How could it happen to me, the dating coach, the savvy dater, the women who helps her clients stay safe online? Yet, after almost four years of meeting wonderful guys online, a romance scammer had me fooled. Luckily, I grew wise to his devious ways pretty quickly. But there were many others before me who weren’t quite so lucky. I share my story to keep you safe from these con artists.
How it all began
He was very handsome (at least his fake photo was good looking), and he had a sad, sweet story. Romance scammers appeal to a woman’s vulnerability. Like many women, I’m a sucker for a man who’s lost his wife. The widower pity card is a very common cover. His profile also stated that he was a Modern Orthodox Jew, just like me. This is a rarity on JDate. But I noticed an inconsistency: Orthodox Jews keep kosher and attend synagogue most Sabbaths. His profile said he kept kosher sometimes and attended synagogue infrequently. That was my first clue that something was not right.
In our second email exchange on JDate, he asked for my private email address. As a man new to the dating scene after his wife’s “tragic death,” being online was overwhelming for him. He’d rather communicate privately. That sounded legit, so I gave him my private email address.
Warning: This was a big mistake! Stay in communication on the dating site until you feel you can trust a man with your private email. Even better, you should have a special email address dedicated only to dating, just in case you ever do get scammed.
He wrote me a lovely email, telling me the sad story of his wife’s death from cancer a few years earlier. He also said he was an orphan (cue violins), and his mom tragically died in a car crash a few years ago. Good job pulling on my heartstrings. He wrote about the importance of impeccable character traits in a mate. Ironic, huh, that the liar/scammer would write so much about respect, loyalty, fidelity, honesty, and great communication. Did I mention that those words were in all CAPS?
Warning: Be wary of extreme sob stories, especially in the beginning of communication with anyone online. Even if someone has gone through crisis, it’s inappropriate to go into detail until you’ve established some sort of relationship.
He said he wanted to get to know me slowly, as he was overwhelmed about being out in the dating world after his wife’s death. But in the next email, he said he had already taken down his profile, as he wanted to get to know me better.
Warning: When a person tells you that they took down their profile right away, it usually means that they’ll soon be kicked off the site. A seasoned scammer knows the drill. Someone’s bound to report them. So, they work quickly to obtain a few women’s private email addresses before they’re booted off.
As you can see, there were many red flags, but it was easy for me to push them under the rug and give the poor guy the benefit of the doubt. My next warning appeared the next time I logged into JDate. There was a message in my inbox that someone who recently tried to contact me had violated terms and was suspended. Even though they didn’t reveal who it was, my intuition told me it must have been him. (Duh, right?) But I still gave him the benefit of the doubt. If you’ve been dating online for a few years and the pickings begin to feel slim, it’s easy to ignore your intuition and hope for the best.
So, I asked him to call me, as his emails seemed to be going nowhere. I thought it might be a language issue, as he claimed to be of German descent.
Warning: Don’t give out your number until you’ve built some rapport and trust. I purposely gave out my cell number, so he wouldn’t be able to trace my home address. Once you’re ready to share numbers, your cell is preferable.
He called me after midnight. Good thing my phone was on silent. That was the final straw for me. Now I knew for sure something was really off with him. Who makes a first phone call to a woman after midnight? I texted him the following morning that it wasn’t okay to call me late at night, and he apologized profusely. Said it would never happen again.
Meanwhile, I kept Googling and searching for some information on him. Who was this guy? I found nothing on him, until a friend told me about Google Image Search (images.google.com).
I dragged his image from JDate to my desktop and dropped it into the Google Image search. What came up was worse than I could imagine.
There was an entire page online dedicated to this guy’s scamming. Seems he’d asked several women for money. This smooth talker went by the same name on different sites. He had a profile on ChristiansMingle.com, too. He wasn’t even a Jew, let alone an Orthodox one!
Like many scammers, his stories didn’t line up, from the way he posted about his Jewish observance, to a story about his son living in California, which became Texas in the next email. He wanted to move slowly, and then he “pulled his profile to get to know me better.” His photo was a lie, too. It was of a famous professor in London.
What to do when you’ve found a scammer?
Telling him that he’s busted will accomplish absolutely nothing except to teach him how to be better at scamming/victimizing the next woman. So, by all means, do not confront him.
Here’s what I did: I reported the abuse/fraud to the site immediately, giving clear examples and links to the page I found on the Internet uncovering the romance scam.
I told the perpetrator that I’d reunited with an old flame. I wished him well in his search for his beloved. And he thanked me for my good wishes.
Online dating is filled with all types of people, as is offline dating. Scammers are the rare exception. I still believe online dating is one of the best ways to find love today, but you need to stay safe.
Have you ever been the victim of an online romance scammer? If so, please share your experience below. If not, I hope I’ve helped prevent you from falling for one. Stay safe in your pursuit of love after 50!
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