My parents divorced when I was in college after 23 years of marriage. A couple of years ago, my mom took to online dating. The first person she "met" scammed her out of a million dollars and then faked his own death. I put "met" in quotations because although they talked for nearly a year they never met face to face. Then she moved on to someone else that is doing the same thing. She's given him $400K over nearly two years without meeting him. The pattern seems to be they live in the same city but are currently "stuck" overseas and need money so they can get back to the states. Then it's one excuse after the other (none of which make any rational sense: hotel bills, have to pay taxes before they can leave the country, webcams broke so they can't video chat etc.)

I had her ask him to send his passport photo which is clearly fake. Despite all the evidence she refuses to accept it. One element of human nature I've learned quite well over the years is that when someone doesn't want to believe something it can be quite hard to convince them of it.

The entire family has worked tirelessly to get her to stop. Her mom even threatened to take her out of the will. Nothing seems to work. She lies to everyone about talking to him. The worst part is she is in her mid sixties and she is at the point physically where each successive year she loses talking to these people, her appearance wanes more and more.

I am at my wit's end on how to deal with this. I was wondering if anyone had gone through something similar with a family member and had any advice on how to approach her on this issue. Everything I know about situations like this tells me not to engage in controlling/rescuing behavior but it's easier said then done when it comes to people you love.

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    This may rather be a case for the police. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 5 '17 at 15:07
  • Is it her money? – Kevin Dec 5 '17 at 15:10
  • You might want to check out money.stackexchange.com/questions/67949/… - rather different circumstances, but still about talking to someone who fell into a scam. – Em C Dec 5 '17 at 15:22
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    Did anyone ever try to understand why she is doing this, instead of just pressuring her to stop her behavior? After all, she is not doing that to get rid of her money, but to fulfill a core need. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 5 '17 at 15:59
  • OP is asking for how to approach his mother on the issue, not how to get back the money. There are definitely IPS approaches to that. – Jess K. Dec 5 '17 at 16:58

You could try finding a way to fill her need to be loved and valued. The problem with this is that it appears she needs to feel valued as a romantic partner which is a need you will not be able to fill. Nevertheless you could try things like inviting her out to a bar, or party, anything that gets her out of the house and meeting people (her age preferably) in real life. The goal being to help her meet real people she could potentially start relationships with.

Remember though,

You can't control any one's actions but your own.

If your mother won't listen to your calmly reasoned advice, and she won't listen to the more passionate threats from others, well it seems unlikely that anything will change her behavior.

Make sure she feels the consequences of her actions. For example you could go to her mother and talk to her about following through on her threat to take your mom out of the will. If your mother sees that people will back their words up with action hopefully it will encourage her to change.

Other than that just make sure that she know that you love her and value her. Tell her specific ways you are grateful for her. And encourage your family to do the same. Their advice to stop dating these people online should not be the only thing they (or you) talk to her about. In a relationship you need to put money in the bank (kind actions towards some one) before you take money out (negative actions/words towards said person).

Good luck.

PS. She should probably see a psychologist. As you've seen, going through a divorce is the kind of experience that has the potential to really scar people emotionally. But if you can't get her to curb her online dating habits, you probably won't have much luck getting her to a psychologist. I felt I should mention it anyway. Nothing beats professional help.

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  • Thank you for your feedback Dan. I appreciate it. – David Reed Dec 5 '17 at 22:42

You should really contact the Online Dating service your mother is using to let them know your mother has been/is being catfished by folk she met on their site. Reputable sites WANT TO KNOW about these predators.

Since she's been scammed more than once, she could be on some kind of scam 'cyber list' and folk may start contacting her. These perps can be very sophisticated and manipulative in this crime. They are stalkers. Please be thoughtful of this when helping your mom get out of this drama.

This type of thing could isolate your mom, because she may begin to think people think she's crazy to fall tor this. Try not judge her too harshly no matter how frustrated you may feel. Maybe your mother needs to feel needed. Maybe she needs to feel like she's in control of a relationship. I agree with you about getting her counselling. It may help her understand exactly why she's having these phantom relationships -- what is it about these 'relationships' that ties her to them

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    If they got a million dollars out of her first time around, she is absolutely certainly on a list. The second scammer is quite likely the same person under a different name. Next up, she can expect to get emails from fake "police" offering to help her recover the money she's been scammed out of :-( – Geoffrey Brent Dec 6 '17 at 10:40

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