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…

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…