by Lisa Black
We’ve all gotten them. The friend requests from someone designed to catch our eye. Men will get well-endowed models. Young women will get hunky 20-somethings. Older women like me will get distinguished, successful silver foxes. Most of you are smart, decide you have no idea who this person is, and hit Decline. As part of my ongoing research into scams and scammers, I click Accept. Problem is, they’re never as entertaining as I expect, because they’re almost regimentally similar.
– They don’t seem to understand first names and last names, often listing themselves as “James Mark” or “Smith Joseph” or “Harrison Keith.” On top of that they often put an entirely different name in parentheses, as if that’s going to make them sound more authentic. Sure, someone with an alias sounds like terrific boyfriend material. I asked John Gabriel (Arif Arif) if his name was John or Arif, and he said he uses one ‘because of the Taliband.’ I pointed out that posting the alias on Facebook was hardly secure. We didn’t last long as a couple.
– They’ll have a few photos, half of which will be flowers or puppies. Selfies will usually be cropped just enough so that a Google Image search won’t find the true owner, but many times they’re too lazy to even do that.
– Their status is always widowed, with a child or two of school age. Wait for it, this child will have some sort of medical condition down the road that requires funds, though you would think a military contractor stationed in Afghanistan would make pretty good money.
– They’ll be from some large city in the U.S. though their English skills sound suspiciously like something run through Google Translate.
– Usually very little other information is provided. They don’t bother, and there could be several reasons for that–they’re casting as wide a net as possible, or they think lonely old ladies are so desperate they’ll jump at any Friend Request out there, or they’re simply lazy. But I think it’s mostly a matter of efficiency. They’re not going to last long on Facebook, because quickly, often within days, someone will report the profile as spam and they’ll be kicked off. (This surprises me, because when I report the profile I usually get a message back that it ‘doesn’t violate community standards.’)
– When they do fill in anything in the ‘About’ section, take a look . They’ll have the sense to list American TV shows and maybe celebrities among Likes, but the walls begin to crumble in Music and Sports. After all, young men have very firm opinions on their music and sports. Now there’s no reason why your blue-eyed engineer from Dallas can’t be following a Bangladesh cricket team or listening to Ghanese singer Sark Gh. I appreciate a man who has international tastes. But these entries fascinate me. Are they a private joke among the scammers? Do they think I won’t bother looking past the silver fox’s photo? Or are they a Freudian slip, a breadcrumb of truth they simply can’t help dropping?
– After you’ve become fast friends, very fast, they will want to get you off Facebook as quickly as possible, preferably to Hangouts, a chatting app. This is where my research breaks down since I’m not going to use my real phone number. I told charming James Mark that my mother won’t let me install apps on my phone. That produced a flurry of texts.
James Mark: Tell your mom/ That I’m so interested to make good friendships with you in honesty trust and understanding way/ I won’t tell you do any bad
C: Yeah, I don’t think she’s going to buy that. Why can’t you just email me?
I did get him to move to email, but he continued to harangue poor Chloe to get on Hangouts. The army surgeon threw up excuses about not knowing how to use ‘confusing’ email, and that for some reason his UN barrister would get suspicious if he emailed her. Chloe had had it.
C: I AM NOT GOING TO DOWNLOAD THE APP. If that’s a deal-breaker, so be it. We’ve got coronavirus up the wazoo over here, and I don’t have time to deal with this. I would think a surgeon in Syria would have a lot more to worry about than some phone app.
Jimmy gave up after this, and took himself, his army career, and his 10 year old in the Canadian boarding school back to the drawing board.
And that’s why I’m having trouble finding love on the internet.
How about you? Have you had requests that looked legit but turned out to be scams?