That’s the feeling that rises up in my throat whenever anyone asks me the totally non-condescending question of why I’m still single, which I’ve answered so many times in so many tones (“Just haven't met the right guy, I guess! There was the guy who kept taking calls from a number he’d labeled “Happy Happy Fun Time,” which turned out to be his drug dealer. I've met guys in bars, at parties, while snowboarding, through friends, and online via Ok Cupid, Match, Tinder, Hinge, Happn, Bumble, The League, How About We, Coffee Meets Bagel, and even Nerve.com, a site for “literary smut” that hosted online personals in that early-aughts dark age before smartphones.
Even victims without plenty of cash to send aren’t safe.
The emotional hold created by these relationships is often so strong that victims will end up approaching friends and relatives for cash in an attempt to scrape together the money that their ‘lover’ is requesting. Well, at first Melanie decided to leave it be - after all, she’d provided all the information that she could, and it seemed like she’d run out of options. “I decided to see if I can find the original “Peter,” the soldier whose photos they had stolen to create these profiles.” A few searches and a quick background check later, she had the Facebook profile of the original Peter, the man who’s identity had been stolen over and over.
In the course of her investigations into fake profiles like Peter’s, Melanie has even found two women on Facebook fighting over the same (fake) lover.
Once these scammers get into a relationship with a victim, they gain their trust by first asking for something small - say, $20 or $30 to cover a cash shortfall over a weekend, or some other unexpected expense.
Many people won’t think twice about such a small amount of money, and the scammers use this to their advantage.
They rapidly repay the money they requested to their victim, establishing a trust that can be exploited to gain much larger sums down the road. ask for thousands of dollars to help with a funeral, or pay off debts”, Melanie says.
Now imagine that feeling multiplied times a tsunami and you’ll know what washed over me when called up to see if I would travel around the country going on dates to find out if location really matters when you’re looking for love.
And the bassist who insisted I listen to 10 minutes of his music while he watched me react to it.
According to Melanie, they work in groups of up to 12, creating networks of fake profiles that support each other and provide the network with legitimacy.