Scam artists have one objective in mind. They want your money. Romance scam artists are one of the cruelest cons. But if you know their method, you will be able to recognize them before they break your heart and your bank account.
Francis Norman was better at this than anyone I’ve ever encountered. Maybe because I noticed immediately how the others followed his pattern. But first I had to learn the hard way. Francis Norman used ever trick and device imaginable. He was persistent. He never gave me a chance to think. He used what he knew about me – things I’d told him.
First, he told me he’d been robbed. The robbers broke into the hotel and stole his money and in the process, his daughter was severely injured. Now he had no money and his daughter would not survive if I didn’t come up with the money for the doctor. He kept me online all day with his story of woe and how much he loved me and as soon as she was well enough to travel, he would come back to the states. He would pay me back double once he was back and could access his money. Why couldn’t he access his money now? Because this was Nigeria. Didn’t I know anything?? I had some money saved up. Yes, I sent him money for the doctor.
Was that enough to solve his problems? Of course not. They had no food. Lizzy, his daughter, was still in pain and needed medication. She was suffering. So I sent him more.
Great news! He was getting a new contract for work that would pay $30,000,000. He would buy me a home and a new car and pay me back for everything.
But the hotel wouldn’t let him go to the other town to sign the contract because he hadn’t been able to pay the hotel bill. I was furious. Said no more. I’d had enough. He got angry. We fought. Online, of course. But it was as though we were speaking and I could hear every word, feel every pain. One morning he called me. His accent was so thick I could barely understand him. He said it was good to hear my voice and did he love my accent and how he loved me and soon all our troubles would be gone and we would be together.
It went on and on like this. He even sent me the contract from the government that he signed and put me as his next-of-kin. When we fought over money, he would “go away” and put his daughter Lizzy online. She would tell him his father was crying and she hated to see him so unhappy and what could I do to make things better. She wanted me to be her mother.
In essence, he used everything and I ended up sending me a little over $2000 in all. Which I’ll never get back. I’ll never see him. And I’ll never go online with him again. He wasn’t real. Lizzy never existed. I know this in my heart. The money was sent to a city in Nigeria for which he had to sign and show ID. Must be easy to get phony IDs there.
Why am I writing this for the world to see? To warn others not to fall for these tricksters and con men. Even if you’ve been alone for years and they offer hot passionate love and fill your day with their presence, it’s not real. Their methods are all the same. They follow the same script. Even the poetry is the same. I went online with two other con men, but I did this for a reason. I didn’t send anymore money, not to anyone.
I started writing a journal a week after I “met” Francis Norman and recorded daily what he said and everything that happened during this relationship, which latest six months. I called it research, instead of the obsession that it became. I cried so many tears, it took me a long time to break it off for good. Subsequently, I must have been a mark for other con men. I was contacted by two others. I continued to record everything in a daily journal. This time it really was research. I wasn’t fooled again nor felt anything for them. I wanted to see if they all did follow the script. They did.
First, the quick and passionate expressions of love. They were in love with me after one week. Two of them claimed to live in Texas – one in San Antonio and the other in Waco. Both had teenage children. Both were engineers and both suddenly got a contract to work in West Africa or Asia. We couldn’t meet in person because they were leaving right away. They took their teenager with them. After they arrived and started work, they “couldn’t use their credit cards even though they had put all their money from the states in their credit card.” I thought that was rather funny, but didn’t say so. They couldn’t eat, their son or daughter was starving. Couldn’t I spare something so they could eat? No, I could not. Too bad. Suffer. Game over. One man emailed after he “got back from” wherever but was “so hurt and angry because of the way I had treated him.” I was meant to feel guilty for not sending him money. I did not.
I’m off all the online dating services now, except one, and I’m not sure why I’m still looking. I’m wary of anyone who is much younger than I am, who is a widow with a teenager, and can’t meet in person for whatever reason. At this time, I have met someone online, but we meet in person regularly and he is a fine man and an honest one. Like me, he is not interested in marriage or a roommate. That’s fine with me. To be occasionally with someone is enough.
At this time, Anthony Weiner is in deep trouble for sextexting. Last year at this time, I’d never heard of sextexting or online dating. After fifteen years of living the single life and in my sixties, I was not expecting to find the love of my life. Been there, done that. Escaped when the love of my life turned out to be a frog. After the sixth love of my life again turned into a frog, I said no more. I would never marry again. I didn’t miss the dating scene or someone always around, telling me what to do or how to think. I seldom fantasized about Mr. Right. I’d rather write about betrayal, lies and murder.
