Dear Nadia, I Have a Dating Dilemma

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Decisions, decisions. Dating is fraught with judgment calls, gut calls, and dilemmas. How do you check out a guy you met in real life? When should you let a guy pick you up at your place or drop by to see you? When do you have sex?

It’s good to talk about these issues with friends and sometimes friends ask me for advice. So, sit back and try some goat cheese and arugula pasta salad while I share a recent exchange with a gal pal. Identifying details have been altered for privacy.

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Dear Nadia, 

As I mentioned, I met this guy, Max, last Saturday while on a Meetup bike ride. We hung out after the ride over lunch – and had a really nice time. I gave him my e-mail and phone number and he emailed me this week. 

Max lives in Baltimore but will be driving through my area this Friday to leave his dog with his sister since he’s going out of town. He suggested swinging by my place on his way. I told him that I live in Kensington. Max works for the Department of Homeland Security and has a high security clearance – so he probably knows my address, favorite color, and everything else about me!

Do you have any good background checking tools? I know his full name, age, and address, which check out, but don’t know anything else. DHS doesn’t have a detailed staff directory online. It seems a bit preliminary to have him come to my house, although maybe he’s trying to make it easy for me. I could meet him at a restaurant or park since he’ll have his dog with him (a yellow lab, I believe).

Aargh…when did dating get so hard?!

Lily

Dear Lily,

Yes, dating IS hard…but in fact you met Max the old fashioned way, which makes it a bit simpler.  For instance, you have some good basic info that has checked out!  To add to the information you have, you could use some of the same tactics I use with an online match when I have very little to go on.

Checking out a guy you met in real life

You could run his Meetup picture through Google image search and see what pops up.  If you haven’t already done so, I suggest separate web searches of his name, phone number, and email address.

Another tactic is checking out Max’s public Facebook page. I think FB collects info on someone’s page visitors so at some point Max might see you in his “People You May Know” alerts but that could happen in other ways too. You could also temporarily change your privacy settings on LinkedIn and anonymously check out his profile.

The purpose of all of this investigation is not to find out every last detail about him but to make sure there are no red flags. Once I have enough information to know that a guy is who he says he is, and there are no concerns, I stop sleuthing.   Too much probing can spoil the all important fun and discovery phase of a relationship. It really is best to learn about a person organically in a face-to-face encounter.

I have used Intelius and Spokeo to run preliminary background checks on matches.  Neither one of these search engines is perfect in terms of accuracy and depth of information but they have proven useful on occasion. I let my subscriptions to these services lapse because I found I could gather most information on my own for free.  I also realized that my gut is fairly accurate!

If marital status is a concern, you could search for evidence of his divorce. Most states have free, public divorce records.

Some additional resources that are likely not necessary in your case:

*Scam digger picture search

*You can check his email address on this romance scam site

When should you let a guy pick you up for a date?

Since you asked for advice, I’ll put on my Jewish mother hat to say that on a few occasions I have been okay with a guy picking me up for a second date at my house but I usually wait until the third date. Sometimes the second date is a deal-breaker and I want to be able to leave if it’s not going well.

I make the “pick me up” decision on a case-by-case basis. This decision is based on how much I know/have found out about a man and my gut impression of the guy.

So, if you feel comfortable, you could certainly say okay to him dropping by. Or you could just offer to meet him at the park or for a drink.

However, at this point, I feel he should ask you out – not just drop by on his way to somewhere else. It feels like he’s doing what’s convenient  – not making a concerted effort to see you and take you out!

Dating computer experts and guys with security clearances

The other issue is dating someone who has a high security clearance or is a computer expert and could do a better background check on you than you could on him! I have gone out with some guys who fall into that category. I never had evidence that they out-sleuthed me but it’s entirely possible. I tell myself that, like me, they want to know whom they’re dealing with…and then I forget about their possible channeling of Sherlock Holmes.

For future reference, here are links to some of my blog posts on security in online dating:

A brief encounter with a catfisher

Catfishing and lessons from a millennial

A bad bagel on Coffee Meets Bagel

Tips for safe online dating

Dating tips and tricks

Dating safety, security, and truth-in-advertising

Keep me posted on Max, Lily!

