When Things Don’t Quite Add Up – a real-life romance scam revealed, part 2

See part 1 of my personal story of being targeted by an African romance scammer, but wising up just in time. Meanwhile, the tale continues…

So, after only a week I felt that Richard and I had really connected. We chatted on what’s app for much of every day, throughout our days at work, and afterwards, in the early evening too — interesting, funny conversation that never got smutty or awkward. We’d earnestly decided we needed to talk on the phone. “It feels like a first date,” Richard said excitedly.

The crackling line cut out constantly but it was fun, easy and natural, despite our cultural differences and his accent.

Two things made me uneasy though: almost immediately Richard made some reference to wanting to see me via video so that we could look into each other’s eyes and “fall in love”. That sounded strange and contrived.

The second was a faux pas that I rationalised as a slip of the tongue. He mentioned that he was planning to take “Richard” to the park the next morning. He said it twice, and each time I almost corrected him but due to the poor line quality I didn’t bother. Still, I found it odd that he’d said his own name for his three-year-old son’s, which was Vincent.

old phone

In the rush of affection and developing intimacy, however, I didn’t think too much about it. In our haste to see each other, we agreed to video call later that day.

We tried for over an hour but it was all black at his end, though I could see myself in the mini-screen and hear a garbled, discordant version of his voice. It was frustrating and irritating so we agreed to film short videos for each other instead.

That evening, Richard escalated things one step further in his messaging. He wanted to come to visit me, he typed. He needed to know if I was ‘the one’… if I was worth his time. He didn’t want to waste months or years talking to each other via text and videos.

He was going to book a plane ticket that night.

A wailing siren sounded in my head. It seemed ridiculous, but I wanted to believe him. I was so attracted to Richard and I liked his warm, quick-witted personality. He wasn’t afraid to hope, after all he’d been through. I knew his daily life was stressful and busy. Maybe I should give him a chance to prove he’s serious?

And so when he insisted that he needed to meet me, to give us a chance, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t want to waste my time either, and Richard’s reasons seemed sound. He had it all mapped out, but the only part I wasn’t tentatively hopeful about was the kid. I didn’t want to inherit a preschooler.

But, one step at a time, I thought. I’m not committing to anything. I’m not parting with any money either.

Richard was persuasive but he was also demanding and quick to take offence when I suggested we slow down and think it over. I was also concerned that he was rushing into something that was going to be an expensive lesson if it didn’t work out.

I went to sleep that night with a heavy heart. There was a niggling in my brain about the disconnect between his face and photos, and his voice. I had yet to see him speak to me via video, to say my name and something unique and personal to me.

This latest turn of events made me feel deeply uneasy. He’d ended our messaging that evening by saying sulkily that for the first time he was having doubts about us.

“If you don’t trust me, it will never work between us,” he said.

To be continued…

When Things Don’t Quite Add Up – a real-life romance scam revealed

If you’ve been following the past series of articles, you’ll know that in my early green and heady days, I got sucked in by a romance scammer. Read on to see how that went down, and how I sussed him out.

In a moment of weakness and boredom I accepted Richard’s friend request on an international dating app, though he lived outside of Australia and it therefore broke my fledgling rules.

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I’ll just see who he is and hear his story, I thought. Was it weakness for another pretty face or my simple curiosity that often gets me into trouble? Maybe it was desire for a sense of authenticity and simplicity, and it wouldn’t be for the first time.

These were the qualities I sensed in Richard, entirely based on the six photos taken over the past few years.

His profile was lengthy. He was searching for a “genuine and honest lady” to spend his life with. He was a single father to a three-year-old boy, Vincent. He preferred “older, mature ladies full of love and experience”. He said he was thirty-two but he looked a lot younger.

Lying on my bed all snug and sleepy, I messaged back that’d I’d like to know more about his story.

As the youngest son of a British diplomat in Africa, I discovered that Richard had moved around a lot and spoke half a dozen African languages. His son’s mother had been “killed in a car accident” and left him grief-stricken for two years, but now he was ready to embrace life again.

He ran a successful printing business with multiple employees. His son was cared for by a nanny while he was at work. He was also part of a charity for African kids, Room to Read. He loathed Britain and only returned to see family once a year. His parents had both died but he’d stayed in Africa because he’d come to see it as home.

The next day we swapped mobile phone numbers and began chatting on Whats App. I was frank with my real name (a first). He told me that his full name was Richard David Keane and that he lived in Gaborone, Botswana, one of the “safest and best run countries in Africa”.

Our friendship escalated quickly, and I found myself wooed and pursued almost every moment of shared waking times between our two continents.

Despite my earlier experience with the likely catfisher, Johan, I continued to message with Richard because it was fun and seemed harmless. Although it was intense, it didn’t seem to trigger the same feelings in me. I thought I could handle it.

We discussed his country and past, as well as aspects of my life. We easily built familiarity and rapport, though I was occasionally chastised for asking too many questions. I found this odd, but no more than any other interaction with a man online. I forgave Richard for his poor written communication skills and made excuses for his education in a third-world country.

He sent me a few videos, which gave me a picture of his life although it didn’t show his business or home or his face. The second two videos were taken on a trip to nearby Zambia. There was a snippet taken of him speaking to the camera in a dusty four-wheel drive en route.

Another was of a wild elephant with his dialogue explaining how he’d come across it and decided to film it for me. It was breathtaking seeing the elephant so close, but his commentary surprised me. He sounded very African and, in my head, I ran through his background again: although Caucasian and British, he’d been raised with Africans since the age of seven. In boarding school during his teen years, he was the only white kid. His extended family back home in the UK teased him for his accent.

After about a week, we were firmly ensconced in each others’ daily routines. I’d seen countless photos and heard a lot about his young son. We were chatting constantly, and I was feeling stupidly cheerful for no reason.

Soon we decided we needed to talk on the phone.

“It feels like a first date,” he said excitedly.

To be continued…