We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathy Waters and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kathy, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
As a co-founder of Advocating Against Romance Scammers (AARS), I have had the opportunity to speak, assist and console, many online scammed survivors and identity theft victims over the past 3 years. We are in a society where people are quick to judge; and that society seems to think everyone should have obtained the needed awareness for online scams since we have the world at our finger tips, wrong, horribly wrong. Being aware of cyber-crimes is one thing, having the knowledge of how these crimes function is another. As mentioned, society is quick to judge. The issue of online romance scams is no different, people seem to believe the scammed survivors just “hand over their money”. This is the biggest misconception. There are a multitude of online scams, but romance scams are different. They revolve around, emotions, personal interests, self-awareness, and one’s psychological status. Often times, victims are found by scammers in a moment of vulnerability, and loneliness brought on by life’s challenges such as divorce, loss of a loved one, even current “stale” relationships. Romance scams are dependent on men and women who yearn for companionship. The scammers will gain the trust of their victim by vowing the rest of their life to them, offering a fairy tale future, and love bombing with such words as dear, queen, even “I love you” during the early stages of contact. Looking from the outside, most of us are able to recognize the warning signs of a romance scam, but someone who is in a vulnerable state has a higher tendency to become blind to those red flags. It’s a normal reaction to want to be cared for, loved, and thought of, this is what the scammers pretend to provide, and what a professional job they do. It’s important that everyone understand this scam is not successful because of “dumb” people (an unfair judgement of victims by those uninformed of the topic), this could not be further from the truth. Most of the survivors I have worked with are highly educated with prestigious degrees (doctors, psychologist, teachers, nurses etc.). We have all heard the expression “love is blind”, there is no better explanation to this act. Unfortunately, the scammers are professional manipulators who know how to play the game of control and influence. They are instructed, and also self-taught. Scammers often work with a team to help close the scam deal, however, there’s never a real close, it’s more of a “on to the next story of deception”. Once the victim has sent money, gift cards, or anything the scammer has requested (sometimes demanded with threats), the scammer is fully aware their victim is apt to continue with their generosity. Stories can be tweaked to fit the victim’s interests resulting in “pulling of the heart strings”. The scammers will often exploit underhanded tactics such as the use of children in their story, for example, their child is ill, in need of surgery, school tuition, nanny care, etc.; scenarios many parents can relate to and want to try to assist. Romance scams are one of the most putrid scams on the internet. To reiterate, a scammers job is to alter one’s mind, and emotions in order to bleed the victim dry of all funds. The survivors often leave a scammed experience with feelings of deeper loss, desperation, embarrassment, and a mindset that they are incapable of climbing out of a hole they emotionally and financially cannot recover from. Unfortunately, some of the scams have resulted in victim suicides, and that Is why I refer to those seeking help as survivors, because they have attempted to erect from the dark hole of despair and made it with few deep scars. In conclusion, even though many have lost the support of their friends and family along the way (due to not “seeing the light”, and or borrowing money that cannot be repaid) the survivors have acknowledged the deceit, a large step to the recovery. Due to the severity of the manipulation, survivors are encouraged to seek a licensed professional in the area of psychology, to obtain the right tools needed to move forward with a better understanding of their emotions, decisions, and future choices. People do not tend to just “hand over money” to strangers, but they do have the desire to want to love, be loved, and provide support for the one they love, whether that is through companionship, or even financial assistance. It’s the emotional and psychological hijacking that makes this act of treachery successful, not a simple “please send money”. Kathy Waters Advocating Against Romance Scammers advocatingforu.com

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am co-founder, along with Col. Bryan Denny (Ret.), of the nonprofit Advocating Against Romance Scammers, that provides education and awareness, across the community of internet users, on the global problem that is romance driven scams, in order to help curtail the number of victims, influence change among those that maintain social media platforms, and hold those accountable through changes in legislation and pursuit through the judiciary process.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I am not from the Miami area, but advocate for those all over the world. I have yet to visit Miami, only Orlando, but looking forward to some day soon, enjoying a vacation with the family in that beautiful hot spot!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We would like to give a huge shout out to every identity theft victim and survivor of online romance scams. Sharing their stories, signing the petition and sending letters to the advocacy and legislature on behalf of online safety has made heads turns and bills written! It’s a dark place every victim has experienced, and with their bravery, they have helped us bring light to the subject and awareness to so many. They are the warriors in this crusade! Advocating Against Romance Scammers (AARS) would also like to give recognition to Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO). They have accepted AARS as part of their team of experts and we are proud to help in the fight for online safety and security from crimes occurring online. Last but not least, our family. We have put many hours into the advocacy, with the support and love of our family. Nobody can be successful without a strong team behind them, AARS is no different.

Website: advocatingforu.com
Instagram: @advocatngforu
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathy-waters-8a1963139/
Twitter: @AdvocatingforuC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/advocatingforu/?modal=admin_todo_tour or Advocating Against Romance Scammers

Image Credits
All photos are my (Kathy Waters) personal photos.