Anatomy of a Brief Encounter with a Catfisher

cautious-heart

The Bumble alerts provided the first clue that something might be fishy (as in catfishy) with my new Bumble match. Although his profile said his name was Bill, the alerts referred to him as Evans. I filed that away in my increasingly dating- weary brain while I juggled playing “let’s get to know each other” with impersonating Nancy Drew.

Let’s chow down on some shrimp scampi while reviewing the evidence.

As soon as I matched with Bill last Saturday morning, I followed the Nadia Standard Operating Procedure (NSOP) – a reverse image search of all of his photos on my phone using the Veracity app. There were no matches but that didn’t mean Bill/Evans was legitimate.

We texted and I learned he was a widower. As I’ve written before, catfishers/scammers often say they are widowers. I filed this second piece of evidence away.

After I got another Bumble alert announcing a message from “Evans,” I decided to ask this guy for his last name.

Side note: Lately I have been asking for the last names of any guys I suspect might have a false profile. The men always give me a name (real or not) that I can then research. So far, every suspect dude has turned out to be a scammer that I then report and unmatch.

Dear readers, if you’re unsure about a guy and decide to ask for his last name, here’s a suggested script in case he asks for yours: I’m asking for your last name for safety and security reasons but I don’t give out my last name until after I have met someone in person. If the guy makes it an issue, I say good riddance!

Back to the story: Bill gave me his last name – and it wasn’t Evans. I now had a full name to search. I was particularly motivated since Bill wanted to know what led to my late-in-life divorce. This is not a question to be addressed via text before you have met someone.

I searched Bill’s full name and immediately found his Facebook page – with one of his Bumble profile photos as his main — and only — photo.

Here were the final pieces of incriminating evidence: Bill’s Facebook page was virtually empty except for the one photo, which was loaded a week ago. Where does Bill live? His Bumble profile said Arlington, VA (a suburb not too far from me). Facebook, however, showed his location as San Francisco. The only personal information about Bill was his marital status – widowed — and his employment — “self employed.” There was no mention of the job listed on his Bumble page. Bill had only one Facebook page like – a media company called, Faith, Family America (this would be enough to turn me off regardless of his status as a catfisher).

My work was almost done. I reported Bill to Bumble and unmatched him (after taking a few screen shots of our exchanges to use as notes for this blog post).

It was only 1 in the afternoon but I felt the need for a glass of wine.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Dating Roundup: Safety, Security, and Truth in Advertising

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It’s time to revisit safety, security, and fabricated profiles in online dating. It’s an ever-present topic for me as I sift through profiles and interact with matches. When I started online dating, I spent a lot more time vetting matches. I still vet them but I’ve become pretty good at recognizing the scammers so I often don’t need to go through all of the investigative hoops such as doing Google image searches. Along the way, I found some shortcuts and tips.

Pass the salmon burgers with sweet pickle relish while I discuss the issue and the shortcuts. Warning: parts of today’s chat get a bit geeky.

Coffee Meets Bagel recently sent me a good reminder about online safety with a list of common scammer behaviors and profile characteristics:

-Profession in the military or engineering, works out of the country

-Recently widowed with children

-Overly complimentary with flowery, romantic language right off the bat

-Poor English and grammar, but high level of education (Master’s, Ph.D., etc.)

-Quick to get you off the app and into email/some other messaging app, but not text (they don’t have a working cell phone).

I disagree about the texting. I find scammers will sometimes text but rarely will they speak on the phone to you.

One of my go-to security checks is the Google image search mentioned above. This tool searches the web for photos that match the one you’re checking out. So, for example, you can see if a person in another geographic location has the same photo. Sometimes you will find that the photo is of a celebrity in another country.

I’m often using dating apps on my phone or tablet rather than my laptop. I wondered if there is a way to do an image search on these devices.

Mobile Image Search Tools

Of course, consult Google whenever you have a question. Not only are there reverse image apps, but there are a couple of other tricks. A PC Magazine article about image searching from a cell phone identified one strategy: using CTRLQ, a so-called Google Image search “wrapper.” Created by Amit Agarwal, this website tool can be used to search images on mobile devices.

