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 5

In my early green and heady days of giving online dating a red hot go, I was catfished and then caught in the hooks of this charming young man, Richard. 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. I’m not proud to have been sucked in by a romance scammer, but you’d be surprised how common it is. See part 1, part 2 and part 3 of how it unfolded, and stay tuned for the story of how I sussed him out.

I’d woken early that Sunday morning, my time in Australia, to find Richard’s photo on whats app of he and his son, Vincent dolled up in soft grey suits complete with matching pink handkerchiefs and short haircuts. Richard looked more swoonworthy than ever, youthful with smooth white skin, dark hair and eyes plus a lithe body, especially in the dance floor pic from the party the night before. He wasn’t a big man, maybe average height for a European. He reminded me a bit of a young Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode, a favourite band from my new-wave years.

Richard’s message said, “We’ve just got home, it’s very late. I thought of you all night. You have no idea wat you do to me. Look in your email – you will love it!”

Hastily I opened my email account on my laptop.

Years from now our past will be a story of long days and lonely nights,hard work and lack of sleep.We’ll live each day having intimately known the pain of being apart,we’ll appreciate and embrace our time together,knowing how lucky we are to have made it together,knowing how lucky we are to have made it through,and we’ll find solace in the promise of a future together.

I came back from the party more determined than ever to make sure that we are together sooner rather than later my love..I don’t want to see pictures or videos of you anymore,its simply not enough.I want to see you,to touch you and to feel you. You will find the plane tickets i have just purchased and all the flight details on the screenshots i have attached to this email.

I cant wait to finally meet you my love. Richard 

Attached to the email were the two screenshots.

I held my breath and carefully examined the ticket receipts, the dates and times of flights into my city and out of Johannesburg. I checked the flight details with Qantas.

I thought, immediately, of the logistics, just call me that kind of woman! Could I take the week off work so I could spend eight glorious days with him?

Later, I breathlessly talked with the two friends I’d confided this whole tumultuous journey to. They’d listened to me wondering what was happening, whether there really could be a happily ended story of a guy from Africa meeting an Aussie girl online. They were cautiously pleased and, like me, slightly stunned. I emailed Richard my thoughts and opened my heart just that bit wider. Hope was definitely blossoming.

Talk of plans and the future and of our growing feelings for each other bloomed between us for three more days and nights. I was bursting to share my news with other friends, but I restrained myself and patiently waited for the end of the month – a whole twenty-seven days away – when he’d arrive in my city.

His positivity gave me courage and strength. I felt Richard supporting me vicariously from Botswana and every day he made me smile.

And then, just as I was getting ready for the first work and school day of the week, I received a message from him.

To be continued…