When Things Don’t Quite Add Up – a real-life romance scam revealed, part 4

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. See part 1, part 2 and part 3 of how that went down, and how I sussed him out.

During the next few days we moved beyond the bump in our budding relationship and Richard raised the topic, again, of visiting me in Australia. Now that I had a broader context, I was all for it.

He explained that he’d stay nearby and didn’t expect me to be available every day. It was a torturous wait to hear him confirm that he’d booked plane tickets.

He’d mentioned several times that he planned to do it, but he’d been so busy at work and needed to figure out timing with the business and three-year-old Vincent. His son would be staying home with his nanny for this trip. But if all went well, within two months they’d both be back!

This type of ‘blue sky’ talk did register more alarm bells, but they were muted because I wanted to fall in love with him. I was already half way there.

I adored the way he looked and I liked his personality – his directness combined with what I perceived as a certain naivety, mixed with an other-worldliness that came from growing up as a European in a third-world country.

But I was growing tired of waiting for the promised ticket booking confirmation. My doubts were still there, waiting to be discussed face to face. I hadn’t completely lost my mind!

Saturday morning his time, he announced that he’d forgotten about an engagement party that evening. He’d be busy all day getting haircuts, suits and making preparations. Later he sent me a photo of he and Vincent all suited up. Adorable! At the sight of them both, my heart swelled. “Your handsome boys,” he signed it.

I’d packaged up some picture books for Vincent because I was appalled to hear that he didn’t have a single one at home. I had no idea whether this was normal in his part of Africa, especially since his dad co-ran the charity, Room to Read. I asked about posting the books and he gave me their address.

“U ar so thoughtful. Im in love with you bby. Uve become an addiction to me. I miss you when we don’t chat…god help me.”

That night while I slept, my mind churned over the intricacies of it all. I didn’t want a third son – especially a preschooler. I didn’t want a live-in partner. I didn’t think he’d be keen on polyamory, which was still my goal. It did not sit well with me that we hadn’t even discussed my wants and needs. He’d asked me about my long-term plans, but he’d just assumed that because I’d responded to his request on Oasis all those weeks ago, that I’d agreed to the full deal.

I reconciled that we’d have these discussions in person, that we’d have hours and hours to talk about the details like normal people. But I also decided that I just couldn’t live on tenterhooks any more. I would tell him that I needed a break from the daily intensity until he’d booked the tickets.

I woke before six in the morning as my sleeping brain anticipated Richard’s message. “We’ve just got home from the party,” he texted. “I thought of you all night. You have no idea wat you do to me. Look in your email – you will love it!”

Attached was a stunning photograph of him in his handsome grey suit on the dancefloor, Vincent watching on. Eagerly, I opened my email.

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…