The Dating Scam


Since my divorce in 2014, I have been searching for that special someone with whom I can share life, spend time together, travel, go to the theater, call on the phone and talk, or share a meal and sit in the dark watching the stars. However, dating in these modern times has dramatically changed since the ’70s, before I got married.

Today, we have online dating sites like Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, Tinder, Bumble, Zoosk, and Lumen (which is a site for the over 50 crowd). Each of these sites are free and you either swipe right or hit a button to indicate that you like a person. If you match with that person, you get to start a conversation.

While these sites allow you to post a written profile of yourself, some more extensive than others, for the most part, you are judging the candidates by their photos. Needless to say, dozens of prospects pop up on your smartphone every time you log in to one of the apps.

Sarah 02

This is the story about Sarah, her beautiful smile and fresh face at the age of 51 captured my attention. I was honored, to say the least, when she matched me and sent a message through Tinder.

At this point, all I know about Sarah is her age, a few things that she likes, and that she lives in Henderson but is visiting her mother in Portland, Maine until the 30th of the month.

We seemed to hit it off but texting on Tinder is a bit awkward and clunky without any options for emojis, photos, or any other enhancements that you do when you converse with someone through a messenger. She requested my phone number, and I gave it to her. It was early in the day, and she said that

Note, I have learned that women don’t like to give out their phone number and think that you are too forward if you ask. However, a woman will take your number and if they are comfortable after sizing you up, meaning that they Google your name, read your Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and they will send a text.

It was Wednesday, September 18, at 10:27 pm when I received a text from a 619 area code.

Text 01

Some people are natural night owls so it didn’t shock me that Sarah would be sending text messages at one something in the morning Eastern Time. I, on the other hand, am not a night owl, so her last question went unanswered because I fell asleep.

IMG_5805I woke up early the next morning and sent a reply at 6:20 am. To my surprise, although it would be 9:20 am in Portland, she was up and posted an instant reply asking for photos of myself. After taking my dog, Mocha, to the park and finishing breakfast, I obliged her request with a headshot and a picture of me at a social event.

Sarah 07Sarah responded with a photo of herself, and things were looking very promising. Could this be the one that I have been searching.

Somewhat excited, I went about my day, which ended around 8:30 pm after an event that I attended. So, I sent a text.

Text 02

“Sweetie?” Ok, maybe she is a very affectionate person and maybe she calls everyone sweetie. Some people are like that, they say sweetie and hun to everyone.

That evening we sent text messages back and forth, getting to know each other’s likes and dislikes. Even though it seemed as if we were on the same page, the biggest question in the back of my mind was, why is such a beautiful lady, thirteen years younger than me, so interested?

Apparently, Sarah did not have the same burning question about me, and before we quit texting for the evening, she sent this.

Text 03

Wow! I was honored and blown away at such a gesture. I didn’t delete my profile, but I did go invisible.

The next morning, I was saving her photos to my computer and noticed that neither were selfies. Both images, especially the second one, looked very staged and posed. However, they were definitely of the same person who had posted the profile on Tinder. There must be a website of this person someplace.

There is a trick that you can do to find out if a photo is from a website or someone’s social media page. Simply right-click on the photo and scroll down to “Search Google for Image.” I searched Google for both images, and the search came up blank.

Friday, I sent a couple of messages but did not receive any responses and went to bed around 10 pm. When I woke up, I found that she had sent a reply in the early morning hours.

Text 04

Looks like she is having a wonderful time on her little vacation while visiting her mother. I sent a reply at 6:08 am (9:08 Eastern) and to my surprise received an instant response.

Text 05

My question about the event was never answered; instead, she shifted the conversation to Mocha and our morning walks, requesting a photo of Mocha. I sent the picture and said I was off to breakfast.

Text 06

Each new picture was more natural than the previous and the camera really loves her. I was quite hooked on her smile and the fact that she didn’t appear to wear a lot of makeup.

Saturday evening at 9:18 pm (12:18 Eastern) I received a text from Sarah saying that her day was good and asking about mine. I told her about working on my romance novel and researched some information for a client article.

Text 07

Choking on pork ribs? I am not sure how that happens, but it seems as if a call to 911 would have been more prudent than driving to the hospital. At any rate, I expressed that I was happy her mother was doing better. Then Sarah asked what I was doing, I told her I was watching the movie Kramer vs. Kramer then going to bed.

Text 08

Now, I am a little worried. Is it possible that someone in the U.S. has not seen or heard of Kramer vs. Kramer?

However, we continued texting for another hour, talking about foods, religion, music, and seemed to be very compatible on every subject. I asked for the part of Vegas that she lives and she replied, Henderson, texting her address at 3001 W. Warm Springs Rd. I Googled the address, and it is an apartment complex at the corner of Green Valley and Warm Springs. Not a bad drive from my place near the Red Rock Hotel.

She asked, “What kind of home are you staying? Is it a bungalow or a story building?” I replied that it is a modest single-story home to which she requested and I sent a couple of photos.

Sunday morning, at 6 am, I was preparing to take Mocha to the park when my phone rang. It was Sarah. The connection was terrible and her voice very soft, almost as if she was whispering.

“You have a British accent, how long have you been in the U.S.?”

“My parents lived in England, and I was raised there until I was 20, and then we moved to the states, I never got rid of the accent.”

“It’s a nice accent, and extra nice to hear your voice this morning.:

“I just wanted to say good morning and see how you were doing today.”

“I am doing fine, but my day is just starting.”

“What time is it?”

“It is 6 am, and I am getting ready to take Mocha to the park.”

“Oh, I didn’t realize it was that early, have a good walk with your dog and I will chat with you later.”

