in Seattle who is really a "team in Nigeria working from a script" (true story), or who have been drained of, on average, $12,000 each for supposed plane tickets, life setbacks, and holiday gifts for faux online lovers. Since romance scams are, at Western Union at least, among the top five most common cons, everyone should remember, as always, to not send money to strangers and to be suspicious of online relationships that unfold too quickly. Also, report any suspicious suitors to the feds at IC3.gov (unless you work in financial services, in which case you'll want to double check your suspicions with a psychologically normal person first).
But! If someone tries to romance scam you, and you're in need of some talk therapy, well, excellent. Turn your "six months of daily conversation, including phone calls" with a "nice and charming" and "addicting" new friend into an excellent chance to dump your troubles, in excruciating detail, all over someone else. Just remember to throw out the occasional "OMG I am getting you SUCH a nice Valentine's Day diamond when my February bonus comes," right up until the moment you leave them with nothing but haunting, detailed memories of your cat's urinary tract problems, and a Gmail filter in their name.