Hugs,

Nadia

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Dear readers, send me your dating dilemmas and I’ll try to respond in a future blog post!

Until next week, happy dating or not dating!

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

I’ve Been Revoked: the Debut of a New Dating Term

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Online dating has brought me some choice experiences. No, that’s not what I’m talking about! Get your mind out of the gutter (at least for the moment). Much to my dismay, I have been ghosted (someone I dated suddenly stopped all contact) and I have interacted with a catfish (a guy who created a false online identity). Now, I have also been ”revoked.”

I am coining this new term based on recent experiences with the Bumble dating app. Bumble is a Tinder-like app where you swipe right if you like someone. If two people like each other, they get a notice that they are a match. What’s different about Bumble is that only the woman can initiate contact. If the woman doesn’t message her “match” in 24 hours, the connection disappears and communication is not possible.

Let’s have some honey cake in honor of being revoked on Bumble.

You ask, what is revoked? It is the delightful experience of corresponding with a guy, setting up a specific date, and having him cancel before the date. Cancellation could be 1 hour before the date, 10 minutes, or 2 days. And yes, these time frames are based on my experiences.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words of a blog post, let me show you a recent exchange with Mr. B.

Bumble message from Mr B for blog

Mr. B. sent this message 2 days before our scheduled date. After some back and forth, our date had been finalized on Saturday – 5 days ahead of time. Surely, one would know the date of a regular monthly poker game, particularly 5 days before it was to occur. And would guys really schedule a poker game for 4 pm, the time of our first meeting/date? I pondered this and wondered why he couldn’t tell the guys he’d be a little late for the game and meet me for an hour. That’s a perfect length for a first date/meeting.

Even before his cancellation, I was a little wary of Mr. B. Like a number of Bumble (and Tinder) profiles, his bio had zero information other than his first name, job info, age, and college – all pulled from Facebook. I asked for his phone number and did a reverse number check to find his full name so I could do a little fact checking beforehand.

Mr. B had a whistle clean Facebook page, pretty much a blank slate. This gave me pause. I pondered some more. I wondered if the reason he was so unavailable when we were trying to schedule a meeting was because he was married or dating around.

To top if off, this was the 3rd time I’d been Revoked on Bumble. I was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore. Or at least I was going to have some fun.

I decided to blow him off with what I thought was an equally implausible reason to cancel. So I wrote back:

bumble msg from me

Before I wrote this, I made sure there were local pole dancing classes. There are classes and there’s even a pole dancing Meetup. I thought it would be pretty obvious that I was mocking him. Not that taking a pole dancing class lacks credibility but I thought it was such a wild, out of the ordinary excuse that he would know I was making it up.

I was wrong:

bumble msg 3

 

He believed my excuse. Or he really likes the idea of me pole dancing. I didn’t respond to his text about finding a day and time to meet. He followed up two days later and suggested meeting next Tuesday. He’s obviously not in any hurry. (Possible wife or girlfriend? Check.)

I wonder if I agreed to meet, would something else come up? Perhaps a video game night with “the boys.”

I don’t plan to respond to Mr. B. Instead, I think I’ll look for a pole dancing class that meets next Tuesday.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating — or pole dancing.

XXXOOO

Nadia

P.S. I like the concept and application of Bumble despite the Revoked experience. Not sure why this happened 3 times in a row but I think it’s a random issue, not a problem with the app. Readers, if any of you are using Bumble, I’d love to know about your experiences. Listen to Women of Uncertain Age to hear about a Bumble encounter related to ghosting…or not ghosting. You decide.

A Bad Bagel on Coffee Meets Bagel

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Although I frequently encounter online dating scammers via email, I finally had the “pleasure” of speaking to one on the phone.

Mr. O was my first “match” or connection on Coffee Meets Bagel, a dating app I recently downloaded to my phone (for a review of other apps, see Dating Sites and Apps: A Rodeo Roundup). For those unfamiliar with this free app, it provides daters with a section for a brief profile and photo and sends you a daily match or “bagel” at noon, provided the bakers or rather matchmakers in charge find someone for you. If there are no quality bagel matches, CMB may send you some “also rans.” You can take these imperfect matches or give them away to your friends. Unfortunately, there are no options to search on your own.