“OK, thank you for the call.”

As I ended the call, I wondered if she is really in Maine or a time zone in Europe someplace where the early morning hours would really be mid-day.

We didn’t text very much that day, she apologized and said that she had gotten busy. On Monday she sent a couple of photos including this one.

Sarah 06

There it was, the photo that would put me on the path to finding out precisely who I was texting. I right-clicked on the picture, and it led me to the website of,

Text 09

Notice that the “d” in design is not capitalized, but “I” in Inc is. This is not a professionally designed logo. As I explored the website further, I noticed many discrepancies. The links on the pages went nowhere, the phone number did not answer, the project panels repeated a couple of times, and nowhere on the site was the required Interior Design License Number.

On the About Me page, her name is listed as Sarah Hogan, but on the contact page, it is Sarah Butler. And…why did she have a photo with a map and travel books in front of her, instead of interior design plans?

I did a Google search but could not find an interior designer in Las Vegas, San Diego, or Portland, Maine by either name. Likewise, I could not find anyone by those names that look like the photos I have been receiving.

I highlighted some text on her page and right clicked to search Google.

Ever walked into a room that had that “WOW” factor? All it takes is a good eye, years of experience in the industry, and the drive to turn a room into one you’ll never want to leave. Since 2000, I’ve been designing spaces with my creative and professional approach, and helping clients bring life back into their living spaces in the process! From picking out the right furniture to creating a floor plan that outlines your overall vision, I can do it all at an unbeatable price.

 As your personal interior designer, I provide expert guidance throughout the whole design process and work closely with you to understand what you want.

Call now to schedule a consultation.

That same text can be found on several websites, all of which are designed by WiX.com website builder. All of the project photos on her pages are generic photos that WiX used to demonstrate how a page could look.

Armed with the information that I needed, I asked Sarah if she had any photos of her work and pointed out that my writing could be found on the internet if she Googled my name. In life, if you want something, you need to be willing to give in return.

She replied with a link to her site. https://www.smadesigninc.com/about-me

I Oooed and Awwwed about her work and waited to see where this game was going. But I didn’t have to wait long. Monday evening, I got the text I was now expecting.

Text 10

Now it was my turn, and I poured on the empathy, offering all my support and help.

Text 11

When she finally returned my text, I asked many questions to see how she would answer them. The story was that suspicious activity on her account caused the bank to close her account and it would take four weeks for them figure out what happened before they could release her money.

I offered many solutions to get her money sooner, including a story about how I had a friend who is a “banking attorney” that would help her if I asked. Of course, she rejected each of my solutions, because there was no bank account, it was all about the money.

Text 12

Then I had a brainstorm, let’s see how she responds to this idea.

Text 13

OH NO! She accepted my bluff, now what do I do?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to figure out plan “B” as my phone rang within a couple of minutes, it was Sarah, her voice sounded as if she was in tears.

Sarah: Hello Craig, at first I was very excited to see you, but my mother is so very sick, and I am hardly able to leave the house so we would not have any quality time and I would not want to meet you in this way. I don’t think that coming to Portland is a very good idea.

Me: I understand. Does that mean you won’t be coming home to Vegas on the 30th?

Sarah: No, it looks like I am going to be here longer.

Me: What would you like for me to do?

Sarah: Could you just wire the money?

Me: I could, but your account is closed, where would I wire it.

Sarah: I worked with this counselor on a project, let me talk to her and have you wire it to her account.

Me: OK, send the information to me, and I will go to my bank.

Text 14

After receiving the bank information, I sent an email to PNC Bank, fraud department, explaining my story and suggested that they track down the person who would receive these funds.

EPILOGUE

There are so many people being preyed upon either by telephone or internet scams. This was not the first attempt that I have had to scam me, and probably will not be the last. It is a shame that we must be so vigilant.

By the way, I did not realize until I blew up the photo of Sarah with her maps and travel books in front of her, that there is a faint watermark at the bottom. @jana_moment is the Instagram site of Jana Stübing, a Nordic travel blogger, and all of the photos are of Jana.

I guess that Google is not as good about finding photos as I thought, Jana’s photos are on Instagram and her website.

This is not the first time someone from a dating site has tried to scam me, but I have to say, this one was the best. Usually, I can pick them out within the first couple of text messages, mostly because of their lack of writing skills and the fact that English is not their first language. If you did not know, there is a huge problem with Nigerians using fake photos and pretending to be beautiful women. Most of the time they use the photo of some famous European model or athlete, one click and I have got them.

However, I admit to being a bit disappointed with the outcome of this story. Sarah and I had a real connection, she said all of the right words. But then again, that is what a good “confidence” person (con artist) does, they get inside you and get you to build their trust. It didn’t hurt that she chose the photos of a woman that looks beautiful and very down to earth.

 

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About craigruark

Craig A. Ruark is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing and PR professional. In 2008, Craig became one of the first non-technical persons to become an Accredited Professional by the U.S. Green Building Council for ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design” (LEED AP). Over the years he has immersed himself in the subject of “sustainability” and by combining this knowledge with his expertise in marketing and advertising, has published a book titled “Marketing Your Green Side,” which is available through Amazon. Craig is an avid fitness participant, sailor, SCUBA diver, enjoys singing Karaoke, listening to jazz, and is working on his next book.
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2 Responses to The Dating Scam

  1. Barb Wolfe says:

    Great scam story! I encountered something similar when I was on Match a few years ago. I learned from several encounters that if they say they live here but are out of town, run away! Or if they live just far enough away..like Laughlin or St. George or Reno, run away. Or if they work on an oil rig, run away. LOL!

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