By Marcia Barhydt
In the February 2009 issue of Canadian Living, there was a great article about three women who were the subject (ok, victims almost) of what author Marcia Kaye euphemistically calls ‘romantic fraud’.
These 3 women were strong, capable, bright women, just like you and me. And, just like me, they fell for the oldest line in the book, “I love you”. If you’re tech savvy enough to be considering online dating, then you need to be wary of the fraudsters who are looking for your money. They’re present on every online dating website and they’re unrecognizable at first. They’ll do their best to sweep you off your feet by telling you way way too soon that they love you. And in my case, the fraud asked me for money without even meeting me!
The first thing they like to do is to communicate with you away from the online dating website, usually in Instant Messaging, so they’re not discovered and barred by the dating site. Their profiles are widely varied, never from the same part of the country, never the same ‘personality’, and never the truth.
When you email them, they’ll respond immediately, something that many other legit men don’t do and they will be SO charming that it’ll be very difficult to resist their intoxicating words.
In my own case, I followed like a lamb to Yahoo Messenger and started a conversation with this fraudster. He was a widower (to capture my sympathy) and was raising a teenage son (what a wonderful guy, eh?). He was on his way to Africa to buy gems (his profession, wow, I could picture the rings on my fingers) and had forgotten his son’s birthday. Could I please order some electronics for the kid? And when I say some, I’m talking about thousands of dollars worth here. Then, because his son would be travelling with him, could I ship this stuff to Africa and I’d save the day for him as a Dad and make his son’s birthday exceptional. Who could say no? Oh, and he couldn’t order the electronics himself because his Visa card was being held by the country he was visiting in Africa, kind of the way a hotel sometimes holds your passport. Huh?
And you know what? Initially, I said ok. See me smacking my forehead here? I’m a fairly bright woman, but I almost did this! He was super charming and there were so many possibilities of a good date when he returned. I’m rolling my eyes and blushing as I write this.
I’m fortunate that some little voice inside me said “Are you nuts Marcia”? I didn’t buy the electronics and when I told him I wouldn’t be doing it, he became very upset and pouty. How could I do this to him and his son? Wasn’t I a parent too? Didn’t I know how much birthdays meant to kids? Well, you get the idea. He poured on the charm, poured on the guilt and when I stood firm, he pestered me so much with Instant Messages that I had to block him.
What’s important here is that I heard from this same guy at least 5 other times – but as a new guy with a new profile each time! He kept reinventing himself with a new nickname, a new photo, a new description of what he was looking for, what he had to offer in return. He was always ‘God fearing and lonely and looking for his soul mate, to replace his poor deceased wife’.
What gave him away to me was his language. Although his profile was written in impeccable English, when he emailed or Instant Messaged me, I could tell that English was not his mother tongue. He had phrases and words that were stock, standard in all his communications that had a European sound to them, a sentence construction that said his first language was not English. And within each profile, persona he adapted, that tone was very present. It was what gave him away every time, along with the urgency to talk off the dating website.
I believe that most online dating sites are populated with genuine, mostly honest men and women. At the very most, they merely exaggerate their good points and minimize their faults. Men seem often to add a couple of inches to their height and women (ok, me too) seem to subtract a few pounds from their weight. Not a major fraud.
Sure, there are other kinds of fraudsters online, married guys who say they’re single, mothers of 7 kids who ‘forget’ to mention them, but for the most part, people are who they say they are. At the very most, they seem to talk the talk, but not actually walk it. My next book is called “Loves Moonlight Walks on the Beach” because I saw that phrase in so many guys’ profiles and honestly, I’ve never met a guy who said “Honey, I’m dying for a moonlight walk on the beach”! Talking the talk can bruise your ego, but isn’t that way better than having your bank account raided by a ghost you’ll never meet?
I think I’m fortunate. I never lost any money, I never lost any property, and I never lost my own principles. Am I more skeptical now? You bet. But not so much as to be unbelieving, untrusting, unoptimistic.
Because, at 66 now, I may be not as savvy as a 30 year old single woman, but I’m a lot wiser about myself, I’m a lot wiser about who the bad guy is here and I’m a lot wiser about not beating myself up for someone else’s fraud. And, because of my 66-year-old wisdom and 20/20 hindsight, I know now that my value isn’t reflected by having, or not having, a partner.
I’m a woman of a certain age and I’m certain of my value, especially in a tech environment.
© Marcia Barhydt 2010
This article first appeared in the Fall Issue of WE Magazine for Women. You can read the PDF version here:http://www.staging.wemagazineforwomen.com/pdfs/WEMagFall2010.pdf or the FLIP version here:http://rsszine.com/samples/WEMagFall2010/
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