"Real love is more than a physical feeling. If there's even the slightest doubt in your head about a guy, then forget about it. It's not real." ~Ethan Embry
Are you asking yourself if your online boyfriend is a fake? If so, you're not alone--and if she's single, divorced or widowed, your mom might be there too.
There are 54,250,000 single people in the United States today, according to recent online dating statistics released by StatisticBrain, and more than 41 million of them admit that they've tried online dating. It's how one in three are meeting their spouses these days--and the online dating industry raked in more than $1.2 BILLION last year. Yeah, you read that right. Billion.
Though online dating is more common than ever, and given that nearly 20 percent of marriages in just the last year reportedly started out as online relationships, getting involved with someone you met online can be a risky venture. As is evident by the popularity of the MTV hit reality show, Catfish (not to mention the movie that sparked the show), there are plenty of weirdos, creeps and scammers out there.
Today, we're focusing on the most dangerous kind of online boyfriend: toxic love scammers. You know the type--he's the totally fake one who has no intention of really being with you. This kind of "boyfriend" is nothing more than a user, a taker and someone who wants you only for what you can give them (usually, it involves plenty of cold, hard cash).
Your friends and family can see it--and they tell you all about it. But you feel like they just don't understand, and you get defensive. Alternatively, you keep quiet about your online affair, telling only your very close friends, if anyone at all.
Is your online boyfriend a fake? How a toxic love scammer finds you
Scammers love hunting their victims via email and through various social media sites via private message. It's a sneaky way to get their message to you in a seemingly personal and almost intimate way. There are a few fairly standard formulas, of course, but it usually looks something like this
Scam Alert: Love at First Profile Stalk
They usually claim to be from a foreign country and they're often (at least in my case) hitting up the wrong sex/sexuality. That is, I'm always getting "French girls" and "Filipinas" who claim to have fallen hard for me after seeing my profile on some random social media site.
Then there are the dudes who follow a similar formula but they usually claim to be Italian or some kind of African, though this varies. A fairly notable percentage of these guys are actually working in call centers aimed at scamming people out of their hard-earned money.
Are you the target of an online love scam?
Profile stalkers tend to seek people who are (or appear to be) lonely or desperate for love. Those who are most vulnerable are generally women who may appear to have low self-esteem. The scammers count on the fact that they are starving for love, so that they're willing to allow themselves to fall for these "sweet talkers" who eventually intend to take everything they've got. And if they manage to bleed their victims dry, they'll suddenly disappear without a word, eager to get started on the next affair/scam.
Who falls for this crap? A profile of the average victim
If you put all the victims in a database and creates your own Weird Science-type person out of the average of all factors and demographics of said victims, she might look something like this.
- Over 40
- Possibly overweight
- Single, divorced or widowed
- Lonely (or appears to be lonely)
- Insecure about her age, body, looks or all three
- Empty nester or soon will be--maybe even a grandma
- Not incredibly internet savvy, doesn't keep up with social media news
- Upper middle class with a healthy savings (or at least access to money/credit)
Because our victim is so seemingly happy in her station (but secretly insecure and thirsty for acceptance, love, closeness, intimacy, etc.), she allows herself to overlook the apparent clues that seem so glaring to those around her. Inside her head, she's still a woman, after all--doesn't she deserve to feel loved and treasured?
It feels good, knowing someone might love her, though she may secretly fear meeting him because she might not be as beautiful in person as in photos, or what if he thinks she looks too old/fat/poor/whatever else she worries about?
So her own fear of loss, embarrassment and rejection, coupled with her inability to give up that "drug" of his attention (because that's what it feels like when she talks to him...like she's high on life) adds up to a certain amount of manipulation material for the "love of her life"--and he totally uses all of that to his advantage.
Top Two Signs Your Online Boyfriend is a Fake: It's all about love and money.
He Tells You He Loves You Way Too Soon--And Before You Ever Meet In Person
He's a smooth operator, and if he's a little choppy with his English or doesn't understand basic cultural references, you write it off to personality quirks--you might even find it cute.
That's because part of what these guys do is play on the emotions of vulnerable women who just want to be loved. So, as any manipulator does, these guys will get their hooks into a woman the easy way--by playing on her weaknesses. That's why, in order to create some kind of loyalty and sense of obligation in his victim, a love scammer will spit out the L word way too soon.
