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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 29-Apr-16 11:51:16

I fell for a romance scam

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...

Isobel Clarke

I fell for a romance scam

Posted on: Fri 29-Apr-16 11:51:16

(55 comments )

Lead photo

Are you wary of online dating?

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.

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.


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!

By Isobel Clarke

Twitter: @Gransnet

Blinko Tue 03-May-16 10:52:37

Whoa, Isobel, this is scary indeed. Thank you so much for posting. And well done for listening to your gut feeling that things weren't quite right.

inishowen Tue 03-May-16 11:11:02

Thank you for sharing your story. It may help others. Only this weekend, my daughter found out her 13 year old stepson was on a very dodgy chat site, and thought he had met a girlfriend there. His father spent hours explaining the dangers, and eventually his son began to believe him. Hopefully he has seen sense and won't go back on to this site.

jacquee51 Tue 03-May-16 11:11:32

This story is so familiar. My friend who is over 60 spends a lot of time on these dating sites but finds it all funny. Luckily she doesn't take it seriously. She has had young men asking for money with sob stories, but she hasn't got any, so that doesn't work. SOme ask sexy things like is she sitting there in a see thru negligee, she tells them she is in flannellette and bed socks. One guy reckoned he was in the US army and a sent a photo of the overall supremo of the American forces in Afghanistan claiming to be him. Apparently, there is a website, where when you get contacted you can look up the scammers asthere is a record - people add them on it so you can check their aliases and photos. I told her she should keep a record and we could write a funny book.

Funnygran Tue 03-May-16 11:30:35

I worked with a very quiet man in his late 50's who had never been married. He too got involved with a young lady in Nigeria (where else) and fell for her stories about wanting to come over to the UK to be with him. Over the course of a few months he sent her hundreds of pounds but of course there was always a reason why the air ticket never materialised and she then needed more money. He wouldn't listen to anybody's advice, telling us she was real as she had sent photos to him. I think she/they pretty well cleaned him out and then of course all contact ceased. Very sad and I often wonder if he did eventually meet someone for real.

cruisegal Tue 03-May-16 11:40:30

I too wrote to someone
a friend of mine asked if I would write to a soldier her 'boyfriend a Dr in the American army had a few friends who were lonely , so though I was not looking for anyone I did not mind befriending a lonely soldier in Iraq.
As soon as he contacted me something did not seem right his command of the english language and it was as if I was speaking to two people. Then I asked for a photo and what he did he said he was a Dr but the photo he sent was of of Staff officer and the rank was wrong he was talking of being a professional golfer because I played golf and said he wanted to marry me not a cat in you no where's chance when I spoke to my friend she was mystified so was her boyfriend who she met and had been to England several times .you really have to be careful .

vampirequeen Tue 03-May-16 11:56:46

I met my husband on a dating so there are many nice, genuine men and women looking for love and friendship.

However, just like in the real world, you have to be aware that there are con artists and nutters about. I met/talked to some lovely men but I also had my fair share of nutters.

My first date was with the most boring man in the world. He had absolutely no independent thoughts and ran his life by timetable. He also seemed somewhat obsessed with my bum lol. I sent him a sensitively worded 'Dear John' message saying I didn't think we had enough in common etc. He replied that in his opinion I was frigid......he certainly got that wrong as I was just entering my Jezebel period lol.

There are those who want to show you their bits but you just say no and/or block them.

The same goes for the scammers. Common sense tells you that if someone asks you for money they're up to no good. They're very clever as they get under your skin and use what they know about you to create the scam. In my case he asked for money as he was working in Nigeria and had knocked down a seven year old girl outside her school (he knew I was a primary teacher). She needed emergency surgery or would lose her leg. It was a cracking story but also an obvious scam.

Then there was the Geordie manager wanted me to join his stable of lady wrestlers. I didn't have that sort of wrestling in mind lol.

People let their guard down on the internet far more than in the real world You have to remember that not everyone will be genuine and not allow yourself to get carried away with dreams of romance before you know that your knight's armour is real and not made of cardboard and aluminium foil.

Remember even on Gransnet we get the odd dodgy poster. Think how most school holidays we get asked about acceptable school shoes.

MaryXYX Tue 03-May-16 13:35:34

I haven't used dating sites (yet) but I am active on Facebook. Every now and then I get a friend request from a random man. If the profile picture shows a man holding an assault rifle or in front of an oversized American truck I can just delete the request. There was one recently who said he had found me through a Christian group. I chatted for a while but it only took a couple of days before he was suggesting sex.