It was while writing about life in the Sixties, and go-go dancing, and free and experimental sex that made me think that perhaps life was going by too fast and I was missing something.
After hearing about online dating services, I thought, why not give it a try. Couldn’t hurt. I wasn’t meeting anyone face to face, at least not right away. It seemed to be a safe diversion. So I put my profile on not just one but three services.
Francis Norman is the name he gave online. He said he was in his forties, a widower with a teenage daughter, had a home in West Palm Beach, Florida, lost his parents in a terrible airline accident while on vacation. He was an engineer presently working in West Africa. He sent me several pictures of himself and some with his daughter and friends. Just my type. Tall, dark and handsome. He hooked me right away, saying all the things a woman wants to hear. He couldn’t stop thinking about me, he said. Stayed up nights dreaming about me. Wanted me to be the mother his daughter needed.
He got me on instant messaging and we “talked” several times a day. He never let a day go by without getting online with me. He sent me poetry – sometimes a short poem to wake up to and other poems during the day. One day he got my address and a few days later I was greeting with a box of roses, with chocolate and a teddy bear. An identical box arrived the next day. We were talking love after only a week. I hadn’t had that much attention from a man since I was in my twenties and go-go dancing in Philadelphia! Writing about attraction and sex and murder at the same time reading and feeling the words from a online lover brought a new excitement to my life and it was a heady experience.
My writing critique group went ballistic when I blurted Iwas in love and planning to get married. They listened to the story and told me it was all a scam. They looked up his name under the appraisal office in West Palm Beach. He wasn’t listed. They googled his name. Not listed. Not known anywhere. They had me read about Nigerian romance scams online.
But Francis Norman’s words and the attention he gave me was like a drug. I don’t have an addictive personality. I don’t do drugs. When I drink, it’s one glass of whatever, and that’s my limit. I have no major cravings. But it was addicted to love – to him – or rather to his words and the feeling and the arousal that came with reading his words. As if I’d been without the water of life for fifteen years and now it was pouring into me, refreshing me like a waterfall and I couldn’t do without being constantly renewed.
When I read a good book, I get carried away to a different place. My emotions are attached. I laugh, I cry, I get aroused. Listen, I may be in my sixties, but emotionally I feel like I’m still in my twenties. My body still responds with stimulus and can feel everything the same as a twenty-year-old. I am known at times to even act foolishly and not listen to reason.
Not even when the voice in my head told me to cut him off, I couldn’t. Not even when he told me that his hotel had been burglarized and his money had been stolen and the robbers had hurt his precious daughter. She had broken her leg running from them. She had to be hospitalized. She was in terrible pain, but the doctor wanted money and he had lost everything. How could I help him and his dear daughter?
Deep inside I knew it was a lie, a scam. But I so wanted him to be real. I didn’t want to let go of the feeling I had for him, or admit that my belief in his words were all in my imagination.
First he hooked me with romance and promises of forever love. Then the hook tightened and became a noose around my neck.
Writing The Flawed Dance, delving into free love with the idea of open minds, the experimentation of thoughts and ideas during those years, made me reminisce with little regret. I have been divorced for over fifteen years and rarely dated during that time. The only semi-serious relationship I had lasted several years. During that time he expanded my mind. A brilliant writer, a political activist, passionate in his beliefs and ideals, he was and still is a good friend. But alas, he moved out of the country, became an expatriate and married. It was only right. He is too good and too talented to remain here to struggle against small minds. He belongs in Europe, where he can finally create greatness.
After he left, I went back to writing and concentrated on finishing two books. For a while, writing was enough. But composing The Flawed Dance made me yearn for something more in my life. But where does a woman in her sixties meet a man? She does what some other women do, she turns to online dating services.
Okay, you’re wondering if I’m going reveal my personal love life. Well, in a sense I am to a small extent, but only for the purpose of cautioning other women to beware of the unseen predators who lurk in the netherworld of social media. There is a certain type of predator out there who prey on older women and are so convincing, so unscrupulous and evil, that they have no conscience about seducing through words to steal your heart and your bank account. I am admitting to have been naive, emotionally needy and very stupid, to put it bluntly. I was even forewarned, as you will see. But by then I was completely hooked.
My story began innocently when I filled out an application for eHarmony and was turned down. Meaning, I was told that I was not compatible with anyone. That shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve been through six marriages and ran away from all of them. Not compatible. I didn’t try again for months. Then I got on Match.com and met my “soul mate.”
Turn in next time for the next installment.