As someone who watched TV detective shows in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I entertained a fantasy of being a private investigator – a female version of The Saint or the PI in Hawaiian Eye. Online dating provides me with the opportunity to finally flex my investigative muscles.
Through regular sleuthing exercises, I developed a system to reduce contact with and possibly totally avoid men who conduct online dating scams. For the purpose of this blog post, a dating scam refers to the creation of a false online identity in order to obtain money or for some other dishonorable purpose.
This system (really a series of steps) may take more time than you’d like to spend but it saves hours in emails, phone calls, and meetings with men who misrepresent themselves. Most importantly, it prevents you from getting emotionally invested in someone who is not real.
Pass the grated pecorino for today’s pasta lunch and I’ll share what I do. This is a long conversation; you may need seconds.
A Case Study: Suspicions Aroused
Coincidental to the writing of this blog post, I received a notice from OkCupid that a particular match and I liked each other. Let’s call this guy Dick (as in Tricky and all off-color puns acceptable).
As soon as I read Dick’s profile, I thought, “This guy’s a scammer.” His profile makes a good case study because the contents and approach are suspicious.
Here’s what gave me pause:
- A writing style only an ESOL teacher could love. Excerpts:
- “Swimming, basketball, getting my hands dirty with house work and changing car oils and also enjoy singing alone at nights.”
- “I would love to share about my experience in my first and last relationship which ended three years ago.”
- A job in the crude oil industry. Scammers who have reached out to me typically are engineers, or have a job in the oil industry, or are in “construction.” This is a common tactic.
- A bizarre personal story. Most of Dick’s profile consisted of his tale about losing his first and only love. This account was unbelievable, too personal to share on a dating site, and written in what can only be described as halting English.
Below are some verbatim excerpts from the story, including typos and grammatical errors. I bolded a few red flags such as the “fact” that a 59-year-old man had only dated once, the love of Dick’s life was named “Beauty,” and Beauty was buried a few weeks after her death
- “I have only dated once and I was deceived and cheated on by death three years ago.
- “Her name is Beauty. We met at a friends Barbecue Party for the first time during summer at Brooklyn, New york. (Love at first sight), We started talking and began to like each other. After talking for about a week or so and also hanging out, and meeting her family. I fell in love with her and we became official lovers and I couldn’t have been happier.
- “After a few months, I was totally and completely immerse in love with her and it was so perfect and loving
- “One day. Beauty picked me up from work to have lunch and go get her valentine dress. everything was normal and we joke and laughed together. We drove to stop to get her valentine dress. After choosing the dress, We drove back to my office and she drove back to hers and on her way going back, she was involve in a car accident.
- “She was hit by a truck driver, who has an heart attack. I was called some minutes later, while I was in a Board Meeting with the company partners. I had to leave the conference room and went straight to the hospital and saw her giving up and the last words. She said was I am sorry! I could not take the pains. I had to cry my eyes out.
- “Few weeks later, She was buried. I wept for nights and days and it took me months to move on with my life and the help of both families , therapist and Psychology.
- “I am ready to love again”
A Case Study: Suspicions Confirmed
Do you believe Dick’s story?
I didn’t believe it but I wanted to prove my suspicions and show you my security process. So I ran through my usual scam busters protocol:
- I copied Dick’s complete profile and pictures into a Word document to help with further research.
- I saved his two pictures (right click, save picture and make sure it’s a jpeg or other picture format file).
- I then went to Google image search and using the upload an image option, I uploaded the pictures (one at a time) so that Google could search the Internet for photo matches.
- The Google image search didn’t turn up anything so I did an image search using another web site called TinEye. Again, nothing!
- I was getting frustrated. I knew Dick was a phony so I went to romancescam.com. First, I searched for Dick’s photos using romancescam.com’s affiliate site scamdigger . Nothing came up so I searched for excerpts from his profile. Still nothing, nada, zilch!
- I then searched his dating user name on romancescam.com.
The site directed me to an affiliated online identity service. The identity service pulled up one of Dick’s pictures on OkCupid and found 3 online profiles and 9 photos and videos. However, since scammers usually steal people’s photos, these profiles are probably connected to Dick’s real identity — not the fake identity he created using the name Dick and someone else’s photo. Reread this last sentence if confused.
I don’t have an account with the particular identity service affiliated with romancescam.com so I couldn’t access the additional profiles identified. I pay for two other “identity verification” services but neither one of them allow you to search by user name, which was all I had at this early stage. (Note to self – investigate other services.)
