Internet Dating Scams
The last aspect of impoverished love that I would like to talk about is the world of internet dating scams.
When I first started internet dating I talked to someone who looked really handsome in his profile picture. He said he was Portuguese and worked in the diamond industry and lived in Canada.
After a few hours of chatting to him, he told me that he had lost his father and wife in a car accident and was bringing up, his 11 year old, daughter alone. Since he was still grieving he was at home a lot which explained why he was available on line so often.
- He listened to me and was very respectful
- He was always interested in me despite his own traumatic experience
- He was always perfectly charming, sensitive and attentive
- He never mentioned sex.
- He kept the attention on me
- Each conversation was new and different
I was beginning to get excited that such a polished, accomplished and unique man was interested in me. Then about a week into the conversations, I was in bed and just had a ‘light bulb’ moment.
I got up, went to my computer, and ‘Googled’ internet dating scams and low and behold there were hundreds of pages on how dating scams work.
This is the basic formula. The subject of desire is usually a wealthy widower who lives abroad in somewhere like Canada, the USA or Brazil. The story attached to the scam is that he is a businessman who has lost his wife and father-in-law in a plane or car crash and although grieving, he is left looking after his teenage daughter. He is usually in a very high profile, glamorous and cost intensive occupation like diamond mining, film production or oil refining. They often have Portuguese or other foreign connections, which help to explain their sometimes odd use or spelling of English.
The people on the other end of the line are universally attentive and they say all the right things to make a woman feel good about herself. They totally focus on her, ask for nothing and do not mention sex. Over a period of time often over months or even years (after all they are only doing, nothing else – this is their job) they build a level of trust on the part of the woman that they care and that they want eventually to be in a relationship with her.
After a while the woman hardly notices that the subject of her growing affections, gives no personal information and quickly disappears, if pressed to follow up on a previous conversation. The potential victim keeps on looking longingly at the photo of Mr Wonderful who’s image is usually copied from knitting patterns or model agency websites and dreams of when they will be together.
They don’t even need to talk to them directly or see the person, for the feelings of attachment and affection to kick in. Gradually over time the object of the woman’s affection will start to ask for small amounts of money just to ‘test the water’ to see if she is likely to take the bait. Once she has been hooked by sending a small amount of money and has an emotional and financial investment in the relationship ‘he’ will ask her to financially support a major project he is working on.
The reason given for the request might be because a backer has just pulled out at the last minute or it will take him a short while to put the deal together and needs her to provide bridging finance until the deal comes through. It is promised that the money will be repaid once the project has been completed. Of course this never happens since another financial crisis will beset the beloved.
In fact many of the scams are based in internet cafés or offices in Nigeria. The staff, work on shifts to keep the momentum going and they are likely to be working a number of ‘targets’ at the same time. Many of the staff operating these scams are women who are more likely to understand and empathise with other women and are able to avoid or are not interested in talking to their targets about sex. Their aim is to build trust until they are ready to ask first for small amounts of money and then to ask for increasingly large sums of money to support their fictitious finance, oil, film, diamond mining or large scale engineering projects. In the process women find themselves losing not only tens of thousands of pounds but also the loss of the ‘relationship’ they valued with ‘someone’ who they felt completely understood them.
When you hear about these scams it seems impossible that anyone would fall for them. But they build trust over a period of time and you link what they say with the profile picture. Even when I realised that I was talking to a dating scammer I still found it difficult to disengage the profile picture from the very enjoyable conversations that we had. In fact even after I realised it was a scam I still went back to the ‘person’ a couple of times. By this point although I did not mention scamming explicitly, they knew that I knew and we had a quite fun conversation about their hobbies which included ‘cruising’.
So far I have talked about the scams that prey on women but there are also parallel versions, for men who believe they are talking to and building relationships with attractive Russian women. After a bit more ‘Googling’ I also started to find sites, that would sell you, your own dating scam kit with all instructions necessary to set up your own operation.
The beautiful Russian women, scam package includes the template letters and advises the purchasers when to use them – timing is everything in the scam business!
The idea is to keep the main body of the letters the same but slightly alter the beginning and end to reflect the man they are talking to. By using scams like this men and women are parted from thousands of pounds at a time. I believe that these cons appeal to a basic need we all have for attention and to believe that we are significant to someone. They also illustrate how little ‘real’ connection some people need to receive from another person real or imaginery to feel that they are in love.
If you wonder how people could be so gullible, let me tell you the story of the Psychic and his Russian Girlfriend in my next blog.
With thanks to Jo Grant for permission to use her photographs
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