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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

How was that even possible? I know better. I've been processing Widowed Village applications for seven years and know what to watch for. I know all of the red flags. I've even corresponded with some of them who have managed to get into Widville by using other's info and played along until they crossed the line and I had reason to kick them out of there.

But not this time. I even pushed back with a couple of friends who tried to point out the red flags that I refused to see. How could I have been so stupid?

It's a whole different playing field when your heart gets involved. And these guys know exactly how to do that. If you read my blog you know I'm very open and honest. Well I was open and honest when answering each of the questions he asked. And that showed all of my vulnerabilities. He picked up on each and every one of them and used those words that he knew would touch my heart.

Five days. Yeah, just five days. Some may wonder how I could possibly fall for someone in such a short period of time. But I did. Because I've been seeking that "poof" ... that connection ... that person who was going to just show up and be "the one".  Foolish? Perhaps. But it happened with Vern. And I thought Vern had brought this amazing man to me. Instead this guy had read my blog posts and knew exactly how to lure me in.

So how did I finally realize he was a scammer?  I have to thank God & Vern for that. I went to bed last night on a high after our conversation. I couldn't erase the smile from my face and I felt like a teenager (please don't laugh). He mentioned he was reading a book on relationships so I added it to my Kindle and took it to bed to read. I dozed off but awoke within the hour with this urging that I needed to check his emails and texts for suspicious language. It was 1:30am so I figured I'd do that when I got up in the morning, but that whisper would not go away. So I got up and went to my laptop. I selected a sentence, put the quotation marks around it and Googled it. And there it was. On multiple scammer sites dating back to 2010. But still that wasn't enough to convince me. So I Googled several other sentences. Yep. All of them were there.

I searched those sites for his name and photo but didn't find it. And then I chose some of the more personal things he had said ... and there they were on those scammer sites. I couldn't ignore it any longer. So I wrote him a text ... not as nasty as you might expect ... and he argued with me about it!  Tried to make me feel guilty for not believing him. I blocked his number. And then I went into eHarmony and I reported him. Marked his email address as spam, too. And yet through it all I still wanted to believe.

I had searched his name, email and phone number when I first learned each of them, just as a safety measure, but could find nothing - even on the BeenVerified app I use for Widowed Village. And, yes, that concerned me. So I asked him about it and he had an explanation.

Now when I share what he said I expect that every single one of you are going to say .... "OMG Dianne, how could you have not known right then and there that he was a fake."  But I believed him.  It's that heart thing, ya know, and he had already done the work so I would believe him.

So ... he said he's retiring in 6 months and is a Lt. Col in the Army working with special ops teams. And that explained why he doesn't have an online presence. And it also explained why he has homes in TX, AZ and NV.  And he even sent me a photo of his passport. Yep. Dianne believed that a Lt. Col had fallen for her sight unseen and was her Chapter 2.  I feel so stinkin' stupid. And still I cry as I type that. I wanted to continue to believe him even after finding his words on those sites. Pitiful, isn't it?

You see, those feelings I experienced when he and I seemed to just click ... well they were amazing and exciting and powerful and exhilarating ... and I did not want to walk away from that. But I did. And now I can only hope that I will feel that way again one day, with someone who truly loves me and deserves my love.

The internet can bring some wonderful things. Many of you who read my blog I only know online. But it can also be an ugly place where people can pretend to be who they are not with the sole intention of causing destruction. Luckily, I exited before we got to the part where he would ask for my help financially, so only my heart was stripped clean.

I'm trying to replace the image of the handsome man I fell for with what he probably is ... a skinny Nigerian scammer or a 13 year old boy getting his kicks at the expense of an old widow lady. Or maybe that really is him in those photos. I will never know.

I'm not sure what I'll do about eHarmony. I paid for 3 months, so will let it sit until I feel up to peeking in there again. After looking at all of those photos on the scammer site, there won't be a single guy in there that I won't think I saw on that other site. I will change my parameters to just have locals (although Jeff had himself listed as living in Henderson), and I'm going to remove any reference to being widowed. Jeff was the only one out of all of those matches I received that showed an interest. I'm going to try to not let that make me feel bad.

Oh and as for those red flags ... there was a big one that I didn't recognize until the very end. Scammers for some reason like to use first names when creating their scammy name. My guy actually used a first name for all three:  Jeffrey Kurt Douglas

Other red flags: 

  • Not wanting to talk on the phone
  • Having an excuse why you can't meet immediately
  • Suggesting you leave the dating site to text or use email
  • Being too complimentary - or as Jeremy said, "Mom, guys don't talk like that."
  • They ask you a lot of questions
  • The details they give you in a text or email don't match what is on their profile
  • Use of a "pet" name (babe, darling, sweetheart, sunshine)
  • Fake passports can look very real
  • Pay attention to the times when they send messages; that can alert you to them being in a different time zone (or country)
  • If you notice a comment that seems odd or doesn't fit how they've sounded before, check it out. Google it with quotation marks around it to see if it shows up on a scammer site.
  • If they seem too good to be true ... they probably are

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Comment by Pegasus on October 10, 2018 at 3:39pm

Oh my gosh, I was you, almost word for word, a year ago.  My scammer's name was "Scott Buchanan".  Military, special ops, a home in Florida but planning on moving to Texas.  Fell for him hard within a week's time.  Every red flag you listed was there.  Lots of questions, pet names, too complimentary, texting and never talking on the phone.  Sometimes his phrasing was really strange but I ignored that.  I resisted him at first because I was 20 years older than he said he was but he insisted that age didn't matter and that the heart didn't care about age and he would love whoever he chose to love. 