To search an image from a dating app, you must first save it.

How do you save those Tinder and other app profile pictures? Take a screenshot of the image. On an iPhone or iPad, simultaneously press and hold the sleep/wake button on the top or side of your device while also pressing and holding the home button. You’ll hear the click of the camera. Your saved image will be in the camera roll. You can then select that image when using an image search app (see below), CTRLQ, or the desktop version of Google (another way to do an image search on your phone). Try it; it’s an easy process.

If you have an Android phone, you can use a similar technique to save images. Digital Trends reviewed screen shot techniques for a variety of Android devices.

Image Search Phone Apps

If you have an iPhone, type “image search” in Apps and you’ll encounter a number of tools. I downloaded Veracity and found it to be seamless. I’m not aware of any Android image search apps but CTRLQ should work on these mobile devices.

Non-Geek Tips

Safety is not always the issue with false profiles. Sometimes it’s a matter of misrepresentation. For example, how many men have you dated who have obviously lied about age and height?

One possible clue that a man has lied about his age: he is willing to date women 5 + years older. An older age preference doesn’t necessarily mean a man is 5 years older than he says, but look at his picture and see if that could be the case.

Age fabrication may not bother you. However, some of my friends say, “Well, what else is he lying about?” I tend to be forgiving if there is only a couple of years difference…but a bigger lie is more troubling and a likely deal breaker.

Another quick way to check out a new match is to search his screen name. You may find his alias on other dating, sex, and general sites. You can learn a lot from this easy sleuthing.

An Almost Meet Cute

Enough about online issues! I’m still working on meeting men in real life.

I had a brief almost meet cute Friday night. Walking up a long subway escalator after a night of jazz at Westminster Church, a man was about to pass me on the left. “Wanna race?” he asked. I quickly looked at him (age appropriate, too short but nice face), smiled, and went into high gear escalator racing. He laughed and said, “I didn’t think you would.” “I’m very competitive,” I said as I gave him a run for his money (placing first in the Olympic sport of escalator racing). Several children trailed Mr. Racer. Grandkids? His kids? You never know. And I was with friends, so the exchange ended there.

Just another almost meet cute in DC. I’ve got a million of them…. some day, one has got to fully develop.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

Fizzling, Catfishing, and Lessons from a Millennial

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Fizzling

I was feeling too cocky – thinking I had defied the odds by getting responses to my proactive dating messages. I thought I was finally getting somewhere. But getting a response to your virtual pick-up line is only the first of many hurdles in this online dating sports event.

Let’s review my recent experiences while enjoying some Independence Day appropriate herby picnic potato salad.

One recent afternoon, I dropped my line into the Plenty of Fish pond when I noticed an attractive man had viewed me. His profile appealed and he said he was looking for a relationship. I pondered my opening line to him. I noticed that he had a garden so I decided to incorporate that into my message. “Do you grow basil in your garden?” I asked, “I need a supplier for my pesto.”

A short time later, Gary wrote back. “Basil is awesome,” he replied. “We could discuss this over a drink.”

Pay dirt, I thought.

“That’s possible,” I replied.

“Will you be in DC on Tuesday?” he asked.

“I will be in DC,” I responded, “attending a writing workshop in upper N.W. It ends at 6:15.”

“Is it near 12th & H Streets?” Gary asked.

This question immediately put me on guard. I recently had lunch with a man who drove from West Virginia for our first meeting and Gary appeared to be balking at a distance of under 5 miles.

“No,” I wrote, “I’ll be around upper Connecticut Avenue.” I then suggested a couple of venues in the vicinity of my class and asked if either one of these worked for him.

But Gary never replied. I’m not sure if this counts as ghosting since we had only exchanged a few messages. I’ll refer to it as fizzling. And it’s certainly rude.

Imagine having an in-person conversation with a guy and he walks away mid sentence. It feels almost as bad when this happens online.

Could Gary’s “fizzling” be related to the fact that I am 10 years older than him?

The problem with fizzling or ghosting is that you never know what happened or even if the runaway person’s reaction has anything to do with you.

