Exposing a con: Let the “buyer beware.” Online dating is not for the faint of heart. The individual creating their online persona can portray virtually anything (or anybody) they want to be. For the sake of personal safety, it is up to the user of the online dating service to decide whether that information is factual or conjured in an attempt to mislead or scam.
The very definition of the word “persona” is “a social role or a character played by an actor.” How do you know if that stranger you meet online is a quality person versus a scam artist presenting you with a series of elaborate lies? Let us first admit that self-disclosure leaves us feeling very vulnerable. Many of us who are divorced already have issues with broken trust. The decision I made to try online dating sites was met with much trepidation. I had been warned against online dating altogether by some older married friends. This was quickly disregarded because of the number of couples I know that have met and married from online matches (and who are very happy).
“Andrew” was a nice man new to online dating. He had recently been encouraged by his adult daughter Maria to try one of the top online Christian dating sites. Andrew was a lonely widow whose wife had died 2 years ago of lung cancer and we were the same age. Andrew’s late wife had been the love of his life and he had never been with another woman other than her.
His mother (a U.S. citizen) had gone on a mission trip to Germany and it was there that she met and married Andrew’s father. Andrew and his older sister had grown up in Germany where Andrew met his late wife. Together they had one daughter named Maria. It was in Germany that Andrew went to school and eventually became an electrical engineer. Andrew was nearing retirement when we met on the site and was looking forward to having some one to share his life with and travel with during retirement.
He had owned a home in Franklin, KY when he initially joined the dating site, but had just recently moved to Ypsilanti, MI where he was able to find more work. Andrew was an electrical contractor and was bidding on a huge contract for the building of a new motel. He had an upcoming interview in which he was competing with many other well-qualified electrical contractors for the same job. He asked me to pray for him that he would be awarded this contract. (Of course I promised I would.)
That evening, following the interview, I got a phone call from the very excited Andrew that he had been awarded the contract. He had been awarded an international contract with one of the top international building contractors in the world. He would be in charge of a team of 20 electricians who would do all the electrical work for a huge new motel in Istanbul, Turkey. He would ship all his equipment to the location in advance and then board a plane taking him more than 5,000 miles away until the 30-day electrical wiring contract was completed.
He shared his flight itinerary so I would know where he was and be able to remember him in prayer on his journey. At great expense, he had obtained a special cell phone plan that would enable him to text and call me while he was still in Turkey. He wanted me to know I could call him any time and he would be available to answer. If he was too busy at work when I called, he would simply text me and let me know he would return my call later. I had never met Andrew, but on the return flight at the completion of the contract, he would be making a stop over on his way back to Michigan and we would finally get to meet face to face.
Over the course of a month, I learned that Andrew attended Faithway Baptist Church in Ypsilanti. His favorites were country music, long walks, swimming, picnics, sitting in a swing in the evening and watching the moon rise. He loved to sing, dance, and play in the snow (especially big heavy snowflakes) followed by a mug of hot chocolate. He loved most of all being outdoors in nature. He enjoyed traveling but this would be his first trip ever to Turkey. Andrew’s daughter was a stay-at-home mom and her husband Tom worked for the CDC in Atlanta in special minority programs. He couldn’t wait for me to meet his family and to meet mine as well.
Andrew’s emails and texts were full of Biblical verses as well as all the sweet, endearing things any woman would love to hear from a man courting her from a distance. He wants to know how my day has gone, as well as other small details. After all, to love and be loved is the greatest joy on Earth.
After the first week on the job, I got an email from Andrew telling me he that some of his equipment had broken and couldn’t be repaired. He managed (through his personal assistant) to locate replacements, but mistakenly misplaced his wallet and lost his card and necessary documents. The cost of the equipment would be $13,500, but he only had $10,000 available cash on hand. He was not able to get cash released from his personal bank account because of a different IP address used when setting up the account. Even when he called the bank, they would not release the funds unless he was present in person because that was the agreement he had signed with them. Failure to continue on schedule with the building contract would wreck his professional career and he could actually lose the contract.
The con: Andrew needed me to borrow $3,500 for him so he could purchase the equipment and complete the contract. He was embarrassed to have to ask me to do this for him, but he intended to pay me back with 50% interest. His request was followed by a string of run-on quotes concluding that “No matter how hard things seem, true love will aide us through it.”
Seriously? What kind of sucker did he think I was? Apparently a pretty big one! No, “Andrew” (or whomever he really is) didn’t get a single cent from me. I immediately let him know I was not going to be scammed and then blocked future correspondence from him. However, I wonder how many more women he and other scum bags like him have conned. This guy was not deterred even when he knew I work in law enforcement, take self defense classes and qualify every year on a variety of firearms. He must have had gonads of steel or otherwise little concern I would ever be in close contact with him.