Morghew70 Tue 03-May-16 13:41:20

A friend of my mine is very active on online dating - she has some very funny stories but also some quite creepy ones. It seems that everyone lies about their age, height, size and income. She has been seeing a man for over a year now and he has all my alarm bells ringing - he comes up with fantastic stories that I can't believe are true - lots of them involving M15 or the government. Whenever I try to urge caution she tells me I'm just a cynical, untrusting person (probably true). I haven't quite worked out what he's after with her yet or if he is just a complete Walter Mitty character. It has become such a touchy subject that we never mention him any more.

M0nica Tue 03-May-16 14:06:04

I have every sympathy by people led on by plausible fraudsters and Isobel had the wit to see through hers before she came to any harm..

What I do not understand, however is how anyone can fall in love with someone they have never met only exchanged emails with. No matter how much you are looking for romance and ready to respond to kindness online surely you cannot know or trust someone enough to be in love with them until you have met them and if they do not want to meet do no warning bells ring at all?

fran63 Tue 03-May-16 14:56:05

Why not google Meet Up and your area. It will introduce you to various meet ups near your home these consist of groups of people who want to expand their social life(not dating or singles) but you never know who you might get friendly with. Having joined 2 groups in the past frw months I have been to coffee mornings, several meals out, and the cinema. I dont do some of the others e.g. walks, sunday lunches and the more active activities but I pick and choose what suits me. This week I am going out to a pizza place and a very nice restaurant. Try it.

sarahdod Tue 03-May-16 15:05:02

I met my husband through a dating site, but I suppose I was lucky in that it was in 2003, so long before they had got going in the way they are now. My advice to people would be this -

1) Make sure you know what it is you are looking for. I was hoping for a long term relationship; depressing numbers of men made it quite clear (after a while) that they wanted a mistress and nothing more.
2) Be realistic - if you spend a lot of time with children/grandchildren, or love dogs, or whatever, then someone who is not similarly inclined is never going to be an ideal match. Obviously, I hear you say - but the trouble is that when you go onto a dateline, you want to meet someone and have a relationship so that you are not necessarily as ready to dismiss someone out of hand as you might be were you to meet them for the first time in real life.
3) If they say they are separated, find out why they are not divorced. It could be that they have not got round to it - but it is much more likely that either they have only recently split up and so are not really in the right place to be finding someone else, or far worse, are not separated at all but are thinking about it and seeing whether the grass might be greener on the other side of the fence.
4) Listen to your instincts. Morghew 70 is quite right to be sceptical of her friend's Walter Mitty character. Yes, you want to meet someone, but if the chap with whom you are corresponding seems too good to be true, or comes on strong and bombards you with messages, do you really want to be taking up with a stalker if it goes wrong, especially if the voice within is telling you that this chap has issues...
5) If anyone asks you for money, no matter how good a sob story they spin, delete them on the instant and block their account. Isobel is so right when she says don't give out your details too soon - and of course, the temptation is to feel that you "know" someone when all you have really done is exchange a few e-mails with them. As Vampire Queen says, people let their guard down.
6) Google them - if there is no trace whatsoever on the web, then probe them a bit more - they may well not be what/who they seem! Most people have some sort of online profile.
7) And do not ever, under any circumstances, be tempted to meet them anywhere other than a completely public place, and make sure that you have told at least a couple of friends when and where you are meeting, and get them to phone you at a pre-arranged time, just in case you need an excuse to be able to leave!

You may well have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince, but there are some genuine people out there, as well as the scammers and cads!

sarahc446655 Tue 03-May-16 16:04:54

On Dating Sites you can at least see a potential, personal problem coming, some people use other types of sites such as ones linked to career or other subjects.

I came across one specimen who systematically attempted to take me to pieces bit by bit. He became psychologically manipulative to the degree that if I'd been a weaker character or had mental problems I could have been driven insane. At the point where I turned on this person, I had a very strange feeling that I was dealing with someone who was not the person they claimed they were, it was quite creepy.
This character had a site set up to attract like-minded people - after the above he put on his sign-up page, for women not to supply their addresses.