Catfishing

It was time to move on to other possible targets of my affection. Next, I sent a message to Robert on Tastebuds, a mixed-use (dating, friends, concert buddies) site. We liked some of the same music and he was attractive, tall, and single. His profile contained little information so it was my job to ferret it out. Oh, and he was Bahamian, a “fact,” if true, that would play a key role in the end of our non-relationship.

I emailed Robert and asked about his favorite local music venues. We then corresponded about our jobs (in my case, retirement), marital status, and our children. I learned Robert was single and had a married son who had recently moved out of his house/apartment.

Here’s his verbatim message:

I have a son but his Married and he just moved out of the house that makes me very lonely .. Please can I have you mobile number ? I will be honored

Yes, I know Robert’s English and grammar are questionable but I decided to play along in hopes that (1) he was intelligent but that English was his second language and (2) the keyboard was not his friend.

Give me some slack. I’m in a dating dry spell and willing to entertain false hope.

Still I was suspicious of a declaration of loneliness and his career also had me wondering:

Am into art works importations and sales and I also do artworks interior decorations for homes and offices

I decided to give Robert my Google voice number so we could text. When he sent his number, I searched it and found it to be a Voice over Internet Protocol Washington state number. Strike 3 – almost out.

Once we started texting, it didn’t take long for my suspicions to be confirmed. Ultimately, he did not want to speak on the phone due to his thick accent.  Classic catfishing behavior.

The only thing I’ll share from my second catfishing encounter of the week was a tip I learned to help you search photos of matches on Google image search. If you crop the image closely to cut most of the background, Google is more likely to find the photo’s match. This helped me identify a Coffee Meets Bagel match from Virginia who in realty (no pun intended) was a realtor in Texas. The real guy is single and cute so maybe I should message him via Facebook and tell him someone stole his photo for nefarious dating purposes.

Lessons from a Millennial

I was sharing my frustrating non-dating week with my daughter. A tall, natural beauty in her late 20s, my “baby” hasn’t gone more than few months without a boyfriend since age 15. And this is without Facebook, which she refuses to join.

“I’d never do online dating,” she declared.

Daughter has met men in Starbucks, at various jobs, volunteer experiences, and through friends.

She instinctively knows how to send the right signals to a man she’s interested in.

“I just position myself,” she explained.

“Would you go up to a stranger and start talking?” I ask.

“Yes,” she said. “Men are afraid of rejection too. If I see an attractive man at a bar, I sit next to him. I might wait for him to talk to me. Depends on how I feel. Or I might start talking.”

She’s a natural. I have watched her masterfully look at an attractive man, look away, and return her gaze in the classic flirt maneuver.

It’s surreal when you’re in your 60s to get dating advice from your daughter. But it’s also fun and usually helpful. My plan is to channel my millennial daughter’s attitude and energy the next time I’m in a situation where I might meet men in real life.

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Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Dating Roundup: Tips and Tricks

 

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It’s time for a dating roundup: tips to make your dating life easier.

Help yourself to some arugula blend salad with pomegranate dressing while I share my latest dating hacks and suggestions.

Set up alternate profiles (without pictures) on all of the sites you are on.

This won’t work for Facebook-based apps such as Tinder or Bumble but you will find it immensely helpful for traditional sites such as Match, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish. First of all, having an alter ego will allow you the freedom to browse any profiles you are interested in without your “target’s” knowledge. Bonus: you won’t have to pay for premium private browsing.

By the way, “private” isn’t really private on OkCupid. I’m constantly seeing fleeting glimpses of guys who think they are hidden when viewing me. Hidden is not totally hidden and, if you’re online, you will briefly see the voyeur with his screen name.

Your alter ego’s profile should be somewhat similar to your “real profile” but not so similar that one would guess it’s the same person. Change the age by a couple of years, change your height slightly, choose a different eye color (remember you won’t have a photo), and pick a nearby city within your desired geographic area.

The advantage of not creating a drastically different profile is that it will increase your chance of matching with some guys you will like. You will get some of the same matches as your real profile but will also receive some new previously unseen matches. If you’d like to contact these new guys using your real profile, just search for them by user name.

