After decades of being hobby-less, I am happy to announce that I now have a hobby: I report scammers on dating websites.
It might not be as fun a hobby as, say, collecting stamps or crocheting decorative covers for cushions, but it is rather satisfying nevertheless, in a flapping flies kind of way.
I came up with this hobby when I discovered a phenomenon I had not been aware of: romance scams. This was when I had just started experimenting online dating. I had no idea that the dating sites are not only havens for love seeking souls; they are also jungles of predators that want to take an advantage of the love seeking souls.
There is hardly anyone more vulnerable than a middle-aged divorcee. Many of us, though heartbroken and lonely, still entertain hope of finding new love. It takes guts to expose your deepest desires in an online community that many consider a bit dubious. Those who swallow their pride and do it anyway are like gazelles pasturing on a savannah, easy game for vicious hyenas.
When I started my adventures on the online dating scene, I was very naive. I also did not know how far the scammers would go to catch their prey. Most of them are amateurs, of course, making their profiles rather entertaining to read, for instance when you procrastinate and are temporarily fed up with the usual kitten eats a banana in a bathtub -videos.
I have come across all sorts of oddities. You might wonder how a person can get through a medical school with a dysphasia so serious he cannot construct one proper sentence in readable English. When I read these profiles, decorated with red flags to a point that red is all I see, the evil side of me goes rogue. Once I asked a "brain doctor" what was his take on consciousness. After a while I got a detailed account on the topic - freshly copied from Wikipedia. I know because I checked. Aaaw, cute, I thought. He thinks he can get away with such a little effort.
The sad truth is that they often do. Otherwise scamming would not be such a huge industry as it obviously is, given that around 80 percent messages I receive come from wherever they fabricate the fake profiles.
But not all of the scammers are lazy, though. Once I bumped into an Italian architect who had a fancy website. It was late at night and my eyes were tired so I almost swallowed the story. Next morning I took a closer look at the beautiful photos of his various glorious interior design projects. I googled the images and learned that they were all downloaded from different real estate agencies´ websites. His "team" consisted of professionals working all over the world in different companies. I was in awe. He was a scammer but he scammed with style.
Who are these people? Nigerian gangsters? Russian Mafiosi? Machines? Robots? Aliens?
The following example is from a real message that entered my inbox at OkCupid.
"i am an Italian man living and working here since 3 years , i work here as an architect and i am into building constructions and Interior designs , i am widowed and i have 1 son he is 18 years , and he lives and schools in the united states. my hobbies are cooking , swimming, skiing , camping , golfing, wine tasting and a lot more , i am a one woman Man, and i am not into playing games. i am a good and romantic man searching for true love ,.please tell me about your self . how long have you been using online dating? any good experience ? i will be waiting to read from you soon"
I mean, really!
The scammers have changed the way I look at love. While once upon a time I probably did regard words such as "true love", "soul mate" and "romance" in high regard, these concepts now seem hollow to me. The scammers have soiled the words I have held sacred.
However much I detest romance scamming, I still think that it is the poor buggers that need our sympathy more than the people they try to fool. That's why I report them. I try to save them from themselves. They need to be told that money really is a meagre price for one´s soul.
If I ever was to meet a scammer in person, I would give him a hug. I would say it´s going to be OK. And then we would meditate together, to access that place within, where there is only goodness and love. He probably would continue scamming even after that but I would feel so much better. Forgiveness is such a powerful mood booster.
If you come across a scammer, here´s what I suggest: welcome the experience as a great opportunity to practice Metta, loving kindness meditation. Send wishes of love, wellbeing, prosperity and kindness to the poor souls who, for one reason or another, have ended up making bad decisions. Remember to send those wishes to yourself, too. Make peace with what is. And then go on with your life. Love will find you eventually, and that is something no one can take away from you.