Upon moving to New York, I quickly learned about the fast-paced dating culture in the city, and the abundance of apps that make virtual speed dating possible. When left swiping was starting to give my thumb some serious carpal tunnel, I tried a new app, called Happn. This app uses geo-based technology that shows you the people you cross paths with on the street. Kind of like a missed connection sort of deal, the app gives you a second chance to catch the love of your life from just passing you by. Within the first 24 hours, I met someone I found attractive and intriguing.
We started talking on the app, and within a week or two, we moved to Skype. He was away on business and so video chatting and messaging was our means of getting to know each other. He loved Hemingway, read the same books as I did, and seemed adventurous and humble. We talked about values, about societal concerns and his punctuation and grammar was razor sharp. Swoon.
Three weeks in. He’s supposed to be coming back from his business trip and we’re planning to meet up in New York. His last message: “Going to hit the gym. Have a great yoga class!”
After that text, I stopped hearing from him. A week went by… nothing. I thought it was peculiar to be communicating with someone daily (we had actually exchanged over 200 messages back and forth each day since we started chatting) and have the person go radio silent. Perhaps he got in an accident? Heart attack at the gym? I was concerned about his safety that I even Googled his name with the word “car accident.”
Then, I went on to Facebook to see if I could find his profile. He has a generic name so at first, nothing showed up. After doing some digging, I finally stumbled upon his Facebook page.
Then it all made sense.
Not only did I find his page, I also found the profile page of his wife. His new wife. In fact, he was “courting” me all the way up to days before his wedding.
I guess if there was an excuse to not touch base, this would be it — he was getting MARRIED. I peeked at his wife’s page and saw the wedding photos as stunning as if they had been staged for a magazine spread. She looked sweet as pie. They looked so in love. Judging by their photos, no one would ever know that she was marrying a lying sociopath. The girl probably has no clue.
Everything he said was a lie. His apartment in Tribeca, his dating gripes, how his extensive travel schedule was holding him back from creating a long-term relationship. He made everything up.
I’m not going to deny, this experience has been disenchanting. It bewilders me that there are people out there who lie and cheat without remorse. I pride myself on my strong intuition and it never occurred to me that I was dealing with a complete fake. If we had met up, I could have very well fallen for him, without knowing he was married. My intuition failed me. He was that good. Or perhaps, I was that naïve.
To all of you dating out there, I do not want to scare you or make you swear off online dating. I am a woman who still chooses to believe in the best in people, and believes that there is more kindness and beauty in people than there is darkness and evil. Putting yourself out there means you’ll meet a lot of great people, and unfortunately, the occasional con artist or sociopath may sneak his way in. You have to keep your heart open for love, but you also have to be cautious, especially when dating online. Here are some tips to save you from getting duped online:
Google him with the right key words.
I once dated a man who I would later learn was a total con-artist. When he was first courting me, I Googled him, but everything checked out okay. Then, when he asked to borrow thousands of dollars from me, I Googled him again but this time with the word “fraud” in the search. Voila. A web page came up with a public warning that the man was a con-artist and had defrauded many people for money. If someone has a common name, you may need to expand your search to include words like “con, scam, fraud…etc” in order for something to come up.
Do a reverse image search.
There are entire scam rings out there that steal photos, create fake accounts and troll dating sites to find their victims. You can conduct an image search, where you upload the person’s photo, and the magical Google will search the interwebs to find a photo match. This can be a good way of seeing if the photo appears on other sites, or if the pictures are stolen.
If he cannot meet you in person, be suspicious.
He’s away on business for an undetermined amount of time. He’s in a location where the reception is poor and can’t video chat. He isn’t available to speak in the evenings. All of these are warning signs. While in some cases, it’s nice to build rapport online before meeting in person, if there is always an excuse as to why he isn’t available to see you then take that as a red flag.
If things are moving super quickly, be cautious.
Are there stories out there where two people meet, fireworks are sparked and they know right away they have found “the one?” Yes, it has happened. But it’s not the norm. Such stories are so magical, warm and fuzzy, that they stick out and stay in the top of our minds, coloring our reality with rose petals and fairy dust. A healthy relationship is created by building a foundation, and that base is not built overnight. If someone wants to have your commitment right away, you may be filling a void, or fitting into a fantasy, or, he may be a scam artist trying to get one of the following from you: A) money B) ass C) an escape from his shitty reality D) All of the above.
If you’ve had a negative experience online, or know of someone who has, don’t be discouraged. There are a lot more kind and loving people out there than there are crazies. After a disappointment, you just have to brush yourself off, get back on your feet and keep going. Each experience is adding to your book of interesting stories. Many experiences will come with a lesson that will help you grow. Don’t let the bad guys ruin it for the good guys ahead.
Photo by Ibai Acevedo