- Finally, I used Google to search a key sentence from Dick’s profile (a tactic I should have started with but one that doesn’t always pay off): “We met at a friends Barbecue Party for the first time during summer at Brooklyn, New york.” Google directed me to Pigbusters, a group dedicated to increasing scam awareness. Pigbusters is part of a web site called You’re IT!, a scam-free social networking site.
BINGO! There was Dick’s story of love derailed by a truck driver. It was presented by a woman who referred to Dick as a scammer already listed on the Pigbusters site. The photos he sent her were different from the ones on Dick’s OkCupid profile. These guys change parts of their profiles from time to time and steal new photos. But Dick’s main story was verbatim.
Sleuth but Don’t Tell
It goes without saying that you don’t need to sleuth unless you are interested in someone (or plan to blog about him). Also, scammers are everywhere. I have identified scammers on all of the dating sites that I currently or have belonged to. A recent series by John Kelly in The Washington Post reports on a scammer who was on Match.com.
Once you find out someone is a scammer or has a false identity, there are several things you can/should do, including:
- Stop contact with him
- Report the man to the dating site
- Report the man to romancescam.com or Pigbusters
- Contact the police if you gave him money.
The romancescam.com forum rules advise people to not tell scammers they are listed on the romance scam site. They also recommend not confronting the scammer.
Here’s what romancescam.com says about not confronting a scammer:
“If you tell him you know he’s a scammer, he’ll deny it profusely to you and practice his lying skills over and over. He may not succeed in convincing you, but he’s learning all the while what works and what doesn’t. He’ll be better for his next victim. Aside from that, he’ll want to glean from you HOW you learned he was a scammer, all while he’s denying it. We don’t want him to know this.”
Women are scammers too so these rules apply to both sexes.
Ten Clues you could be in Contact with a Scammer
Here are 10 clues that suggest the man you’re interacting with could be a scammer:
- His profile is poorly written (improper syntax and grammar, lots of typos, unusual phrasing)
- The man is a widower working in the oil or engineering industry (often internationally)
- He immediately wants to get off of the dating site to correspond via personal email or text
- He is a hot, handsome hunk – looks like a GQ model or movie star
- There are inconsistencies in his profile. The quick summary says he has a son but his “about me” section refers to his only child, a daughter
- He shares a personal tragedy or difficulty via his profile or an early email
- His profile contains inappropriate comments on serious situations – see profile quote of the week below
- He’s looking for a woman within a wide age range (40 years)
- He uses a lot of trite phrases: “Love is magical to me”
- Something tells you, “This is not right.” Trust your gut.
Top 10 Tips for Safe Online Dating:
- Perform a Google search of distinctive sentences or phrases from his profile
- Perform a Google search of his screen name (I found one man was using the same screen name on a sex oriented dating site)
- Save and search his photos on Google Image Search and TinEye.
- If an image search reveals the man’s name, follow up with a Google search of his name and check him out on social media sites such as Facebook
- If he has provided his phone number, do a reverse number search. Some online reverse number services are free and actually reveal the person’s name. See okcaller. Unfortunately, your number and name may be online too!
- Since finding the owner of a number is not always free, subscribe to a background check service that will provide a report based on a person’s name, phone number, or screen name
- Search the man’s photos and sections of his profile on romancescam.com and Pigbusters
- If nothing concrete turns up and you feel it is o.k. to meet the man (or you did not feel a need to investigate so thoroughly), make sure you have his phone number and name prior to meeting.
- Meet in a public place and tell a friend or relative where you are going and share the man’s name and number with your friend.
- Check the man’s profile for any updates right up until you get out of the car or subway.
I advise #10 because one early evening as I was headed out the door to meet a man for coffee, he removed his photo from the dating site. I turned right around and texted him to say the date was cancelled. I blocked his phone number, and reported him to the dating site. The site removed his profile a couple of days later. Unfortunately, he returned online with a revamped profile after a couple of weeks (same picture). He reached out to me as if we had never corresponded or agreed to meet. I blocked his profile.
And now, for an irregular feature of Let’s Have Lunch: The Bad Boomer Dating Profile Quote of the Week.
Here’s my find: “I’m widowed for 6 years now! One down and 1 to go.”
Send me your favorite quotes – leave a reply or Tweet using #BadBoomerDatingProfile