The only real difference here is that you got out before he asked for money.  Scott got "deployed on a secret type mission in the Middle East" somewhere and disappeared for a couple of days, then popped up again to let me know he'd "arrived" at his destination.  Soon after he said that his source was funds was screwed up and he didn't have any money for toiletries, snacks and other stuff he needed.  He was going to have to sell a "family heirloom"- a gold cross necklace that he wore that had belonged to his Dad. I could save him by sending him money but not to send the money directly to him though. I was to get a money order and send it to a "reverend" in Nigeria who would bring the money to him.  I did a double take at that.....say "what???"  I was reluctant, he tried repeatedly to sweet talk me and beg me.  Soon that gave way to accusatory, beligerent, nasty comments and even borderline threatening remarks.  

I ended it on Christmas Day.  He tried a few times to contact me after that but I ignored him and he eventually disappeared.  I found out that he'd been saying the same things to a woman, who by sheer coincidence, lives and works in the same small town that I do.  She was attractive and in her 30s and just as convinced as I was of his undying devotion.  I showed her our texts and she showed me hers and she agreed that she needed to be done with him.  So it's not just us older women who get sucked in.

Comment by SweetMelissa2007 on September 14, 2018 at 12:52pm

So sorry,  if you thought it was a political comment, I was responding to your comment "skinny Nigerian" ...

Comment by Athena53 on September 12, 2018 at 10:57am

Yes, military seems to be a big "selling point".  One guy on posted a pic of himself at a military ball; I showed it to my son as a joke because he looked a bit stodgy to me.  My son pointed out that the guy had a Marine uniform but one of his medals (or other insignia) was a Navy SEAL badge.   Oops.  That money I spent on sending DS to NY Military Academy wasn't a waste after all! 

Comment by MidnightBear (Tony) on September 11, 2018 at 11:55am

The only thing about this that makes me laugh is the fact that he picked the wrong fish to try to reel in.  You caught his scam ad stopped him before it went too far.  I have had people suggest I consider these sites and I said to them, half the people on there are either completely broken or fake which makes finding anyone a pretty long shot.  That said, someone who works with me who just got divorced found a nice person on one of the sites and they are doing fairly well so far.  Sure it is a different demographic but on these systems it really comes back to the same thing.  

I will applaud you for being brave enough to put yourself out there and try to take another step out there.  I feel a step in any direction at this time is at least exploring something important.  So good on you for trying, don't be discouraged by the jerks out there, remember if we were all discouraged by the first jerk we tried to have a relationship with, we likely would never have met the person we are all here grieving for.  Just keep your eyes open and your spidey senses active :D. 

Comment by vintage56(barb) on September 9, 2018 at 10:44am

Dianne,you listened to your gut and it steered you right. At least you did not lose any money. I have been contacted by several through FB but they were pretty easy to spot. I would be suspect of ANY man who claims to be military, retired military or about to retire. I'm sorry your heart got played with like that, that hurts. (((hugs))))

Comment by Athena53 on September 8, 2018 at 5:51am

MonaK- a game system?  Talk about dealbreakers.  I'm not sue if I'd want to date someone who owned one, let alone a guy who asked me to buy him one!

I'm on met 2 guys who were at least true to their profiles but nothing lasting- and yesterday I got another message form a guy who wanted me to contact him outside of the site.  I replied through the site, asked him a few questions based on his profile.  He replied with a lot of airy stuff on love and life and didn't answer the questions.  Oh, yeah- his paid membership was about to terminate and he wasn't renewing due to work commitments... please contact him at this e-mail.  Reported and blocked.

That's the third guy who's tried the "my paid membership is about to lapse" trick.  

Comment by MartyG (ver. 2.4) on September 8, 2018 at 5:46am

Always remember, Dianne, the love you lost is a monument to the love you gave - do NOT be hard on yourself!!  Scammers and other dastardly people are to be pitied for many, many reasons but not the least of which is that they never had the love did you did....and still their hearts. That is a treasure you and you alone own and no one can ver take that away from you. Oh, btw, thank you for all your work for us here IN WV. I am sure it is time consuming but it is a real ministry:)   (((Dianne))

Comment by MonaK on September 7, 2018 at 9:41pm

Hang in there Dianne, don't be hard on yourself. You caught to this guy after only 5 days. It took me several weeks, if not a couple of months to figure out the guy i met through an online dating site was actually trying to scam me. I guess sometimes my cluelessness comes in handy. I didn't realize he was trying to get money from me when he asked for a game system. And no I didn't give him anything, my reaction when I read his request was "is he kidding?! My kids don't even have one of those!" I know it doesn't make it hurt any less, however you will be wiser, and hopefully be bolder questioning things that seem off to you. Someone who is for real shouldn't have a problem with you wanting to protect yourself, and if they do, that's not the person you want in your life.  

Comment by Callie2 on September 6, 2018 at 11:11am

Wow. I tend to believe these people have perfected their craft and have become smoother. Don’t beat yourself up—you at least figured it out!  I’m wondering what the motive is, or is there one?  It’s too bad these sites don’t have a better screening process.  Then again, I guess there are those that would look upon it as a challenge, much like hacking. Well, I guess all you can do is “dust yourself off” and go on. How some people can find gratification by hurting and scamming others is beyond me. Sorry such an awful thing has happened to you. Very kind of you to share your story to alert others. There should be a page somewhere online for people to file complaints and allow everyone to read!  It might not resolve the situation but it might slow the creeps down! 

Comment by Athena53 on September 6, 2018 at 4:52am

Dianne, thanks for the cautionary tale.  It's pretty sad that we have to be suspicious when a message starts with "Hi, Beautiful!" but I had that happen a couple of weeks ago and two days later his profile was gone- probably reported as a scammer.

I hope there's a special place in hell for people who prey on widows and widowers.

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