From victim to chuckles

Living in a modern age means that a lot more of our lives are conducted online. Whether it be via a mobile or a computer, countless activities require using the internet and being connected. This might especially be true during the global covid-19 pandemic, as most jurisdictions request or mandate social distancing and/or quarantining.

Image courtesy of IE Insights

Having said that, most of our social lives thus have transferred to being more digital in some way or another. Video chatting via Facetime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or other means has become a normal thing. I mean through the last few months I was even able to reconnect with some old friends and play online trivia on Saturdays. It was awesome and honestly a great way to reconnect and keep sane.

But really can a pandemic stop the summer loving? Something about the heating up of summer that gets the blood rushing and the puppy love fluttering. It may be taboo to meet someone during this time (obviously) but there are still hunters in search of their prey. What do I mean? Online dating scammers, of course. This summer has marked an uptake in the scamming I’ve noticed, and I found myself in an interesting situation.

Image courtesy of Ukrainian Passport

Years past we hear about sad old women being preyed on by online scammers; Nigerian princes looking to share their gold and love, Persian kings spouting romantic poems in search of love, or even the Chinese catfishes that are just looking for some potatoes (ok sorry bad joke!) People send thousands of dollars to people that lure them on the internet with romantic intentions, and until recently it’s only centered in mainstream media. Now-a-days, people realise that homosexual men have large disposable incomes and therefore scammers have dipped their toes into scamming them. Want to hear about my experience? Keep reading!

I unexpectedly got a match on Tinder, with a rather attractive tattooed guy who appeared Russian. Sure enough he was Russian but wrote in obviously Google Translated Swedish. This is the point in the routine where I think, wait he’s too beautiful to be into me without any reason or something underhanded. At the risk of sounding like I have no self confidence whatsoever, I get suspicious when attractive people match or contact me. Reasons? Illogical, prey, pity, dunno! His name, was Ilya. Anyways we started emailing each other, but since I’m a seasoned internet dude I gave him one of my many, many, emails that were totally anonymous. And so we were off to the races.

Every day at roughly the same time I would get an email attached with a photo. I would reply in the afternoon, as impersonally and generically as I could, often perplexed by the strangely romantic messages written to someone they knew nothing about. One of which is featured as such:

I love books and I try to read every day. I especially fell in love with the novels of French writers Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas. I run long distances in the gym twice a week to strengthen all the muscles in my body. I also go to the pool. I added a photo from my little workout.😉I hope you appreciate. 😀When the body is in good shape, the feeling of vivacity and freshness overwhelms!!

[…]

As far as my family is concerned … I have no brother and sisters. We live with my mother, as I said in my last letter. I don’t remember my father, he left us when I was 3.5 years old, a small child. Sad memories and story. Well … what can I say more …

I want to find love, this is the most important goal in my life. Because being alone is emptiness and meaninglessness.

Example e-mail from Ilya
“Ilya Bahtin” or “Ilia Baktin” or Dmitry

I couldn’t help but notice some of the oddities in the writing, “we” for example perked my attention. Fifteen emails over the span of a month. Equally shrewd in my messages was I in my doubting that this person was real (like for real…). I can smell a catfish a mile away, or so I thought. Originally in his message he said that he had planned to visit Stockholm in September, and I was like okay cool. Would I meet someone in who’s visiting? Sure, in a public place and not commit to anything. There was no mention of details.

And then time got closer to September, and I was talking to my colleagues about this. They are Russian speaking and a few of them even were thinking: why couldn’t this be real? After all it is a sad story; a closeted homosexual in Russia who appears totally straight who probably wants to be free from oppression of Russian oppressive laws. Did I mention that he said he lived in Ulyanovsk (where?!), so it would likely be even worse. It was then that I got an email with a video file of him introducing himself as what sounds like Dimtry. Red flag.

Then a colleague mentioned something, why don’t we try to find him on Russian social media? What a great idea! So I made a fake profile and used the information that I had, the school at which he said he studied, his birthday, his photo, his full name. I used my sleuthing skills and scoured the hundreds of millions of profiles on OK and VM and I couldn’t find anything. It’s as if this person didn’t really exist, so I became even more suspicious.

Ulyanovsk to Moscow, 13 hours by car, 15 hours by train

Then the e-mail came, a week away from proposed arrival. He went to the consulate to get a visa and was denied because he didn’t have enough money in his account for the living standard of a week in Sweden. I got this email on a Sunday, and he said he went to the consulate on Saturday. Now, I dunno how things are in Asia, but no Swedish or EU embassy or consulate would ever be open on a Saturday. Another red flag. Plus the only place there would be one would be in Moscow which is a ridiculous amount of time to go for a visa and would definitely need an overnight stay. Red flags all over the place.

