Somewhere in the heart of Nigeria, in the cold steppes of Ukraine, in steamy Singapore, there are rooms full of men sitting at computer and phones. It’s called a boiler room. This is the cottage industry in many third world countries. These men and women have studied what is is that women and men want. I’m only going to address women here because I am more familiar with that side of the business.
These boiler rooms have pre-fab profiles often stolen from other profiles. (I once had a profile of a guy in Los Angeles say his favorite restaurant in LA was one that I know is in South Carolina. He’d lifted the profile of someone from there without editing it.) But the profiles are at least complete. These men say that they are looking for loyal and faithful and “God-fearing” women. That’s a tip off. It’s a rare American man who will say that unless he’s on Christian Mingle. The majority of these men have a specific profile. They say they have been tragically widowed and left to care for one child. In all the years I have been on dating sites, I have run across ONE SINGLE REAL WIDOWER. So it’s a pretty good bet if he says his wife died of cancer or in a plane crash, he’s probably not real.
The first thing dating site scammers will ask you is to communicate OFF of the dating site where they have more control. Then they will ask for your phone number and call you. Mine called me every day. I can’t remember the last time I had a real man call me every day. He’d ask about my life and show concern. But he was stuck in Dubai for the moment. Not to bright scammers will say they are on a project in Africa. But I’ve had men claim to be checking the family diamond minds, digging for oil, finishing contracts. And the date of return continues to be extended for all sorts of reasons: poor guy got mugged and all his money and his passport were taken. He’s in the hospital with appendicitis. His mother is sick.
Then they drop the bomb: they ask for money. Just enough to get a plane ticket or bail, pay the hospital, whatever. And they use emotional blackmail. Lots of “love is unconditional and you’d send the money.” As I told mine, love is NOT unconditional, that’s a fairy tale. Your boyfriend cheats on you, do you keep him? He hits you? I could go on and on. Probably the only thing close to unconditional love is between parent and child. It is not because patsy and scammer. But these men are so attractive and so attentive. They say what we want to hear and it’s hard to accept that they are lying. Here’s the deal: if a man can’t go out with you within 3 weeks, forget about him. He’s likely a scammer. If he isn’t a scammer, he doesn’t put much effort into a relationship, enough to make time for a 15 minute coffee date.
And how many men here on dating websites put in the amount of time a scammer does to entice a woman? At least half the profiles I see haven’t been filled out. Some are filled out partly. (Tip: if you leave out certain things it sends clear messages: no height? The person is short. No essay? The writer is too busy or lazy. Like a comb-over, it immediately telegraphs just what the owner doesn’t’ want the other party to know. Photos are taken so far back that you can only see the landmark behind the person. Or he’s with 3 other men and you don’t know which one he is. Or worst yet, he posts a penis photo. (That’s another issue for another day.) Scammers find GOOD photos of men, often playing with kids or animals, their (stolen) faces clear and smiling. They start with “Hello dear” and a long letter talking about themselves. American men under 80 do not call women “dear.” All those years of English grammar in school—now is the time to use them. There are weird difference between languages. Like in Chinese, an item is not plural; you see “She owned 5 dog.” No “s”. And only a few American men take the time to write lengthy letters. You are more likely to get a note that says, “Hi, how are you?” than a page of a life story. Note that nothing in this letter refers back to YOUR profile. That’s because this letter is a boiler plate. The same one is sent to many women.
When it comes down to it, the scammer has chosen you because you look affluent. You may seem a little sad from a divorce or death. Be diligent. Always ask where the scammer lives. I had one this week who claimed to live on McCadden which is in Hancock Park. When I asked his cross street, he was totally stymied. I guess they don’t use crosswalks to navigate in their worlds. Then he told me it was in the San Gabriel Valley. They he said it was Arcadia. He would have kept going but I cut him off. It might sound mean but if your inner gut is telling you something is wrong, LISTEN. This guy had a weird accent. I asked where he was from. Told me his father was German and other from the UK. That was NOT what I was hearing. German has had syllables and this guy’s words were smooth as silk, very African.
In other words, in cyberdating, protect yourself. Meet in a public place. And if you get stood up, he may have been a scammer. Don’t ever send money to strangers. And turn them in when you find them. Help other daters from getting conned. You may not stop the scammer, but you can slow him down and make him work harder.
Tracy Schiff was an Associate Editor on the brief lived “Great Expectations Magazine” for the first major video dating service. She has an MFA in Fiction Writing and has sold and/or published stories, articles, screenplays, poems, even a letter to the editor in “The New York Times”. She is single and has been on a number of dating sites for far too long.