For example, the story of Jodi Bourgeois, who fell for a scammer initially.
"He was very good with words," Bourgeois told the Huffington Post. "Some of the emails he sent me were unbelievable. I showed them to my friends and they were like, 'Oh my god, he’s so romantic. He’s wonderful'."
But when Garic, who had started telling her he loved her within a week and talked marriage within a month, asked her for money the first time, Bourgeois said it was like somebody punched her in the gut. He had promised an in-person meeting during a business trip to London but couldn't make it happen without her giving him $1800. She refused, but sensed what was coming next.
"When it started coming up [more often], I was pulling back a little bit. I started getting a feeling," she said. Eventually, she ended the relationship. She never gave him any money, but she still mourns the relationship she thought she had.
He Asks You For Money
Imagine this. He always has an excuse as to why he can't meet you in person. Usually, all he needs is a little more money and then, he swears, you will be together...forever...
If he actually gets any cash from you, he'll suddenly be madly, desperately, deeply in love with you. He makes plans to visit but never actually shows up. Often, he cancels at the last minute and makes outrageous excuses. And again, all he needs is a little more money so he can "come home to you."
Personal Advice from QB: Do not ever, ever, ever send money to any man you meet online. Especially if you haven't ever met them in person.
Debbie Best's story is one that personifies the stereotype. Best is described as "a 50-year-old residential habilitation trainer and employment specialist from Butte, Montana, found herself the unwitting victim of an online dating scam."
"The man she thought was a long-distance boyfriend in Florida tricked her out of her money, her credit card information and her heart," writes The Huffington Post's Anthonia Akitunde, adding that Best's scammer appeared to be "part of a larger crime syndicate based in Africa, and that his profile is used in 'many different areas around the country.'
Her story is almost word-for-word stereotype. Take, for example, the story of how the man systematically began to groom Best and pull her into his web, published along with Akitunde's commentary, partially quoted above.
"Two months into our relationship, he told me he was going to take his savings of $700,000 to the United Kingdom to buy some antiques and have them shipped back to the United States so they can be sold at auction. We were planning to meet some time after that. I got a phone call from him; he told me he had got some nice antiques and that he was going to Nigeria to buy some more things. And that’s when things kind of went to hell.
A few days later I got a call from him when I was at work. He said, 'I went to ship my stuff out and it costs $5,000 more than I have. I need you to send me $5,000.'" (Read the full story to find out how he continued to manipulate her and ended up sucking her dry.)
Another typical story comes from 51-year-old divorcee Mary Wheaton, who did lose money to her online love scammer.
"He told Wheaton that customs agents at the airport seized his cash," writes Katie Bindley. "He said his daughter wasn't feeling well and that he just wanted to get her someplace safe, so Wheaton says she wired him $2,000 to pay for his hotel room for two weeks. Then he needed $5,000 for legal fees. Wheaton felt that Slyd's story didn't add up: He asked for money to buy plane tickets to fly from Spain to Michigan, but why hadn't he purchased round trip tickets in the first place?"
More Signs Your Online Boyfriend is a Fake: What Former Victims of Online Love Scams Say
A support group for victims of online love scams has compiled a
Their first ten tips:
- Their profile picture looks professionally done and can be found on a modeling website FocusHawaii.com, NewFaces.com, Q6.com, TheModelMax.com, BlackCuties.com, PerspectivePhotography.com to name a few
- Their height/weight is not proportional -e.g. 6' and 95 lbs
- They claim to have blonde hair and blues eyes when the picture is dark hair and brown eyes or vice versa
- They have a wedding ring on the photo yet they claim to be single
- They claim to be Native American or some other ethnicity when the photo is Caucasian
- They claim to be older/younger than the photo looks
- Their specified age range seems to have no limit-e.g. 25-60
- They have weird usernames containing "4real" or "4luv"
- Their first names are also weird, like Martins, Williams, Kevins, Waynes, etc... (instead of Martin, William, Kevin, Wayne)
- The women names are often misspelled, like Jenifer instead of Jennifer, Ashly instead of Ashley, or Marry instead of Mary.