Valentine’s Day holds special meaning for many people who believe you can’t put a price on love when showing someone how much you care. But for others, it can be a painful reminder of just how costly love can be if you have been the target of a romance scam.
Cybercrime Support Network (CSN), a public-private nonprofit group supporting individuals and businesses affected by cybercrime and online fraud, recently concluded its inaugural Peer Support Program, created to help individuals impacted by romance imposter scams.
Launched in May 2021 with funding from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation) and sponsored by Early Warning Services, LLC, the network operator of Zelle®, the program helps participants combat feelings of loss, embarrassment and isolation, while teaching cybercrime awareness, education and prevention practices.
“The FINRA Foundation is honored to play a role in bringing this cutting edge and affirming program to fruition,” said Gerri Walsh, President of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. “We are excited for the continued growth of this program and are proud of the immensely positive impact it plays in the lives of romance scam survivors.”
The COVID-19 pandemic led many to seek connections and intimacy through virtual means, and scammers were ready to exploit the situation. In 2020, consumers reported nearly 24,000 romance scams to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a 22% increase from 2019. Moreover, the total losses associated with those complaints exceeded $600 million, surpassing the 2019 number by more than $125 million.
The Peer Support Program is facilitated in collaboration with Give an Hour, a nonprofit focused on providing mental health education as well as barrier-free access to mental health care from licensed professionals. Participants engage in ten, weekly group sessions—offered at no cost—in a safe, virtual environment, allowing individuals to connect with others across the country who have had similar experiences. The program guides participants through a defined course curriculum centered around identification of fraud and scams, as well as education on general cybersecurity best practices.
After graduating from the program, course participants expressed feelings of empowerment and support from peers with shared experiences. One graduate shared, “I have found strength and dignity to move forward in a positive way.” Another added, “When I told my truth about my horrible experience, there was no judgment on anyone’s part.”
“Give an Hour is a proud partner of CSN’s Peer Support Program, a partnership that provides help and hope to romance scam survivors. Our generous mental health providers not only work with CSN to support survivor recovery but to also reduce the risk of revictimization. Together, we are combating the emotional suffering associated with these crimes within a safe and supportive community of care,” said Trina Clayeux, PhD, CEO of Give an Hour.
Visit our programs page to learn more about the program.