Check out your new love
Your new love is asking for money?
Verify the story—and the intentions
If you’ve heard lines like these from your new beau, consider it a red flag waving in your face:
“You really should invest in this project. When it comes through, we’ll be rich.”
“I just need a little help until I get my feet on the ground.”
“My boss at my last job was an idiot, so I quit. I’ll have another job soon.”
Yes, it is possible that the statements are true. But it is also possible that you’re dealing with a sociopath who sees no point in working for a living when a chump like you will support him. (Or her—everything in this section applies to female con artists as well as male.)
The key issue here is time. A real relationship usually takes time to develop. If the two of you have known each other for less than six months or a year, and this person is already asking you for money, you should verify the story. Unfortunately, it won’t be easy.
Start with the basics—ask questions. You can do this in a conversational way, as in, “So, tell me where you went to college. When did you go? What was your major?”
Then call the university to see if its records match the story. If your beau claims to be a professional such as a lawyer, accountant or even a plumber, call state licensing agencies or professional associations to see if he’s listed.
“Psychopaths usually give vague, evasive or inconsistent replies to queries about their personal lives,” says Dr. Robert Hare in his book, Without Conscience. “Be suspicious of such replies, and try to verify them.” *
Be especially suspicious if your love has recently come to town from a distant location—sociopaths tend to move around a lot.
With a little information about your beau—full name, date of birth, driver’s license number—you can do some checking on your own. Certain information is available through public sources, such as property ownership, driving records, civil judgments and criminal convictions. It is sometimes accessible over the Internet.
Although public information is available, finding it may be time-consuming. And often the background information you really need is in proprietary databases. That means you have to pay for it, or pay a professional who subscribes to the databases.
If you want to know about your beau quickly, you may want to contact a reputable private investigator. He or she knows exactly where to look for information, and can probably do a more thorough job than you can.
Here’s a news flash: It is illegal for you to request a credit check on your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée or spouse without his or her permission.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the law that governs credit checks. The law specifically states who may see someone’s credit report:
- The person himself or herself
- Insurance companies
- Employers (with permission)
- Government licensing agencies
- Someone with a court order
- Child support enforcement agencies
- Businesses with which the person has initiated a transaction
- Potential investors and loan servicing companies
- Homeland security agencies
Anyone not on the list—which probably means you—cannot run a credit check on someone without permission.
Maybe you know people who have access to credit reports—friends who work at real estate agencies, employment agencies or mortgage companies. If you ask them to run a report, know that the Fair Credit Reporting Act prohibits anyone from obtaining a credit report under false pretenses. The person violated—your beau—has the right to sue for actual damages, punitive damages and attorney fees.
Consumer protection agencies
Consumer protection agencies focus on dealing with unscrupulous businesses. If your beau owns a business, or claims to have owned a business, you could inquire at a state or local agency, or the Better Business Bureau. Perhaps they’ll report no complaints. This is not proof that he or she is legitimate.
“It can give people a false sense of comfort,” says Susan Grant, director of the National Fraud Information Center. “We say that no complaints is no guarantee. There can be a lag time between when transactions occur, and when there is a complaint.”
Plus, organizations like the National Fraud Information Center focus on problems such as telemarketing fraud and Internet fraud. They simply are not set up to help when someone is trying to sweet talk you out of your money.
Listen to your instincts—and your friends
So what can you do? Here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t ignore your doubts Your emotions, or your relief about finally finding someone who wants you, will cloud your judgment. If your instincts are telling you something is wrong, pay attention. Set aside your romantic feelings and critically evaluate exactly what your beau is proposing to you.
2. Verify the story Try to check anything that he or she told you—place of birth, military service, job history. If you find discrepancies and confront your beau about them, be prepared. He or she will probably try to explain them away, or attack you for not being trusting.
3. Ask your friends what they think Your friends will assume that you know what you’re doing, and they won’t want to throw a wet blanket on your happiness. So even if they don’t like the guy or gal, they will not say anything—unless you ask for their honest opinions. If they are suspicious, listen to them.
4. Ask for a credit check To proceed with a credit check, you have two legal options:
- Get permission from your beau to do the check, in writing.
- Ask your love interest to get his or her own credit reports and show them to you.
This is risky emotionally, but you’ll find out if the person really cares about you. Someone who truly loves you might be offended, but will understand. A sociopath who is out to fleece you will get angry, tell you any credit problems are not his or her fault, or disappear.
5. Be honest with yourself Would you be thinking about giving your new love money if he or she wasn’t saying, “I love you?”