I find it interesting and curious that some men will write to my alter ego even though I don’t have a picture. There’s hope for the male population after all!

Log into your dating sites if it’s cold and rainy

It may be obvious but more guys are online when the weather outside is frightful – even if they’re watching a game while checking their dating apps.

What to say to your Tinder or Bumble match when there is zero information in their profile:  

Suggested message:

Since you didn’t have any info about yourself or your interests in your profile, I hope you won’t mind if I ask you “the elevator speech” question.  I think it’s easier than 10 back and forth texts.  If we were in an elevator and you had 20 seconds to tell me about yourself, what would you say?

How to reply to an 88-year-old man who asks you out:

Thanks for the invitation. You’ve got a great profile but I don’t think we are an age match. Good luck.

How to reply to a 20-year-old man who asks you out:

I don’t date men younger than my children.

What to do when you need new dating ideas:

Look at upcoming or past activities of Meetups even if you’re not a member (unless the group blocks viewing by non-members). You’ll find lots of good ideas from people who spend time coming up with activities. In addition to trying one of the activities on a date, consider joining one of these groups.

What it means when a Tinder or Bumble match’s location changes drastically:

When a match’s distance from you changes from 15 miles to 5500 and then back to 15, it usually means he’s a scammer operating on the other side of the world. He just hasn’t figured out how to alter his location to be consistent. Just Google: how to change your location on your phone (or on Tinder) and you’ll find a number of hacks.

Unless this location-shifting guy is really a big-time international traveler (and he might say he is), chances are he’s not legitimate.

My latest scammer on Tinder said he was in South Korea on business as a marine engineer. See my previous post on dating scams. Engineering is a favorite occupation of catfishers.   And of course, these guys often say they are widowers.

What to say (via text) to a Tinder or Bumble match you haven’t heard from in several days (unlike traditional dating sites, you can’t tell if a Tinder or Bumble match is online):

Hi,

Thought I would say good morning and ask if you’d like to continue corresponding. I’m a straight shooter and I appreciate that in return.  So my bottom line is I enjoyed getting to know you a little bit and I’d be happy to continue with a goal to meet in person.  However, if you think we are not a match, for whatever reason, please let me know and I’ll “unmatch” you on Tinder.  No hard feelings either way!

Personal note regarding this message: I sent this exact message today and I received a response within 10 minutes. Mr. M said he has been swamped at work and would like to continue getting to know me and to meet and see where “it” goes from there. Hope springs eternal!

Do you have any tips, tricks, or insights into the dating life? Let me know!

If you liked this post or past ones, become a subscriber to Dating, Sex, and Life in your 60s. This blog loves subscribers.

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 Millennial Match in D.C.

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As a woman of a certain age, my early pre-marriage (pre-historic) dating life was totally different from today’s modern dating computer and cell phone-based dating world. Sometimes, just for fun, I like to imagine life as a single dating millennial. Here’s a short, short story about “Amy,” an imaginary millennial woman seeking love in D.C. This should be read while eating a bowl of crunchy winter vegetable salad.

Amy was supremely organized. Her files at the PR firm where she worked were color coded by client and divided by task. Amy’s crowning achievement, however, related to her private life: the Word document she created on the promising men she met or was about to meet on online dating sites.

Amy had summaries of extensive Google searches on potential dates, as well as the results of photo hunts using Tineye and Google Image. She was most proud of her compilation of emails, messages, and notes from phone conversations with her prospects. This was her cheat sheet and how she remembered that Hank had two sisters and that William was highly allergic to shellfish and could not eat in seafood restaurants.

“How do you have the time or the patience to computerize your dating life?” asked Lisa, Amy’s best friend since college some 20 years ago. The two “Generation Xers” were having tall pumpkin spice lattes in honor of the approaching holiday season at the local Starbucks in D.C.’s Dupont Circle area. Amy and Lisa often compared notes on their struggles and successes with the strange world of online dating.

“Time – IS what it’s all about,” Amy replied, sounding a little annoyed at Lisa’s sarcasm. Lisa doesn’t get the logic of my approach, thought Amy. She seems to have forgotten what I’ve been through.

