I believed I’d fallen for an Irish immigrant by the name of “Daniel Hayes,” a man my age, a clever scientist employed by a well know Pharmaceutical company. I was horrified to discover that I’d been taken by a Nigerian romance scammer. I’m a smart, college educated, professional woman – how could this happen to me? I’m not wealthy, nor am I a socialite. Why would a scammer target me?
The long and short of it is that it has nothing to do with your age, intelligence level or education. Scammers, no matter which country they’re from, find their marks by sending out thousands of ‘winks’ on dating sites. They use stolen credit cards to sign up with fake profiles, and of course, they use those “free” weekends to establish connections. They use special software to comb thousands of sites where you may have left an inadvertent product review, or signed a guest book for a friend who has passed on. I’ve seen more than one on “LinkedIn” or “Classmates.com”. They use these sites to legitimize their faked profiles. Then, they send out an innocuous sounding email which you might answer. I have friends who were targeted on “MySpace” or “Facebook” and thought they were safe because they weren’t involved in online dating.
Many stereotype the victims of this crime as lonely hearts: overweight, middle aged women who have nothing better to do with their time. However, in the two years that have passed since my scam realization, I’ve talked to men and women, from their mid twenties to their late seventies. I’ve talked to a scientist, therapists, nurses, long haul truckers, insurance people, accountants and students, from the US, Canada, Australia and everywhere in between. I’ve learned that the stereotype is wrong. And no matter what you look like or might do for a living, the pain of having your trust betrayed and your pocket book emptied is the same.
Two years later, my life is back to some semblance of normal. While working my way through the stages of grief, I was unemployed and sent out over a hundred resumes. I finally found work, but in my spare time, I chatted with other victims, and together, we transformed into survivors. Our chat room exists for the sole reason that someone was there to talk to each of us at our moment of despair. I hope you never have to feel that degree of devastation. But if you do, I hope you find a group like ours, ready to help you feel less alone, and to find your way to recovery. /mw