From our first exchange, I was a bit suspicious of Mr. O but I found his profile and photos appealing. I decided to play along safely for a while to confirm my suspicions – or not – and flex my investigative muscles. I hoped I would be proven wrong and that Mr. O was the real deal.

Let’s have some vegetable torte while I tell you this tale.

The Mr. O interlude was a slow unveiling of some odd, unusual or inconsistent “facts” that one/I could easily overlook in a search for romance.

For example his profile claimed two bachelors degrees – one from the University of Stavenger in Norway and one from the University of Sydney. In an early email, I asked Mr. O if he was Australian given the Sydney degree. He wrote that he had taken a short course there. Despite this inconsistency, I forged ahead.

Mr. O wrote he was Hungarian and noted that people had a hard time understanding him in conversation because of his accent. When I was confused about something he wrote, he asked me to remember that English is not his first language. Of course, that’s a ready-made excuse to explain inconsistencies.

Here’s a quick round up of other troubling details, provided for your learning pleasure.

  • Despite two bachelor’s degrees (or not depending on whether the Australian stint was a class or a degree), Mr. O wrote that he had been in the gem stone business before becoming a contractor in the construction field. During one of our two phone calls he revealed he was a civil engineer. There’s nothing wrong with being an engineer but this occupation seems to be the fake job of choice of scammers. And the gem stone business is a rather exotic and unusual job that got me wondering.
  • On two occasions, Mr. O referred to his efforts to secure funding for his construction projects. A need for funds is associated with scamming. I also don’t think of civil engineers as people who do project fund raising.
  • Mr. O’s profile said he lived in Delaware and yet his cell phone number was from North Carolina. When I texted him about this, he didn’t respond but transitioned to another topic.
  • He didn’t pick up on any of my witty banter (one could argue that might only mean he is humorless) or my banter is lacking.
  • He was widowed 10 years ago and had not been intimate with anyone since his marriage. Widowed engineers are “classic” scammer types. An update on his sex life was TMI for an early get-acquainted correspondence.
  • Mr. O wrote that he was a cancer survivor. Along with being a widower, surviving great personal tragedy is another favorite story of scammers.
  • During our second phone conversation, Mr. O said he travels all over the world for his work and was planning a trip to Singapore. International travel alone is not a reason to indict someone but it falls into the common profile of a scammer, along with widowed engineers.
  • There were lots of clichés in his emails. How many times have you seen this line or a version of it?

“There is nothing finer than a woman who looks good in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and can still dress up for a formal party when the occasion calls for it.”

Before our phone conversation, I dutifully searched Mr. O’s email address and cell phone number as well as unique sections of his profile on Google and romancescam. I searched his phone number on a security ID site. I wanted to search his photos on Google image search and TinEye. However, since there is no online version of Coffee Meets Bagel, I couldn’t save his photos from a web site. So I used my iPad to take a photo of Mr. O’s profile photo on my phone and then cropped it in iPhoto – creating a searchable jpeg file. Still nothing.

During our second phone call, however, I noticed Mr. O’s Hungarian accent periodically drifting into an African one. (Quick aside: if you ever want to identify an accent, check out this website with recordings — http://www.dialectsarchive.com.)

The accent shifting fueled my determination. I had to out him. I went back to romance scam and searched several unique sentences in the emails he sent me. One of the excerpts was a match. Mr. O was a known scammer.

A eureka moment like this is more sad and frustrating than joyful. Even when you’re suspicious of someone, your heart can start to engage.

It took awhile but I’m finally an experienced dater. So here are the dichotomies. I am not only more aware of and able to detect falseness but I’m also more vulnerable. I may have a discerning eye but I’m also tired of the game and willing to overlook some details.

Scamming aside, I am more likely to consider someone who at first glance might not seem like a match. I wonder if there’s a potentially good book underneath that used, slightly tattered cover. But I’ll also make damned sure that the book isn’t plagiarized.

Postscript of safety measures taken:

I always kept my guard up with Mr. O. I did not reveal my last name and used my dating email address. After finding sections of his email on romance scams, I blocked his number on my cell phone and set up a filter so I didn’t have to see any future correspondence.

If you enjoyed this post or past ones, please subscribe to this blog. For those who like to read everything on a kindle, Dating, Sex, and Life in your 60s is now available as a kindle blog.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating!

