When single Isobel Clarke’s thoughts turned to giving online dating a go a little while ago, she was hoping to meet a nice man, perhaps experiencing some natural highs and lows along the way. She was not prepared to be the victim of a romance scam
I’ve been single for a little time now, so, as my friend has had some good results with it so far, she persuaded me to try online dating. I was going to wait until I’d actually bagged myself a man friend, documenting the highs and lows of my journey, but something happened last week that compelled me to write this now.
Shortly after I signed up to a mature dating site for over 40s, I got entangled with a man called Charlie. His pictures looked nice, he looked clean cut, tall, just how I like them! We exchanged a few messages on the site and he told me that he was widowed, having lost his wife and daughter in a terrible car crash.
He asked me for my email address so that he could get to know me better off the site. I thought it was too soon so gave an excuse but soon after caved in and sent it to him. I did follow some of the safety tips provided by the dating site though, setting up a fresh email account with no identifying details.
The emails flew back and forth, and I felt myself becoming attracted to this man. We had some things in common and he was attentive, flattering, intelligent and interesting. He was keen to talk on Whatsapp. I thought it was all a bit soon but when he sent me a link I felt this pang of “ahh I don’t want to offend this man” – after all he’d been through a lot in his life, and I didn’t want to upset him.
So we connected and had a nice evening of messaging, though when I asked what he would be doing with his impending retirement he replied that he was going to spend his time doing charity work, and with me. That was the first proper alarm bell! I told him that he hardly knew me, to which he replied “I don’t need to know more about you, I like what I’ve heard already.” I made an excuse and turned my phone off, worried he was coming on too strong, too soon.
For the next day or so, messages came in thick and fast. Charlie told me that the situation with his work (he worked for a charity military organisation) was getting very heated, and the “emergency dispatch papers were on their way”. Whatever that meant. I didn’t ask.
After a little soul searching, I decided that things were getting a little too serious, and a little too soon, considering we’d never met in person, and Charlie didn’t even approach the subject of a date, or even a phone call, before he started planning our retirement together!
He didn’t make me feel comfortable so I constructed a message in my head, and waited for him to message me so I could do the deed. I was so nervous, I didn’t want to upset him, but I knew that it was right to stop contact.
On delivering what I thought was going to be a blow to Charlie, he said “Ok, but I wanted to ask you a favour.” He went on to tell me that he was involved in an emergency situation with his work, and he needed funds to pay for a flight so he could go and carry out his charity work.
I told him I couldn’t help him, and he started to rant about how he was a good person, and the world so cruel etc. etc. I told him again “I can’t help you” to which he replied “Ok, thanks.”
I called my daughter in a state and relayed everything that just happened and she reassured me that he (if he was a he) was most likely someone sat in front of a bunch of computer screens with many, many accounts, who was most probably saying the exact same things to a hundred other people. He was a romance scammer. The penny dropped. She helped me block his number and delete my email account, and with that, as soon as he came into my life, he was out of my life.
I like to think of myself as…not one of those people who fall for scams. I was expecting to write about my online dating journey in an upbeat and humorous way, telling of the hilarious profiles and strange encounters with other humans, but I wanted to point out the seemingly normal things that scammers do and say to get you on side. Before you know it, you’re letting your guard down, divulging personal details and your perception of their personality traits starts to control your actions.
I realise now that it’s normal people that fall for these online dating scams, and I am lucky that my gut gave me a feeling of unease quite soon into the ‘relationship’. I didn’t get my heart broken, my bank account emptied, or worse.
Little did I know that the dating site’s moderation team had cottoned on to Charlie’s scam and removed him from the site a few hours after I gave him my email address. So my biggest tip to you is to keep communicating on your dating site for as long as possible. Don’t give out your details too soon and let them do their job so that you can rest assured that not every person you meet on a dating site is out to scam you!