I replied saying I don’t have 700EU laying around and would need time to gather it. Just to be clear, I had no intention of gathering or sending any money. It just piqued my interest even more. He gave me a Whatsapp number, which he never answered, so I said to him in an email that I wanted to talk to him on the phone. I recommended Google Hangouts because the mail address he had was gmail, so I knew it automatically had a chat feature built in. He agreed and my colleague and I talked to him. She spoke to him in Russian and asked him about what he was doing and wanted. He agreed that he would send an identity document and proof of flight and hotel.

14 year old Ilya, allegedly

About an hour later we had it. His internal Russian passport, flight tickets, and hotel and we had a look. They looked real but even I have good enough eyes to notice a few things were off. Like for instance the photo was of a 14 year old boy and the codes and information on the passport just didn’t seem right given where he’s supposed to be from. The flight information could have been legit, but there was no guarantee. So I relented and told him I was still looking for money. Then suddenly he tried to video-call me, a colleague and I were in shock. So I answered, and believe it or not the guy in all the photos was there on video. I was flabbergasted and really thought it was a catfish. He could barely speak English and his living situation appeared way too modern to be from a backwards community address that he sent me. I humoured him, and that was that. I noticed he disappeared from Tinder, and then the day later I matched again with the same profile and he contacted me again, having no idea that we already corresponded.

That’s when I decided to pay a private investigator in Russia to check everything out. Crazy I know but how many of you could say that you ever had a private investigator? I knew what the result would be, but there was a part of me that really just wanted to know for sure and to prove myself right. Instead of sending money to a scammer, I thought why not spend a little less and have an investigator check it out. And so I called, got the investigation underway and within 5 days I got the results. All of this happened with two days to spare from Ilya/Dmitry/whoever’s arrival, which coincidentally coincided with his birthday. Three days before departure and he called me out of the blue. Asking me about dinner and what time it was. I asked him what time it was in Ulyanovsk and surprisingly he said it was only one hour ahead of me. I asked again thinking that couldn’t be, knowing that he was at least 3 hours ahead of me, and then it hit me that it was Moscow time. I put all the pieces together about the apartment being modern, timezone, photos, everything.

Needless to say, everything checked out as being false. Police verified falsified documents. Internal ministry verified falsified passport information. Telephone and e-mail address checked out as known scammers. Bank account details reported to police. All signs point to fake, and so I was vindicated. I raised my fist to the sky in success and triumph. I confronted him with me not believing who he was, he tried to get me to visit some scam website to verify his passport number, and got angry about the whole thing demanding that I send him a copy of my passport, blah blah blah. Funny times.

So now that the dust has settled and it’s been a few months since this all happened, I decided to reflect a little bit on motivations and what I think about it. I understand that people want to make easy money, and I’m sure this guy does, but at what cost? The heartbreaking of lonely men or women, lonely homosexuals that otherwise wouldn’t have a chance with someone good-looking? I think it’s disgusting to target people and exploit them, especially love or feelings. I’m almost 100% certain that this Ilya/Dmitry or whoever he is a heterosexual man that is just posing as a gay guy in order to capitalise. It’s easy, I get it but I’m glad that I didn’t fall for it. It’s all new for the scamming world. The documents looked professional, the whole thing just appeared really legit, if it wasn’t me on the other end. Does he do this to everyone? Or maybe only to ugly or semi-goodlooking guys that can’t otherwise get a relationship. It even made me think about how this could expand into visa-scams. After all, all you have to do is get onto the soil of the country and then claim asylum and disappear. Maybe that’s what’s going on here too, but quite frankly I don’t believe it to be true.

“Sergey” from Cheboksary

Since this all started I’ve had 2 more scammers contact me or “match” with me in one way or another. Another Russian guy named “Sergey” and a British-Chinese guy, allegedly from Hong Kong with an Ohio (or Google phone) number. Lest we forget the Nigerian from two years ago, and the countless other Brazilians photos being used by Chinese users on Chinese dating apps. It’s really tiring and irritating and the vindictive bitch deep down in me wants to just publish all the photos all of them sent to me in hopes that other people can not be scammed and can be found via Google Images. I hope you scammers face justice and appropriate punishment for disgusting behaviour. People deserve to be treated better, and now even the gays need to be careful. As sad as a tone it is to end this post, it’s all funny and it’s all good. I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t scammed, but there is a little part of me that just loses hope about people.

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