I later learned that “Andrew” had joined the online dating site where we met using someone else’s credit card. This resulted in the site administrator removing him and taking down his profile. I only found this out AFTER the attempted scam. A background check (which I paid for before the attempted scam) showed the name associated with his phone number and email address was “unavailable.” There was no Andrew Moore in either Franklin, KY or Ypsilanti, MI with a household contact or relative named Maria. There was no licensed electrical contractor in either city by that name. There was no one with his son-in-law’s first name working for the CDC who had a wife named Maria. It just didn’t add up. That might explain why I was not all that surprised as I read his email request for money. I wonder if he was surprised when I flatly refused that request and told him I wasn’t falling victim to his scam. Poor fellow! His “professional reputation” just got spoiled along with his scam.
This story is a refresher course in basic personal safety. I shouldn’t have felt the least bit guilty for checking out the information I was given. I sincerely wanted to be able to trust. I wanted to believe “Andrew” was real. I wanted to believe he really cared for me. However, criminals are criminals and most of them have zero conscience. Conning people IS their job and their livelihood. I work with convicted felons on a daily basis. A quote I often hear which fits this scenario perfectly is this: “You can be anything or anybody you want to be 25 miles from home.”
I leave my readers with a few parting cautions:
1) Never, ever, ever share such personal information as your mother’s maiden name! This is a huge personal security breach.
2) When considering online dating, the same caution Jesus gave his 12 Disciples when He sent them out into the world applies to online dating: Matthew 10:16: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Don’t hesitate to do a background check. It is really inexpensive and will be the wisest money you ever spent in personal security. If someone gives you information that doesn’t sound quite right, listen to your gut! It is giving you a “red alert” and you need to listen and protect yourself.
3) Don’t waste your time on someone who “disappears” for a week or so at a time without so much as a text saying “thinking of you.”
4) Don’t waste your time on someone who doesn’t court you openly or who changes plans with you abruptly and suddenly becomes unavailable.
5) Don’t waste your time on bitter or angry people.
6) Don’t waste your time on “legally separated” people. They are married and therefore NOT eligible to date in the first place.
7) Make sure you genuinely match on major points; an 80% match is worth exploring.
8) Don’t give up the search for that special person. Continue to pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in the dating experience. Despite this very negative experience, I still believe there are good people left in the world who are legitimate and single.
I’m not the least bit humiliated or embarrassed in the retelling of this true story. I AM, however, disappointed and angry because someone mistook my kindness for stupidity. Anybody can be the target of an attempted con, but the con doesn’t have to succeed. Despite all the phonies in the world, I am still genuinely a nice, caring and compassionate person. I refuse to allow people like the “Andrews” of the world to cause me to withdraw and isolate myself socially. I have not shed a single tear, nor will I over the loss of a con man. I will, however, be even more shrewd and cautious as I go forward with online dating.
Note: It takes a lot of time to develop an elaborate and believable con. I have exposed one of them by writing this true story and that gives me a great degree of personal satisfaction. It would do no good to share photos of the con man himself, because their faces (& their cons) are constantly changing. I’d love to hear your comments!
Pam Baker, RN
FOLLOW UP to an attempted SCAM:
Since I shared this story, I am amazed at the number of women who have come forward telling me they had almost identically the same scam happen to them. It must have been a very lucrative scam.
I thought you’d enjoy some follow up information. AFTER I sent “Andrew” an email telling him I wouldn’t be sending him money OR falling for his scam, I was surprised that I got a follow up email! In that email he “blames himself for trusting in me” and is disappointed in “what you think about me.” He goes on to say “I don’t believe I deserved this from you” but “you always lack of trust.” He concludes with “May God be with you as always.”
I couldn’t wait to respond! So this is what I replied:
There are so many discrepancies in your story. For example: you have a phone that is untraceable. There is no Andrew Moore in Franklin, KY OR Ypsilanti, MI. There is no professional license or record of you as a contractor. Christian Mingle took down your profile because of fraudulent activity—you didn’t even use your own credit card. There is no Tom with a family member by the name of Maria in the entire employment of the CDC. Your contract is completely bogus. So was your airline itinerary.
Just how naïve do you think I am anyway? I wanted to see just how far you would carry this con. No doubt it was worked well for you in the past.
Yes I was disappointed that there are men who make it their life’s work to prey on women. No I don’t trust you. Thank God I didn’t. I am EXACTLY who I say I am and I have worked hard for every dime I’ve ever earned. There was not one untruthful comment I made to you. One day, if you even have a conscience, you might wish you had a good woman by your side. Maybe not, but either way, I am exposing your con to the public for everybody who wants to read my story. I may even publish your phone number. In fact I may have computer forensics check your IP address to trace you.
Get a real job, whomever you really are and quit taking advantage of people who actually work and earn their money honestly!
Pam (my real name)
If I can save even one woman from being a victim through sharing this story, I will consider it a mission accomplished!
Disclaimer: There is no intent to harm any honest individuals whose names appear in the context of this story, nor any company mentioned within this story. The name “Andrew Moore” was the name given to me, but it is most likely a fictitious name.
Con artists are many and there faces are constantly changing. Therefore the photo included MAY be that of an honest person. Only the con himself knows the answer as lies come easily for them and they continue to be polished.
On a parting note, I doubt you are surprised to hear that “Andrew” never responded to my last message! If you or anybody you know has experienced the scam or one like it, I would love to hear your comments!
Pam Baker, RN
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