The Citizen (KZN)

This is how to escape from the clutches of a financial predator


We see it on TV and hear about it from people we know about how a financial predator fleeced someone they pretended to be in love with and left them destitute without a cent to their name.

In most cases, the victim paid the money willingly, but in all cases the important thing is to escape from the clutches of a financial predator.

It seems like our screens are ablaze with stories about those who mislead, exploit or abuse others for their financial gain. But despite this growing awareness, it still happens daily and you think it can never happen to you.

“A financial predator typically targets vulnerable individual­s: They identify weakness in someone and work to gain their trust. Once trust is establishe­d, they act to isolate their targets before pouncing,” says Thabo Qoako from Momentum Metropolit­an.

Qoako says the isolation component is important because it is hard to exploit someone who has close ties with trusted friends and family members, “If you have strong, long-standing relationsh­ips with other people, they will tell you if they notice suspicious behaviour from someone you are involved or engaging with.”

He says the tactics of a financial predator take many forms such as manipulati­on, fraud or pressuring their targets to extract money. “They might operate through scams, schemes, theft or greedy lending practices. In the context of a relationsh­ip, a predator does not care for your well-being and stability. All they are after is the financial benefit they receive from these interactio­ns.”

The three most common types of financial predators are:

Romantic predators: They create fake online or offline personas to establish romantic relationsh­ips with their victims and eventually exploit their emotions to extort money or financial assistance;

Predatory lenders: They target vulnerable people with high-interest loans or use predatory lending practices, often trapping borrowers in debt; and

Identity predators: They steal your personal informatio­n, such as bank account details, to commit fraud and theft.

Is it possible to be in a healthy relationsh­ip with someone who practises predatory behaviour? Qoako says absolutely not.

“Once you are caught in their snare, you know that at some point you will experience financial loss and your mental well-being and close relationsh­ips will suffer.”

And like any other form of abuse, someone might deny it is happening to them, but the reality is that it is happening and slowly destroying the victim.

“This is not a relationsh­ip of mutual respect and love. It is one-sided and motivated by greed. In most cases, once the victim is cleaned out, the predator moves on to their next target.”

Qoako says predators are intentiona­l and will strike whenever given the opportunit­y as this is their nature. They are manipulati­ve, deceptive, opportunis­tic, lack empathy and accountabi­lity and are tolerant of high risk. They are usually repeat offenders.

If you are unlucky enough to come across someone you suspect is a financial predator, how do you escape their clutches? You should:

Reach out to friends and family;

Stop communicat­ion; Document everything; and Check your finances. Report the predator and seek legal advice – fast.

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