XXXOOO

Nadia

A Curious Addiction

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We have all heard of computer game addiction, social media addiction, and online dating addiction. Online dating addiction refers to people who can’t stop searching for the next best thing – someone new to date even if they have met and started dating a great match. Online dating check-in addiction is a variant that I have discovered…because I am suffering from it.

It started out innocently enough — checking my matches and my dating in-boxes while having my morning coffee. I’d follow up later that evening with a “peak time” check-in around 6 p.m. Then, it progressed to checking, browsing, and proactive emailing before bedtime.

So, that was 3 times a day — plus time spent responding to any emails received in between those time periods. I was starting to feel like a blackberry-addicted worker, but wait it gets worse.

Since I’m an early riser, I have my morning coffee pretty early – sometimes 6:30 a.m. So I reasoned that I really should check the dating sites again at 8:00 a.m. since a lot of guys might be online at that time.

Then I thought, “Well a lot of men who are still working and not retired like I am are often online at lunch time…so I should see if they are viewing me. Maybe if I reach out at this time of day, I will get some good responses.”

I now had a 5-times-a-day habit. I then progressed to hardcore addiction – checking about once an hour. I often checked from my phone or iPad and I started to get carpal tunnel syndrome and finger stiffness from too much searching and typing on mini-keyboards.

Did I appear to be “always online” to potential dates? Did it matter? Did they think I was online responding to hundreds of emails from the gorgeous guys flooding my inbox? Who knows? Doubtful anyone was tracking my viewing habits! Plus they were likely responding to hundreds of emails from gorgeous women. This irrational thinking is characteristic of someone with an addiction issue.

I was starting to feel a pronounced and almost constant craving to check the latest happenings on my sites. It was time for an intervention. However, I hadn’t told anyone about this problem, so I would have to intervene with myself. Can this be done without an element of surprise and friends and family showing up unexpectedly at my house?

Yes. It’s called willpower.

So I reached deep last weekend when I did not have a date (note that the addiction intensifies during a dating dry spell) and vowed to check only two times a day – first thing in the morning and right before bedtime. It worked! That Saturday I felt free and when I finally checked, it was so nice to see the emails and views. By letting them “pile up,” there were more to ponder and respond to. Wonderful.

But when Sunday rolled around, I felt the old craving return. I thought, “What’s the harm in looking during lunchtime?” So I did. Then I thought, “It’s Sunday mid-afternoon. Guys are thinking about the week ahead and I should see what’s happening online.” Well you know the rest of the story.

Just like a cigarette smoker often has to quit a number of times before there’s a breakthrough, I had to try again and I am happy to say that I am not checking my inbox as frequently. This may be partially due to the fact that I am fed up with the latest wave of wannabe scammers reaching out to me (see my post on online security) and I don’t even want to check! I also am trying to fill my time with other activities – the way a smoker might take up yoga or running to reduce the craving. So life goes on.

Has anyone else experienced online dating check-in addiction? I would love to know if/how you cured it.

Until next week, happy dating – or not dating!
XXXOOO
Nadia

Security Check: Tips for Safe Online Dating and Avoiding Dating Scams

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:

  1. His profile is poorly written (improper syntax and grammar, lots of typos, unusual phrasing)
  2. The man is a widower working in the oil or engineering industry (often internationally)
  3. He immediately wants to get off of the dating site to correspond via personal email or text
  4. He is a hot, handsome hunk – looks like a GQ model or movie star
  5. 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
  6. He shares a personal tragedy or difficulty via his profile or an early email
  7. His profile contains inappropriate comments on serious situations – see profile quote of the week below
  8. He’s looking for a woman within a wide age range (40 years)
  9. He uses a lot of trite phrases: “Love is magical to me”
  10. Something tells you, “This is not right.” Trust your gut.

Top 10 Tips for Safe Online Dating:

  1. Perform a Google search of distinctive sentences or phrases from his profile
  2. Perform a Google search of his screen name (I found one man was using the same screen name on a sex oriented dating site)
  3. Save and search his photos on Google Image Search and TinEye.
  4. 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
  5. 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!
  6. 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
  7. Search the man’s photos and sections of his profile on romancescam.com and Pigbusters
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

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