Gaggi3 Tue 03-May-16 18:04:46

I heard a programme on the radio quite recently which horrified me, about women who had been relieved of seriously large sums of money by men they had only met on line. The reasons for needing the money varied. The women were generally vulnerable and had often been recently bereaved. It's easy to say but caution is the watchword.

vampirequeen Tue 03-May-16 21:34:52

You have to be aware that virtual relationships are not the same as meeting someone in the real world. When you have a virtual world conversation you only see the words. In the real world you subconsciously read body language and hear the intonation. Lying tells tend to be visual so it's much harder to judge what a person is saying.

I met my husband online but we only really got to know each other when we met in the real world.

obieone Tue 03-May-16 21:42:04

Morghew70, if I were you, I would keep on saying something from time to time.
Some people eventually come to their senses if they are told something often enough. Drip drip works eventually in a lot of cases.

CrazyDaisy Tue 03-May-16 23:24:08

I met my lovely husband on an internet dating site, but not before coming across a lot of "drop-kicks". In fact I had decided to go off the site but saw the picture of my husband and thought, "One last try". I'm so glad I did - we've been married for four years now and have been together for seven. smile

I do agree, you have to be very careful and if you have the slightest doubt it's best to back off.

yattypung Wed 04-May-16 05:24:14

My daughter's friend met a man on a dating site, and after corresponding by text for a while, they decided to meet up. He was very charming, buying her flowers, chocolates, taking her for meals etc., but after only a short time, he started being very possessive with her and when he wasn't with her, he was texting her constantly.
After a couple of months, he was talking about moving in with her with his son (she has two small daughters too) but she told him that she thought it was too soon, and that they should take it a bit slower (she told my daughter that she really wanted to end the relationship with him because he was so possessive and jealous, but didn't want to hurt his feelings). Anyway after this he started sending her abusive texts which she tried to ignore, but they became more and more abusive, even threatening to harm her girls, so she went to the Police (he was actually a policeman himself) to get a restraining order. He has now been charged with several offences, and is due to appear in court next month.

sunseeker Wed 04-May-16 07:23:46

I joined a site for over 50s (not a dating site), and after a couple of weeks received messages from someone who had read my profile. He said, in very poor English, that he thought I was a wonderful person and would like my email address so we could keep in touch. I told him I thought he was a scammer and reported him to the site moderators who deleted his account. My mistake was that I had put in my profile that I was a widow - I have since removed that information.

Morghew70 Wed 04-May-16 08:32:43

The problem with my friend is that she is very gullible and she so wants to believe that this man is the millionaire he (contrary to appearances) claims to be, She says he likes to keep a low profile - he doesn't even own a house but rents a room while he is looking for a suitable mansion. For some reason every time he is just about to close the deal on yet another £20 million pound house it falls through. I just don't know what his end game is as she has some money, but not a great deal and he has given her some money over the last year. Hence part of me thinks more Walter Mitty than conman.

M0nica Wed 04-May-16 08:46:34

A fool and their money are soon parted. if individuals, particularly our friends, choose not to see what is blindingly obvious to any one else, then they have only themselves to blame if it all turns nasty.

Yes, there are millionaires who choose to rent, but if they do, even the discreet ones, which this man claims to be, will rent a high end property, probably serviced, which will give him the comfort and luxury such people require. Any luxury block of flats comes cloaked in anonymity, nobody knows their neighbours. They most emphatically do not rent 'rooms'

janeainsworth Wed 04-May-16 08:55:07

Am I the only one who noticed this in the OP?
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
I'm sorry, but it sounds as though Isobel's intention when going on the dating site was not to meet someone to form a relationship with, but to exploit possibly vulnerable men for the purposes of writing an amusing blog.
I wonder what the collective Gransnet opinion would have been of a man who did that.

Elegran Wed 04-May-16 09:43:43

Hmmmm.

Elegran Wed 04-May-16 09:49:23

I've no experience of dating sites, but I have noticed that whenever I use Skype (not often) I get a lot of contact requests from US generals. (Are there no lonely squaddies in the US army, just the generals?) They get deleted at once.

I think it is because I had to add a number to my username, and used my birth year,, minus the 19-- . If that number were my age, I would be an attractive commodity, but if they knew my real age they would be less impressed.

dorsetpennt Wed 04-May-16 09:49:48

This is a sad story but..... hasn't there been several tv programs and newspaper articles warning people of this scam ? Quite honestly the moment money was mentioned I'd head for the hills. The warning bell would have been ringing very loud indeed.