They are out there. We know it. We hope we will be lucky enough to avoid them. But sometimes they come into our lives.
I encountered one up close last night. I met him online. Before you launch into “This is why dating sites are so dangerous,” I’ve met nearly 100 men this way and he’s the first that I’ve discovered has a history of scamming others.
His profile title is “Obama Senior Advisor Seeks Amazing Woman.” Who wouldn’t be drawn to that? Evidently, that’s part of his scheme. We talked by phone a few times and set a time to meet.
At dinner he was intelligent, charming, and conversant in Obama’s policies. He wasn’t much to look at so he apparently depends on his words to attract people. He sprinkled the conversation with “You’re beautiful,” “I want to take you to Prague, the most romantic city in the world,” “I want you to meet my son,” and other signs of intended long-term interest. He even said, “I’d love to take you to the White House for lunch. Would you like to meet the president?”
Listening with a jaded ear not getting sucked in, I knew enough to need corroborating evidence before I believed this possible, but far-fetched story. There were inconsistencies — including how would this frumpily dressed man fit in with a world-class team? But I had no idea his stories were more than just a man trying to make a favorable first impression. It was the beginning of a grifter’s wooing to extract funds from women.
I learned the truth by Googling him once I returned home, armed with his whole name — which I learned is an alias. I found several pages chocked full of complaints from both men and women stating he was a liar, manipulator, swindler, convicted fraud and scam artist, and has a practice of paying for business dealings by checks from closed accounts. He’d been fired from a number of jobs for fraud making stupid mistakes that made it easy to uncover his deception.
How do I know he’s using an alias? The complaint page included his alias and disclosed his real name with a link to a social networking site where he posted the same picture as his online profile.
But it gets worse. He is also accused of grabbing female members of a social group in a predatory fashion, which caused him to be expelled, and of aggravated sexual harassment.
Here are some of his typical lies:
- He’s a cancer survivor (the cancer changes with the story)
- Wife died of cancer 2 years ago
- Is one of President Obama’s 5 inauguration speech writers, and was on staff for 2 years in the campaign and is still on staff
- Was on the faculty at several colleges in Chicago and Boulder
- Was an executive for the largest PR firm in the country
- Is courted by top politicians to write speeches and create strategy for them
- Is a film and art columnist so gets tickets to opening nights
- Is the author of a forthcoming book
How do you protect yourself from a smooth-talking sociopath? It’s common sense that we sometimes don’t heed when faced with a practiced scammer:
- Listen to uncommon stories with skepticism. Not that people can’t accomplish amazing things, but verify from independent sources before believing them.
- Don’t fall easily for early sweet talking. If you haven’t heard it in a while, “You’re beautiful,” “I’m falling in like already,” “I’d love to see you again” are alluring. However, if said too often too early, they are signs that something is amiss as he barely knows you.
- Guard your privacy, not giving much personal information about where you live, if you own or rent, or your financial situation.
- Google him using various pieces of information he told you in case he’s using an alias.
Will you be able to avoid all scammers? No. but these tips will help you uncover some early. Try to balance healthy skepticism with being open. I know it’s hard, but there are people who have done amazing things. But don’t believe their stories until you’ve verified them from other sources.
For more ideas on how to find out about men before getting attached, download your copy of Check Him Out Before Going Out: Head Off Dud Dates.