Millions of women and men around the world fall for the charms and lies of scammers. A few years ago, when I’d only been playing around on dating sites for a couple of months and I was fresh meat straight out of a long marriage, I was scammed by Richard from Botswana.
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, part 5 and part 6 of how it unfolded.
To recap, Richard had sent me the email declaring his ill-fated luck and need for my common-sense rescue. Or so he thought. For me this was the brightest and most alarming of red flags waving in my face. The contents of my stomach dropped to my feet as I read his email and responded to his What’s app message.
“I can’t talk to you now. I just can’t,” I messaged him.
“Why bby? Have u seen the email? I said if you cant its ok. I wld understand. Plz don’t break my heart. This can happen to anyone in the world.”
When I arrived at my destination, the multistory carpark near my work, I responded on What’s app. “You know this is crossing a line?” I said. “I feel like I am being conned. I will read it again later. Right now I just feel sick.”
“What?! Now I regret sharing with you!” he exploded. “I just expected you to say u can or you cant and then we move on…didnt think it would affect u this way…im really sorry. I’m not some perfect guy who doesn’t have any problems once in a while.”
“I don’t expect you to be perfect,” I shot back. “But you are breaking the number one rule. If someone from overseas asks you for money, it’s a scam! I don’t want to believe you have done this to me! I need time to think.”
“OMG. Ok I understand you,” he replied. “Like I said money is nothing to me. I want yr love bby. I told u that even if u cant help me nothing changes. Im still coming to you bby.”
As I walked along windy city streets to work, thoughts churned in my mind like a sour, indigestible meal. My heart clung to the hope that this was really the man I’d come to care for, that he’d made a series of stupid decisions but that it was actually retrievable.
My head told me bluntly that I’d been conned. It was a scam.
That day I functioned with half a brain; the other half was busy processing my disbelief. How had it come to this? Had I really been so naive? How had I fallen for another fake? Was he a fake? Maybe he was genuine and he really did need a helping hand? The image of his face hung before me but I pulled myself together.
Although I knew he was asleep, I messaged him distraught bleatings. “I don’t know what to think. I can’t believe you have scammed me. I don’t have money! I’m a single parent for god’s sake! I guess this is the point where you make some excuse and dump me. I think I must be the stupidest idiot in the world. I feel sick.”
That afternoon my time – dawn his time – Richard came clean and confessed.
Yes i am what you think i am..it is devastating to me right now too because i was actually falling in love with you..everything i said to you was from my heart and i really meant…a friend of mine said you would never fall in love with someone like me..im sorry and i say this with tears in my eyes.I am not richard Keane..Richard does not exist..i am another man with a good heart…it is the first and last time i ever try something like this. You can go ahead and block me or insult or whatever.i inexpectadly fell in love with you but obviously u fell in love with Richard and for that im truly sorry…if u want to know the real me,im there..this experience will make me into a better person.i wish you can just take the chance to know me.the real me.now i feel liberated.my heart is not so heavy anymore.
I was mesmerised; this was the car accident from which I could not turn away. I had to know everything. I didn’t abuse him. I didn’t block him or delete him.
Instead, I messaged him coldly, “Tell me the truth. Who are you? Who is the person in the videos and photos?” I think that even worse than what he had revealed, I feared that the man I’d come to visually adore was somehow entwined in this duplicity.
Not everything i told was a lie..especially how i started to feel about u.. i will tell u the whole truth.i am a good person who just did a horrible thing and this will affect me for the rest of my life because i got to know u and what kind of genuine person u are..i will send u pictures of me..the real me and will tell u who is Richard.
Over the course of the next few hours I learned when and how the scam had begun, and how it had been done and by whom.
He was not Richard – ‘Richard’ was a fiction. His pictures and videos had been stolen from social media. He didn’t know the guy’s name, but his was Zaka, in reality a black African Zimbabwean living in Gaborone. He was indeed thirty-two but instead of a three-year-old boy, he was part-time father to a two-year-old girl.
Richard’s life story had been invented by two guys he’d met who’d invited him into their scam because his English was good and he’d been to university. One was an IT guy and he’d got the images and done the dodgy air tickets screenshot. He’d also dubbed Zaka’s voice onto the two videos that featured ‘Richard’.
With the benefit of hindsight, I could see that the lip sync was not quite right. It had all begun with the fraudulent Oasis profile.
Stay tuned for the final instalment of my story, next time.