10 years ago, I had a private client in Arkansas. We’ll call him Jon. He was a meaty, blond, tractor-driving farmer who really wanted a wife. He was in his early 30’s but he was the last among his friends to settle down. I wrote his profile. Put him up on Farmers Only. Taught him to write witty emails. But it was a struggle. Jon’s strengths were outdoors, not sitting at his keyboard, trying to flirt with strange women on the Internet.
Then, suddenly, Jon was extremely excited. He had gotten an email from a very attractive woman from Philadelphia. She didn’t say much. Her grammar was poor. But she told Jon what he longed to hear – that she was extremely interested in meeting him quickly. To prove this, she offered her Yahoo address right away.
Never one to be shy about being the bearer of bad news, I told Jon that this was very likely a scammer. She would try to build a relationship with him via email, find excuses why they couldn’t talk on the phone, and then ask him for money.
He wanted to know how I could prove it. Why was I so cynical? Why couldn’t I just believe that a woman from Philadelphia with a stock photography model shot would write to a farmer in Arkansas? Like any good parent or coach, I made my point and let Jon do his thing. Three weeks – and a lot of time and emotion later – he admitted it was a scam.
Scammers prey on the most vulnerable online daters – people who are not getting any attention.
Scammers prey on the most vulnerable online daters – people who are not getting any attention. By giving them attention and raising their hopes up, they gain trust and bilk over $200 million each year from lonely, unwitting singles. According to a recent New York Times piece, “The drive to find a preferred mate is extremely powerful,” said Lucy Brown, a clinical professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who studies the brain activity of people in love. “It’s a reflexive urge, like hunger and thirst,” which can cloud judgment and make people less likely to question the motives of an online match.”
Not surprisingly, the former Nigerian scam has been embraced stateside, which makes it all the harder to catch. When someone seems real and acts real, there’s little reason not to believe. The problem is that the scams have gotten even more vicious. In the past, you could just ignore someone’s request for money. Now, they have you exchanging naked photos and then extorting you by threatening to release those photos.
All the more reason to never engage in sexting with a stranger or send money to a stranger. I wouldn’t think I would need to say that out loud, but evidently, there’s a lot of people who didn’t get the memo.
Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.