“I’d rather spend 20 minutes doing an image search to prove that the ‘perfect and promising GQ guy’ who emailed me stole a renowned author’s photo than to waste my time – and possibly my heart – on responding to and meeting an imposter.”

“Better to do the research upfront to dismiss the creeps, fakes, and married guys,” she added, running her fingers through her curly blonde hair. She thought back to her relationship with Martin. Martin never invited her to his apartment and preferred to communicate by e-mail rather than phoning. It was Lisa who suggested that Martin might be married. Lisa congratulated herself on learning from her mistake with Martin and other scammers and approaching dating methodically and carefully.

“I guess your way makes sense. Maybe I’m jealous because you seem to go out on more dates,” sighed brown-haired, brown-eyed Lisa.

“Speaking of which, any good prospects lately?” asked Lisa.

“No,” sighed Amy. “Just rural widowers and too-young guys looking for something casual.”

“Same here and I keep getting ‘hits’ from these fellas on the West Coast. Like I’m going to travel 2000 miles for a cappuccino first date!” exclaimed Lisa.

“Oh yeah the geographic misfits – I get a ton of those. I think my personality matches NY creative types more than it does Feds and Hill staffers,” said Amy pushing her empty coffee cup away.

The Starbucks was crowded on this cold Saturday morning: Lots of customers hanging out with their laptops and a couple of obviously uncomfortable first dates.

Amy stood up. “Can I get you another latte?” she asked her friend.

“No, I’m good,” replied Lisa. “I’m trying to cut down on caffeine and sugar.”

“Good plan…. but too virtuous for me. I’m going to get another one.”

Amy got in the 10-person order line.  An attractive man with longish hair stepped up right behind her. He  was wearing a well-worn leather jacket and holding a very long list. He was apparently the coffee runner for a huge gathering of friends or relatives. Annoyed at the long line, Amy decided to focus her attention on the cute guy rather than the delay in getting her coffee.

“Looks like you got stuck with the carry-out duties,” she smiled and pointed to the piece of paper he was holding.

“Yeah, my brother is getting married and we had a hell of a bachelor party last night. Now it’s payback time and I’m the designated runner to fuel this tired and hung-over group,” he winked.

“And what about you – how did you escape these morning-after effects?” she asked.

“I don’t drink to the point of being hung-over. Besides I’ve got a big deadline to meet this weekend. Gallery opening in a few days and I have to finish the last image. I’m Matt by the way.”

“Nice to meet you Matt the artist and coffee guy. I’m Amy. What’s your medium?”

“I’m a digital fantasy artist. I’ve invited a couple of editors of anime films to the opening and I’m hoping they’ll like my work and incorporate it into the advertising or even one of their films.”

“Wow – terrific. I love anime,” said Amy. “My younger sister got me hooked on it. I think Ponyo is my favorite all time anime film.”

“Ahh…you have a secret desire to be a mermaid, then?”

“Yes, in fact I am a part-time mermaid,” she grinned. “My flippers magically disappear whenever I want them to. “In my real life, however, I’m an account executive at Porter Novelli, the PR firm. I also blog about cooking and have a cartoon strip called Tip Top Chef.”

“So you are a fellow or I guess a fella artist. Well if you can keep your flippers at bay – no pun intended – and you are free this Friday evening, come by the opening at the Studio. It’s First Friday when the local galleries stay open late and host wine and cheese receptions.”

“That sounds like fun,” said Amy who was starting to feel a bit warm even though she hadn’t yet ordered her second cup of coffee. And she was pretty sure Matt was feeling some chemistry as well.

“Nice to meet you,” she added as she stepped up to the counter to place her order. After she had paid, Amy watched Matt reel off his long list with apologetic looks to the rest of the people in line. She couldn’t stop gazing at him.

As she carried her now gingerbread latte to the table, she grinned as she walked by him. Matt was just giving the last order when he glanced up and flashed Amy the biggest, warmest smile she’d ever seen on a guy who had attended a bachelor party the previous night.

“Who were you talking to?” asked Lisa. “I could see the ‘I’m interested and available’ body language you were projecting from over here!”

