When I was online dating I learned rather quickly how to recognize a scam/con artist. Common sense, gut reaction and general knowledge enabled me to spot the fake profiles nearly immediately. Moreover, I expected them. In online dating they are as common as ticks on a mangy dog, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when one popped up. Two weeks ago, however, I was startled–when I encountered the same breed of liar on Instagram. (And here I thought it was just a site for sharing pictures? Techno-idiot!)

Here’s a test, ladies. The actual, verbatim (nothing has been changed) text conversation I had with a guy who was following (and supposedly just liking) my photos of European destinations and the occasional picture tying in to a post on “sucks.” See if you can spot the red flags . . . BTW, my responses are the ones in italics.

Hi How’re you doing?

I’m sorry, do I know you?

Sorry hill, I was just browsing through when across your profile and I decided to contact you.

And you are?

I’m Michael Richard by name and am from United State, reside at Washington DC but am presently in Afghanistan with the United Nation (U.N.) Soldier. I’m an Orthopedic Surgeon.

Really?

Yes. (Insert red heart) What’s your profession and where do you reside?

I’m afraid your grammar doesn’t jive with your claim, Michael or whatever your name is. Nice try.

Pardon . . . What are you trying to say?

Let me spell it out for you . . . S…C…A…M

Good girl with nice spelling, so you can spell very well.

Goodbye

Alright then, have a good day.

Some additional details about “Michael Richard?” His profile picture is of a handsome dark-haired man wearing a red shirt. His Instagram photos number a total of two. One is another of “himself ”– or at least the same person, wearing a white lab coat that appears almost dingy in contrast to his sparkling WHITE teeth. He’s posed, dashingly holding the ends of a stethoscope hanging around his neck. The other photo is of a sculpture of a woman’s head. He has 18 followers and 193 following—everyone is female.

So . . . red flags? The spelling and grammar mistakes should have been your first clues. Scammers are often based overseas in foreign countries—Nigerian Prince scam, anyone? Yep. Gotta love that World Wide Web thing! For these scum, English is a second language. Ergo, such idiomatic errors as “by name” & “reside at.” Awkward and/or too formal phrasing and the absence of the “s” in pluralization, i.e. “United State” & “United Nation” were additional clues the person writing me is not the mom, apple pie and 4th of July patriotic all-American toothpaste ad doctor he claims to be. Context of the message is further proof. He provides a compelling bio—handsome doctor serving in a war zone, just lonely and reaching out. Ahhhh . . . what red-blooded American woman wouldn’t be touched—and flattered, right? WRONG! You’ll notice, as well, he addressed me as “hill.” Really? Either he has no clue that’s not a given name –or he didn’t care to ask or clarify. He wanted to know what I do and where I live. $$$$$$$$

I wrote several chapters in I Still Want Fireworks (my humor memoir on online dating available on Amazon) regarding dating site frauds, scams and cons. I also provided comprehensive lists of dos and do nots, common sense rules and safety tips. The need to educate yourselves is real, ladies! In 2014, in the US alone, romance scammers swindled over $86 M from their victims. And that was only from the 6000 who actually reported being scammed. Most experts agree women in the 50-70 age range are the most susceptible group to fall victim to an internet dating site scam or fraud. Let’s be real, we’re the ones more likely to be lonely and have $$$$$$.

I know, believe me. Attention from an attractive man is intoxicating. But like alcohol, that euphoria can dull good sense and elicit reckless behavior.  Before you start something you may later regret, remember these four anti-fraud rules:

  • Too good to be true is rarely true. If a soul-mate connection occurs fast—honey, it’s likely not fate—it’s fraud!!
  • Watch out for those slick, professional photos that look like magazine ads—they probably are.
  • If he’s traveling or residing out of the country  . . . Let’s just say I’ve got queen-size comforters smaller than THAT red flag!
  • Look for linguistic anomalies, vocab that is “off” and grammar that doesn’t fit his professed profession.

The FBI has a website to reports such scams. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ics.gov . Use it.

Oh, and Michael Richard? He has a new photo posted—standing in a green field with a shirt and tie, his sports coat nattily hanging from a finger over his shoulder. Afghanistan, my ass! I reported his to Instagram.

 

Postscript: Michael Richard has a new photo on Instagram, a decade older photo in a dress naval uniform leaning over (visiting) a child in a hospital bed. I’ll admit, I’m a little confused now. I’m beginning to think this man is real enough–but someone has either stolen photos from his profile somewhere else, or hacked into his Instagram account. In the off chance I’m totally wrong, I offer an apology to M. R. I’m standing firm, however, in regard to my suspicions about his texts to me. Call me cynical . . . but if something online feels “off,” it usually is . . .

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