ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After weeks of swiping left and right on a dating app, Tasha VanAusdall never expected to meet Drake, a single man in his 40s looking for love.
When they started talking, Drake told VanAusdall he was headed to Afghanistan but wanted to keep in touch. Van Ausdall said that seemed harmless at the time.
The conversations started out harmless as well. Drake said he was in the military. His first email was filled with jokes.
“I want to be a part of your lovely life which I believe is filled with smiles,” he told VanAusdall. “Hope you have room for more smiles Tasha.”
“The second one he’s like, ‘It’s finally nice to meet somebody,'” she said in an interview. “‘I don’t use social media that much and I’m an introvert, but I want to see where this goes.'”
VanAusdall said that sounded OK to her. The emails kept coming, each one longer than the one before.
“I have no doubt we shall make a good match, for you have made all of my dreams come true,” one email read. “I am grateful to you for giving me the trust of communication, and can only tell that I too seek to be guided with love. I would not misguide you.”
“He sent me an email saying that he was being attacked in Afghanistan through the Taliban, and that 15 soldiers died and that he was one of 30 men to be selected for a special mission,” VanAusdall said. “And that if they succeed, he’s going to be heavily rewarded. And I was like oh well my prayers are with you and the troops.”
VanAusdall talked to Drake for about a week until she got a message about him finding money. That’s when she knew it was a major red flag.
“‘People from the Red Cross are coming to get our documents. I don’t want to keep it at camp. I want to ship it to you. I want to give you 30 percent,'” said VanAusdall, quoting Drake. “And then he’s like, ‘But this is top secret so please don’t tell anybody.'”
Drake asked for her name, address and phone number.
“He was trying to use my personal information — identity theft — because he didn’t really ask for my bank account information,” said VanAusdall.
But she’s guessing that question might have come next. She cut off communication before he learned more about whatever he was trying to do.
“I don’t give up hope on finding a person or something like that,” VanAusdall said. “I may just have to go back to the old fashion way and just meet people face to face.”