What Is It About Me That Attracts Scammers?

I am beginning to think of myself as ‘The Nigeria Connection’. It seems I have a way of attracting scammers who want me to send money to Nigeria, or are living in Nigeria, and want to meet me. We all know where this is leading and it is not a pretty picture.

Recently, at a screenwriting class at my shop, I talked about my book, “The Unfaithful Widow”, and the section on my ill-fated online dating experiences. Lately Nigeria has played heavily into the e-mails I receive. One of the students was a lovely young author living in the metro Atlanta area.  “I’m from Nigeria!” She touched my arm and then started laughing. “You need to write about this!”

“It gets worse!” She had me giggling. “I’ve now gotten an e-mail with Nigeria in it on my car listed with Auto Trader!”

So on the suggestion of my new friend, this is the topic of my post today!

At first these e-mail annoyed me, then I learned to play with them, and finally, maybe, I’ve matured. I’ve learned to leave well enough alone and hit the ‘delete’ key to trash the e-mails.

I am not easily duped, and I don’t take dating seriously. I don’t have time to date at this stage of my life, opening a shop, and writing a new book. I write about the fact I ‘think’ about dating, more than wanting to date. But because I still ‘think’ about it, I keep popping up on the on-line dating sites, a month here, a month there. I never stay long and usually cancel out before my thirty days are up. It is a nice break when I am writing late at night to log on a dating site and shop for men. It is cheaper than logging onto Ebay and really shopping. Add a glass of sherry to the mix, and well, what can I say.

I also have a theory that since I am over sixty, and a widow, to some stupid (which is the kindest word I can think of) men, I fall into the category of old, alone, and if they are lucky, rich. I am none of the above. But I do think the combination of words, sixty-plus and widow, attracts a certain type of male predator. I’ve had this discussion with other women in the over sixty category trying online dating. Many of them have had success stories, some have had a few bad episodes, but they never turned into a harmful experience, because a family member interfered and stopped them from going further. But NONE have had the Nigeria connection I have.

Eight months ago I received a ‘flirt’ from a man who lived in Atlanta with his two children. He was very attractive with that All-American football hero look. He spoke kindly of his children. Then he suggested I write to his Yahoo e-mail address. He was so sincere, I thought, why not. The private message from Yahoo explained that while he lived in Atlanta, he was currently working in Nigeria, and was trying to get money together to fly home. “I feel certain there is a connection between us, I just need air fare.”

Red Flag! I called my best friend and we laughed. “Write him back. Tell him to send you a plane ticket to visit him.” Her advice sounded good. I did just that. Never heard from him again.

The next time I was on a dating site, a blond cowboy type sent an e-mail. He was charming. We exchanged several e-mails and then he wanted to text me. I gave him my cell and several texts came in. He wanted to call me. I let him. My blond cowboy had a heavy Middle Eastern accent that did not go with that photo. “I’ve posted more photos on-line” the deep voice informed me. I went to look and sure enough, he had. The cowboy was in a full model pose and, I swear I’d seen him in a magazine before. A quick text back informed him I knew he was not the man in the photo and I would report him to the police. I have to admit at that moment I was nervous he had my phone number. But that didn’t stop me from adding my two cents worth. I suggested that if he was going to use a fake identity, to use a photo that matched his voice. I never heard from him again.  I don’t think it was the police threat as much as my advice. He probably wrote me off as a nut job.

I had several more e-mails of men pretending to be someone they were not, and all had jobs in Nigeria, and family they wanted to come home to visit. Meeting me was also a high priority.

I decided it was time to have a little fun with this. I redid my profile. My header, “Looking To Visit Nigeria”. The body of my profile explained I had come to realize many handsome, American men were living and working in Nigeria. I’d like to meet one. I was a rich widow, but my money was tied up in real estate and the stock market. If the right man came along, I’d like a plane ticket to visit him. Just send the money and I will hurry to be with my true love. I added, “I am not sure what the wardrobe requirements are in Nigeria, but if you send extra money, I will buy something to please.”

Some of you are shaking your heads wondering if I am sane. I am not late at night. But a gal has to have some fun. I eagerly waited for Match to put up my profile. After all the messages I received from men in Nigeria, Match screened my profile and declined posting it. I am sure I had many key words that sent up a flare to them. Nice to know they do follow through on checking their profiles. I guess they have no control over the correspondence that goes back and forth.

Last month I decided it was time to sell my 79 Corvette Stingray. It was a key character in my book, but after three years I rarely drive it. I thought selling it would be money I could put towards my new shop. I listed the car on Auto Trader, feeling I was in a safe place.

The first, and only, interest came from a gal in England named Chloe. “I’d love to buy your car for my husband as a birthday surprise. He is currently working in Nigeria. If you can guarantee that the car is in good condition, and send me all your Pay Pal information, I will include shipping charges, as well as your full price, and send a shipper to pick up the car.” I know that somehow my Pay Pal account would be in jeopardy, someone might get the car, but I was still in the dark on how this would shake down.

Since I listen to signs from the universe, I decided the universe wants me to keep my car. I deleted the e-mail. I am making an appointment to have a new battery put in the vette (it has been sitting way too long and the battery dead) and I am going to start driving it, leaving my van at home. Perhaps I’ll find that cowboy on my own!

Online dating can be fun. It can be dangerous. I have made it a point if someone wants to use a private e-mail immediately, or wants to instant message me, or if there is anything else that even causes me to question it, I stop in my tracks. It is easy to put up a fake profile. Some dating sites protect their member’s photos from being copied, yet on other sites, you can simply right click a photo, save it, and use it to set up a false identity. Another gal I talked with was writing to a man in South Georgia. He gave her the name of a company where he worked. The name checked out, but when she talked to the man behind the name, he was not the person on the dating site. His identity had been stolen. Always report a profile that is suspicious.

The latest tonight, and yes, I tried again, took me by surprise. I thought I’d heard it all.  The man wrote me he thought my profile was nice. His profile was nice, but there was no photo. I did not read all his information, but wrote back, “No photo, no interest.”

“Did you understand what I wrote?” he replied. I went back and looked at his full profile. It ended with, “My job has me working with an Internet fraud agency, therefore legally I can not post my photo. Please do not ask me to, as I can’t compromise my job.”

True or false? A new one for me. At least he lived in Virginia.

Actually, many of my friends have met their mates through on-line dating services. One did a full background check on her guy before they met in person. She told him about the background check on their first date. He laughed. His sister had run a background check on her. They are now happily married.

I do believe in true romance, so every so often I try online dating again. I never meet single men in real time. My advice to anyone who wants to try the different dating services be alert to warning signs. If a doubt enters your mind, listen to it. Our first reactions are sometimes the best. Never reply to anyone who wants money, personal information too soon, and always meet in a safe place. My rule of thumb when I first started dating as a widow, was to let a friend know who and where I was meeting. I wanted there to be a starting place if I didn’t come home!

One young man I recently talked to about his dating experiences gave me the other side of the story. “I hate to go to a girl’s house without having many dates. You never know what is on the other side of the door when you enter.”

Good to know that sometimes it is a two-way street.

Thinking about dating again at sixty-three is a life scam of its own! But sometimes it feels good to be back in the game!

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Barbara Barth, CEO of Life

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