Online Dating For The Pro-Age
Woman In The Age of Imposters
by Lana Gersman
Take it from me, I’m a very experienced dater. My friend Kate used to say that I had more dates than the 30-year old’s who worked for her. She was correct. Seldom a week would go by without me meeting a few people; someone for cocktails, someone for dinner and perhaps a quick cuppa with a bloke or two during a less hectic work day. I became so good at online dating that in the first couple minutes I could tell exactly who I was meeting and whether it would be worth my while. Until I met my first imposter.
Claudio said he was from Bulgaria. The first communication led me to believe I was dealing with an educated, normal sort of chap. His photo revealed a man in his mid-50’s with silver streaks running gracefully through a full head of straight black hair. Dark playful eyes smiled back at me even when his mouth wasn’t doing so. This was all set in a visage with refined high cheekbones and lips that were magnets for long, lovely kisses.
Mark my words, there is always an excuse or story these guys have about texting and what platform to use. Gmail hangouts and Yahoo Messenger are most often suggested. Ladies, if they skirt around texting via iMessage, or something equal, consider this Red Flag number two. Claudio, however, had a South African phone number so this circumvented any questions about where he lived permanently. We chose WhatsApp to communicate.
After a few texts I said it would be great to see one another physically, “How about a face-to- face video call?” Huge resistance and multiple excuses came flying at me like a swarm of locusts out to feed on my neatly planted fields. The most common excuse was, ‘Internet reception is iffy out here. It’s off the beaten track.’ In this day and age?
He had all the sound effects of the ocean and people coming in and out of his office, with nicknames he offered up. As an engineer he had an impressive large crew of people who answered to him. He’d even have them chat with me. One guy, who answered to the Captain, admitted Claudio had been talking about me during breaks and how crazy he was about me. Convincing, right? To me, this did not sound the way mature men I was used to responded.
A quick note here. The dating app I met Claudio on was Tinder. It is one of the worst sites, in terms of finding imposters to date, especially if you are in our 55+ demographic. Here in South Africa, it’s filled with imposters. Usually they are young Nigerians who are looking for older women who are lonely, needy and have disposable income.
Each missive come’s with a strong narrative and full-on romance, the likes of which you probably have never seen. And it’s meant to fill you with conflict, because when was the last time, you were doted on by someone? Ladies, we can be drawn in by this and these worms know how to slowly pull you into their compost heap and work you over, until you have made them nutrient rich.
A quick rule of thumb. Make sure you meet up with them after just a few texts or calls. Then you have the hard evidence that they match the profile photo, right in front of you. But nothing is written in stone.
If you decide to email, by the second or third email, imposters are not only sharing incredibly personal information, all made up of course, but also pushing you to express feelings for them. They understand the need for most women to fall for a strong, romantic narrative that expresses our natural desires. Think Charlotte Brontë.
Often, they use the story of being widowers and having one child and they probably will give you a legitimate university their child is attending. And, will include photos of themselves with their child. Think proud daddy who casually mentions he sends money to support them at school.
You will also notice that the grammar begins to change. It’s subtle at first but before you know it, it becomes increasingly clear that the first couple of emails were written by someone they might have paid to help build the façade, because now you will find one grammatical error after another. Is that Red Flag number three?
By this time, it had gotten to be too much, too soon but I decided to play along to see where he would go with it.
Often, they don’t have any friends and don’t want you to mention this new romance to anyone because ‘we’re just getting to know one another.’ They also are great at acting jealous with the mention of friends, especially male friends. Another couple of red flags.
He also managed to give me a legitimate Cape Town address and often mentioned obvious streets and landmarks. If you get hooked, it will become such that they will take more and more and more and before you know it, you will have a huge chunk of change missing from your bank account, that amazingly, you have been more than willing to fork out. These guys are masters at holding women hostage for their love, which of course you will never have, nor will you want to because they are not who they say they are
‘Claudio’ was, to say the least, stupefied and wanted to know what the red flags were. But I declined his request. “Why would I share something like this only to have you refine your game?”
In an incredible twist of fate, because I treated him so well, he admitted to falling for me and started sharing info about who he really was; a twenty something young African man in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, living in what appeared to be dire circumstances.
By now you might be asking yourself, “…and how did she know he was African and living in dire circumstances?” Well, he felt so comfortable with me that he called me on video, conspicuously revealing the real him. And I recorded him with the screen recording facility that an iPhone offers. Then I forwarded this to a detective friend of mine here in South Africa, who specializes in internet crimes.
Best-selling writer Tim Harford has a podcast called, Cautionary Tales (one of my favorites). He advises, ‘A brilliant con man intuitively understands something about human nature…sometimes we want to be fooled.’
There are many Claudio’s out there. So, if you need help, I recommend you consult with an internet detective. It’s always a great idea to have someone very experienced watching out for you.
In the US and Canada versions Tim Harford’s book is titled, The Data Detective…Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics. Internationally it is called How to Make the World Add Up. Or listen to his podcast, Cautionary Tales.