“A very nice, cute guy and artist who I think just invited me on a sort of pre-date at his gallery opening this Friday.

“Well I’m sure you’re going to Google him to death and will have compiled a complete dossier by the time you see him Friday– that is — if he passes your security clearance process,” exclaimed Lisa.

“Oh no! I don’t have his last name,” wailed Amy. “But then I could check out the gallery web site and find the list of artists at the event. How many Matts could there be?

Amy paused a moment. “You know what? “ she asked. “I just met this guy the old fashioned organic way. I’m not going to check him out in advance. This time, I’m going to rely on my gut and my pheromones. I’m definitely attracted to him and who knows — he could be my last non-Match.com match.”

Lisa smiled. “Atta girl. I knew you had it in you. You are an old fashioned romantic at heart after all.”

Hope you enjoyed this fiction break. Until next week, happy dating or not dating!

XXXOOO

Nadia

The Small Town World of Online Dating

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Like every small town, the microcosm of one’s online dating universe, is composed of familiar characters — from the “angry town drunk” to the “shy old fashioned guy.”

You might nod at these townies as you pass by on the way to “the new hot one” or the “back again after a breakup guy.” And some of them might reach out to you on a regular basis. Let’s discuss the small town world of Matchville while munching on some classic macaroni and cheese revamped by skinnytaste for a modern healthy lifestyle.

Strolling down the too familiar streets of Matchville’s Recently Viewed Lane and Connections Boulevard, I encounter a familiar face – Mr. G.

Mr. G first wrote to me when we both resided on PlentyofFish Town. I kindly let him know that I didn’t think we matched (age, height, common interests, language difficulties on his part) but he has continued to check in periodically on Matchville to tell me to not give up and to let me know he wished we could see each other.

Sometimes his emails boost my ego: “Why haven’t you been snatched up? The guys here are fools,” etc. etc. When I’m in a dry spell, an email from Mr. G can keep me going. At other times, Mr. G’s persistence gets on my nerves.

Then there’s the recently moved to Matchville “thinks he’s hot” guy who is my new best friend. At first, his brief over-confident one liners amused me, even as I told him we were not a match. But now, this neighbor is becoming the one I want to avoid and I’m dreaming of toilet papering his tree. “I will rock your world,” he writes, “Let’s go get a drink tonight.” No surprise – he hasn’t commented on anything substantive in my profile and all of his emails focus on HIM and why he would be so great for me. This townie will be blocked.

The shy old-fashioned guy still exists. He started out writing to me several months ago during the broadcast of an award show. It took him awhile to suggest a date – going to a concert some time this summer. I kept looking at his profile searching for interests in common and hoping I would find him attractive but I couldn’t swing it. Plus he lived pretty far away so I stopped responding (yes – guilty of ghosting).

Shy guy still views me periodically and sends a short “how are you doing” email as if to stop me as I walk down Matchville’s main street. But I keep on walking.

Another townie is the “possibly creepy but maybe just lonely guy.” One such guy views me periodically. Two years ago we viewed each other on a regular basis and then finally exchanged emails. I can’t recall who reached out first. Things seemed promising even though Mr. L is a decade younger than me.

We ended up emailing about dating and relationships and started to make plans to meet. Then he revealed that he has ED and is trying to explore other ways of being intimate. I thanked him for his honesty about a subject that is not easy for most men to discuss. After letting him know what I was looking for — and given my relatively recent divorce – I wanted the whole kahuna :smile:, our emails stopped. To this day, Mr. L views me on occasion. I sense his loneliness and sometimes wonder if I should suggest we get coffee and just talk.

There are other types and regulars in Matchville. And just like a small town, I know something of everyone’s business. I know when a guy has started seeing someone regularly because his profile is “hidden” or he hasn’t been online in 3 weeks. Some of these guys might be exes and I feel a pang when I think they have found someone and I haven’t.

I have a history with a lot of Matchville’s residents and it’s starting to feel too much like a small town. I’m getting bored and tired of the search. It’s not that I’m in a dry spell. There are some irons in the fire but nothing definite yet. I’m just impatient and ready for big city life.

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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