When Things Don’t Quite Add Up – a real-life romance scam revealed, part 6

Call me naïve, just like the millions of women and men around the world who fall for the charms and lies of scammers. In my defence, I’d only been playing around on dating sites for a couple of months. I was fresh meat straight out of a long marriage, and though I’d already been catfished, I didn’t see Richard coming.

If you’ve been following the past series of articles, you’ll have learned tricks of the romance scamming trade, which I researched long after the events in this tale. See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 of how it unfolded, and stay tuned for the story of how I sussed him out.

Richard has booked his flights and the two of us are trying to wait patiently for the end of that month when he’d arrive in Australia to see me.

We’d finally have a chance to look into each others’ faces and talk. Is that such a hard thing to ask for? There might even be a chance for other things to happen, maybe testing the pheromones? I could barely think of anything else these days, between being mum and being friend, co-worker….aspiring novelist. Life was full, but I still wanted more. I wanted to be in love!

And then, just as I was getting ready for the first working and school day of the week, my whats app account pinged. It was Richard, night time over there.

He apologised for the lack of message the night before; he’d been on an international call to his brother in Canada. I asked if there was a problem. Richard replied that it was easier to explain by email.

I waited for it to arrive, then read it twice. And then my world contracted to a very small black hole. It was eerily silent and it rocked like a boat tossed on the sea because I felt nauseous and clammy. Richard’s message read:

Hie bby..Today has been one of the worst days of my business career. Last month Detswana,the  biggest diamond mining company in Botswana ,awarded my company a tender to supply and print dozens of t-shirts,tracksuits,helmets protective gear and cutlery. The whole tender is worth US 120 000 dollars. Debswana will pay me this amount upon my company successfully completing the job,which we will do in less than 5 days.

This shipment arrived at the border today via a South African courier but unexpectedly hit a snag as authorities informed me that there is an additional duty tax of 10 percent of the actual value of the goods in transit. The value of the goods is approx 40000 so that means i need to pay 4000. I was only aware of the sales Tax (VAT) of 12 percent and i had paid that already.

I only had 1300 in my current account after i purchased the tickets to Australia and managed to raise another 1000 from family and friends. I have a savings account with Standard Chartered bank but its a fixed account and i can only access the funds after a period of 2 weeks. I could have waited for that but the problem is Debswana wants these things by Monday next week.

Seeing the severity of the situation, i decided to get a refund of the tickets and then re purchase them at a later date. To my surprise its another complicated process that requires me to wait at least one month after submitting a handful of documents.

I am in real bad  situation right now because if i fail to do this,it would be a financial disaster on my part. On top of that,i would have a bad reputation here and it will be a miracle if i ever get another job.

I need assistance and if you cant manage i would obviously understand and that wont change our relationship. But if you can, you would have saved mine and Vincent’s life and for that i would forever be grateful. That would be the best thing anyone has ever done for me. Obviously i would pay you back after 2 weeks when i have access to my life savings and Debswana would have paid me.

I hope i have not overwhelmed you with this but i had no choice..I have exhausted all my options and i am just kicking myself right now for not waiting a while before i purchase the plane tickets..

Lots of Love, Richard

I functioned on autopilot as I left the house and got into the car. Before I switched on the ignition, seeing that my boys were strapped and ready to go, I messaged:

“I can’t talk to you now. I just can’t.”

To be continued…

When Things Don’t Quite Add Up – a real-life romance scam revealed, part 3

See part 1 and part 2 of my personal story of being targeted by an African romance scammer, but wising up just in time. Meanwhile, the tale continues…

Things had turned awkward after I’d put the brakes on Richard’s mounting conviction that we had to meet, soon, to decide our whether we had a future together. It had only been a few weeks since he’d approached me on an Australian dating site.

After the phone call, then the failed video call, he’d escalated our relationship and I was beginning to feel pressured. There was a new undertone of seriousness, of hope and anticipation, but also, buried deep, was my tangible unease. I went about my daily life of going to work, writing my novel project, hanging out with friends and caring for my children, but I’d lost interest in the dating apps. Because of Richard. Richard in Botswana, who sent me video footage from his phone of local elephants. Richard who was kind and funny, with good manners, who didn’t ask for sexy pics or nudes. I was developing feelings for him, undeniably.

baby elephant

However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t turn the situation around. I’d only been doing the online dating thing for a couple of months. There was loads of potential out there and I was being stupid putting all my eggs in the Richard basket. But then, there was his face, his body, his personality…the tug of a desire for something real, something deeper than tedious sexy talk with seedy local guys. And Richard was gorgeous!  (Yes, there was that).

On the other hand, I had to do something about investing too heavily in an outcome. A Richard-on-my-turf, in-my-house outcome. It was time to take action to harden my heart.

I woke up the next morning and decided to suspend, or even withdraw any romantic expectations between us.

I messaged Richard early to say I’d still be friends but that he was probably right – I needed more than words to trust him. The weight of that statement and the silent withdrawal of his affection hung heavy as a lead jacket on me that day at work. I plodded through the day, mulling things over and feeling deeply sad that some other woman – someone younger, I’d urged him – might now be the one with whom he’d make a new life.

Later that night, when I was on the dating app mindlessly browsing, I saw the green light by his profile. He was back there for the first time since we’d started messaging, started whatever this thing between us was. I was baffled; was he one to give up so easily? This new talk of “it will never work” seemed at odds with the previous declarations of falling deeply for me.

Richard messaged that he felt I was hostile and suspicious at the idea of his visit. Resigned to moving on, I explained my reservations. Gradually, over the course of an hour, he told me he was unhappy in Africa, that for some time he’d been looking to leave for a new life in another Commonwealth country. He wasn’t too fussed which one, but it would be the love of a good, honest woman that would help him make the decision.

He hadn’t wanted to declare his intention right from the outset because he wanted a relationship to blossom on its own terms.

This made all the difference for me. I needed to understand the bigger picture. I didn’t want to be the reason he emigrated from Africa, his adored home. It was too much pressure to put onto a new relationship.

By the end of that day we were back on solid ground but still, in the recesses of my mind, I desperately needed to see him. Still photos were not enough anymore. Richard promised he’d do this for me, but I waited three long days and nights and they were not forthcoming.

Why was it so hard to take a snapshot or some quick video for me? I’d done it for him, countless times. It was a growing tension – could I trust him?

We’d talked about what we could offer each other. I was moved by his declaration of wanting to love and cherish me, and to offer his protection. No man had ever offered me his protection before and something primordial in me was stirred by this old-fashioned notion.

When I woke early the next day there was a video on my what’s app thread. I opened it immediately, eyes glued and heart thumping at the 14 seconds of him. Richard! It blew me away. He was at the British Embassy taking a business accounting exam and he said my name and spoke to camera.

Seeing him move and speak and laugh was intoxicating. I played it half a dozen times before explosively messaging my thanks. “I have a grin a mile wide!” I said.

“I think of you every day,” he replied. “The thought of you makes me smile. I am deeply invested in you bby. I cant wait to see you, to kiss and hug you. U already have a special place in my heart.”

To be continued…