I recently received three emails from three women I didn’t know, notifying me that they had been the victims of three different online dating match-ups for single women. Each of them told the same story: they had found my picture on a dating site, responded to it, and found themselves getting to know “me” over an exchange of emails. One woman said she was from the Philippines, divorced from a wealthy pharmacist, and looking to meet someone new after moving to the States. She began an online correspondence with someone named “Justin Lind”, who used my likeness as his own. Over some months she became fond of him. He said he was an architect from Ohio and very much wanted to meet her, but he was under some heavy financial pressure regarding a construction project and couldn’t readily get away. She wound up sending him “a lot” of money to help him out, hoping something might come of it. What came was his silence. That’s when she did a photo check on Facebook and found my picture and my name. She realized she had been duped and got in touch with me to let me know that someone had stolen my photo identity.
Another woman used the OK Cupid dating site, looked at a catalog of photos, and decided to see if she and I might be a match. The only problem was, though the person claimed to be me in name and picture, it wasn’t me. I’ve never joined a dating site. I’ve been married for forty years, have two grown daughters, and am unfamiliar with that social world. When this woman tried to pin “me” down, insisting on meeting face-to-face after getting to know “me” through intimate emails, she became suspicious when he just wanted to keep getting to know her by email. She entered my picture into some face recognition app and up came my website. She realized that I wasn’t the same person who was writing to her and got in touch with me to let me know about it.
These emails reminded me of a time a few years ago when I was on an assignment in Prince Edwards Island in Canada. I was staying at the same hotel as someone who, the year before, had stayed as a guest of the hotel after claiming he was me and that he wrote for Playboy. The hotel comp’d him a room, his meals, and free use of their golf course. In return he complained about the rainy weather and was rude to all who served him. When I was there, the hotel manager told me about him, saying he was curious to meet me, to see if I was the same person as the obnoxious, ungrateful fellow who wore gold chains around his neck and said he was “Larry Grobel.”
But these photo impersonators seem different. That guy in Canada wanted to use my ID to get him a free vacation. These Dating Match guys had no intention of dating the women they were scamming. They were doing it for their money. It was another version of the African prince emailing people saying he was coming into a fortune but just needed some money for legal fees before they could all become rich.
I wrote to Facebook and to OK Cupid and Match.com to let them know about the misuse of my photos. I looked up the AYI Dating site which the Filipino woman had gone to, but that was being called a scam already, and I couldn’t find a way to notify anyone there. I certainly didn’t want to sign up in order to make my complaint.
The line “I” used to interest the woman who went on OK Cupid was: “Message me if you’re ready to move into the next phase of your life…find love, happiness and passion.” Her response (which she sent me to show me how this all began) was: “Yes, I am ready. That is why I am here! There is slim pickings out there, have not had much luck…I am hoping I won’t have to spend the holidays solo this year! You have any ideas for me?”
He had ideas, all right. And they weren’t going to lead to any holiday happiness or passion, that’s for sure. It’s not easy being a mature single woman hoping to find someone to share the second half of one’s life. And online dating services aren’t making it any easier. I met my wife through a friend and have lived happily ever after. But if I had to be looking for love through chats and instant messaging, I’d probably get a dog. It would be cheaper and, I imagine, more sincere.