Online #romance #scammers can #steal more than your #money

He was the perfect man. Danish, athletic, a widowed father who loved his son dearly, working for a non-profit as an engineer rebuilding homes in Syria. He loved music and the arts and would send photographs of teddy bears holding roses with declarations of his undying love for me. One night he even called from his hotel lobby in Paris and sang to me, Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. His contract was up soon and he was ready to relocate to Australia for me. He would always love me, he said.

He wasn’t my first scammer but he’ll always have a special place in my heart given how determined he was.

He’ll always have a special place in my heart, too, because he tried the same gig, right down to Whitney Houston, on a friend of mine. We almost wet ourselves the night we discovered he was two-timing us and hatched a plan to string him along for as long as we could until he figured out we were on to him.

Lucky for him we got bored first. Otherwise he would have had to get a few more songs in his repertoire.

She forked out $260,000 to an online romance scammer, a man she dubbed ” the partner of my life”. She “met” Eamon online and the two messaged, emailed and video-chatted, they fell in love. And then he robbed her. Not only of her money, I’m assuming, but of a lot of self-confidence too.

It’s easy to label people who get hit up by romance scammers as desperate and lonely and stupid. And yes, they probably are at least one of those things. I know I am a couple, which ones vary depending on my mood, but this will never happen to me.

As my nanna used to say, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. I so wanted another of my scammers to be real. He was drop-dead gorgeous, an orthopedic surgeon in the military. He couldn’t tell me much about himself on the dating app we connected on, was there any chance we could move to email straight away, he asked me after two messages. He sensed there was something special about me he wanted to explore. I just wanted him to fix my knees.

Perhaps this is the reason I’m still single. Cynicism is not an attractive trait but when you’re of a certain age, and dating again, a dash of cynicism is essential.

I float in and out of dating sites. I hate them. After a few months (read years) of voluntary celibacy I popped back on recently and was hit up by four scammers in the first 20 minutes. I kid you not. Men who displayed all the tell-tale signs.

Bad syntax

Happy to admit that if you’re mixing up your yours and you’res, I’m less likely to like you. Call me a grammar snob. Message in full sentences. UR kidding if you think grown women like text talk. But for scammers, it’s a completely different thing. Sentences will sound awkward and confusing. Sometimes they won’t even make sense. This is always a giveaway. I imagine all these poor young men in call centres in the Third World messaging middle-aged women miles away in a language that’s not their first. That sentence was a bit awkward.

Question time

Scammers love to ask you lots of questions. They don’t like answering yours. It’s flattering to be asked about yourself. But I’ve been on real-life dates where men have not asked one thing about me. A conversation is meant to work both ways.

Which is weird

Because they always have much more exciting lives than you do. They’re doctors and engineers, working in top-secret jobs they can’t tell you much about, in exotic locations around the world. They are often widowed. If they have children, they’re tucked up safely in boarding school in Europe because that’s what their dear late mother wanted on her death bed. They are never accountants living in Curtin.

Message me

Scammers will want to move you off whatever platform you’ve met on and onto email straight away. Never give someone your email. If they’re not prepared to continue on the app, say, for a week or so, alarm bells should go off. Never give someone your phone number either.

How to handle them

Just block them. Unless you’re feeling particularly cruel. And then you can toy with them. Once potential suitors have set off the above alarm bells, I sometimes turn it back on them. Which is horrible, I know. (See the note about me still being single.) I’ll start asking them all sorts of inappropriate questions. Sexual ones. Again I think of the poor young men sitting in their call centres. One enterprising one went along with me one night, as best he could, before I asked him how he would feel if a man was doing said things to his mother. He blocked me. But be better than me and just block them.

But remain optimistic

Love is out there. When you find it there’ll be no alarm bells. Or maybe just a few little tinkling ones that you’ll feel confident dealing with. Opening your heart to love again is scary. You want to believe. You don’t want to get hurt again. You are vulnerable but that’s not a bad thing. Lead with your heart, trust your gut and make decisions with your head. Scammers can steal much more than your money and in the end that’s their biggest crime.