Saturday, October 4, 2014

Money Won't Buy Love

This is not my story, though I have made some expensive choices in past relationships.

Perhaps because of those mistakes, it has made me more aware of the kinds of people who prey on others who are needy.

The Olympics are lovely in the dusky light.
Recently, here in Washington State, there have been a number of stories of women (though certainly there must be men who have been taken advantage of) who, through on-line dating sites, have been convinced they have met the Love of their Life. The other aspect of this vulnerability is that most of these people grew up, and were dating, at a time when fraud and scams were incredibly rare. They just can't quite believe they are a really excellent target.

Recently Dr. Phil did an hour-long program with a woman who had been persuaded to send over $250,000 dollars to a man she never met, someone she talked to every day (sometimes many times a day) and who now was at the risk of losing her home and becoming alienated from her family because she refused to believe this man was scamming her. Even with all the evidence Dr.Phil presented, she continued to talk to him and was prepared to send him more money.

There is, for these people, an addiction being fed by hope and dreams.

You can find a Malaysian comment thread with stories of women who have had the courage to tell their stories.

This is the story outline:

A man, recently widowed (or after several years of being alone after a divorce), has joined (not a real match site) in order to meet someone he can marry. His target 'audience' is another lonely heart, usually older, and with information that indicates they are financially secure - and eager. Older women are not as savvy about what they put in their profiles and they give away a lot of personal stuff without realizing it. 

Going on a cruise is one way to meet a lot of people.
It is curious that the pattern is about the same. After about three weeks of daily phone contact, the guy promotes a meeting but then suddenly, the night before or several days before, he has to go abroad (Malaysia, England, South Africa, someplace far away from the U.S.) for some kind of business. He has some flimsy excuse why he cannot use Skype for face-to-face conversations, so no one really knows who he is.

He uses a throw-away phone to call, so the number and his location cannot easily be revealed. 

The photos used to depict this character are usually stolen and have no relationship to the real individual. Oh, and he is often 'connected' to an adult child who lives apart, but who can 'vouch' for him. This other character may even communicate with the target.

I have had two friends caught up in these scams. One listened to me and got out early with no more damage than that to her ego and is now happily involved with a man who is truly who he says he is and who cares very much for her.

The other one refused to listen to my warnings. And when I became seriously worried and spoke to our mutual pastor about what I feared was going on, she cut me off, saying some cruel things. It is my belief that she took out a loan on her home, eventually selling it to pay off the loan, and as she was leaving the area, she announced that she was sending him another $3500 for a one-way ticket back from Malaysia so he could drive her belongings to her destination. The last I heard she had left without picking him up at the airport.

We all want to have a connection with someone, to not feel as if there are no witnesses to our lives. But desperation, especially for older divorced or widowed individuals, seems to drive common sense out the window.

The idea behind dating sites is a good one, bringing people together with like interests. But no amount of money for membership fees will guarantee that the people on the site are really who they say they are. If you know of someone who is considering going on a dating site, caution them about these scams. And the old adage "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is..." is one of the few things that still has value.