Wednesday, September 14, 2016

                                                             I Did a Dumb Thing

     They call it “Lure and Groom.” This is what predators do online. They say nice things to a person, usually a woman or young girl, and then they “groom” her by continuing the “lure” until they move in for the kill. Fortunately, I have not yet been killed, but I have experienced the above even at my ripe old age. I tell this embarrassing story because it could save someone else from a result far worse than embarrassment.

     A couple of weeks ago, a man complimented something I said on face book and asked to befriend me. Normally, I would ignore such requests when I don’t know a person, but this man’s profile said he was from Sweden. As I am Swedish, I was intrigued, so I looked further at his bio. I found out that he was an artist with his own studio and a rather handsome man at that. I don’t usually go about picking up stray guys online, but when I looked at his artwork, it was gorgeous. I am a former art dealer, so that, too, enticed me. Curious, I befriended him and began a “private message” correspondence with him. I discovered that he was a widower with a young twenty-something daughter. A week or so ago, she asked to befriend me as well. I got caught up in the “surrogate mom” fantasy and befriended her as well. She said she wished I could be her mom. I made sure from the outset that they both knew that I was happily married and had two daughters of my own. Fast forward to this week.

     The man told me of his huge art exhibition in Malaysia. He sent me a copy of the invitation to this country and explained that there was a huge expense involved, and he was hoping that the exhibit would be profitable to cover his expenses. I didn’t think anything of it, until yesterday when he asked me for money because he couldn’t pay the customs bill. Are you effen kidding me.? By yesterday, I was suspicious of the monetary discussion, but I just figured he was relating part of his adventure. Wrong. I fear the whole thing was a scam.

     I wrote up what happened (in case they find me in little pieces in a forest), and I sent it to my daughter who gives seminars around the country about the dangers of cyber bullying and kidnapping. She was aghast that her mother would be so naive. Yup, I guess I was. I figured I am married, live far away, and he couldn’t get at me. Well, we can never be too sure. I immediately followed her directions to block him. Hopefully, this story is a lesson learned, and life goes on.

     Apparently, these scams go on all the time, but the family piece got to me. He even had a photo of his wife (a beautiful blond) and his daughter in their kitchen, so I thought it was ligit, and I fancied myself Mrs. Kindness bringing a tiny piece of comfort to a family in need. What a fool was I. 

     I want to believe that this man was sincere, that he was lonely and had found a temporary soul mate. During his trip,  maybe someone in Malaysia hacked into his account and took over the conversation. There are other clues, however, that I didn’t pick up on. For example, his daughter’s last name is the same as his first name. As my daughter says, “Where’s there’s a whisper, there’s a scream.” I sure didn’t hear the whisper.

     So, lesson learned. There is no protection online. According to daughter’s research, people turn over their life savings in scams like this, and there’s no hope of recovery. My life savings of $4.37 wouldn’t have helped this dude, but I would have been even more traumatized nonetheless. 

          Beware. Do not let your vulnerability or your kind heart block out your common sense. No more befriending. 

      Next week, I’m going to a new piano teacher about a half hour from our new home. Daughter says, I need the “Find a Friend” app because the teacher might be waiting with an axe. What? I said, “It’s a woman.” She responded, women have axes, and they can be just as dangerous as men. omg. How sad that we have to even entertain such thoughts. I will hire a body guard and go tinkle the ivories.