Online dating scams
Recently we were asked to get involved in correspondence with a girl on a cyber dating service. The girl, whose picture was certainly more than appealing, turned out to be located in Ghana, which raised enough concerns that we were asked to participate in the exchange.
Now, it is certainly true that this could be a desperate and attractive young woman for whom anyone in the States would be an attractive alternative, independent of their age or looks. We have certainly seen many beautiful Russian women desperate to escape to here. And we see nothing particularly wrong with this as long as both parties know what they are getting into.
However, it seemed more likely that this would culminate in a request for money, (we estimated that the likelihood that this was a desperate girl would be around two percent, and the likelihood that we were sending messages to other middle-aged men behind the picture to be approaching 100 percent.
It was suggested that we might like to come to Ghana to meet her, which was rejected because we were too busy. It seemed impolite, if not inappropriate, to mention in the conversation that men who went to meet women in Africa – and sometimes even to meet them in Europe – often didn’t fare so well.
We eventually reached the point of her suggesting that money be wired to her via Western Union. We suggested that we would spare her the necessity of soiling her hands with cash, and would instead send money to our counsel in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
The other side said that this was too much effort on our part.
We pointed out that it was little effort for us, plus the attorney could help make sure all her paperwork was in order, which would help speed the process in getting her here. Plus, it would give her relatives some feeling of confidence in knowing that their little girl was in good hands. The correspondence eventually tapered off. They ended up doubtless moving on to someone more willing to send money, and we ended up with this story.
However, not everyone gets off so easily. Someone else we know met a woman online and ended up deeply involved – at least on the phone. They chatted on the phone for hours every day, and the woman even called his father and introduced herself as his son’s girlfriend. She sent him pictures, and we must say that the girl in the pictures was drop-dead gorgeous.
Because the son was lending the woman money, the father hired a private detective who said the girlfriend bore no visual resemblance to the woman in the picture. While she insists the detective was wrong and that the money will be repaid, we are not holding our breath.
Why is it that in the first case nobody got burned and in the second someone did? It was, in fact, the mirror test, rather than cunning or paranoia: The first person looked in the mirror and asked whether, considering his past dating experience, a woman who looked like that would be going out with him. Since the only positive answer involved an alternative universe, he called us. The second person did not do the mirror test.
Does this mean that on-line dating is dangerous? Not more than off-line dating. Many people have met other people this way, and in most cases it has worked out reasonably well for all involved.
Nonetheless, in online dating, or anything else where something seems too good to be true (as the father of one of our editors found out when he got a letter – with no fine print – from Time Magazine saying he had won a lot of money from them), it is good to remember that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is….