Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to Know if you are being Scammed!!

Isn't this man absolutely gorgeous?  He's got such a nice, handsome, open face.  But he's not real.  I know, we can "see" a picture, but this could have been swiped from some man's photo gallery on Facebook, or someone's phone or a magazine.  How do I know he's real?  I don't, not really...Obviously someone took a picture of a very handsome man.
Well, here is my story.  One might think me very gullible, too trusting, whatever.  
I have recently been divorced, a subject for another blog.  I am currently living with my parents.  44 Years old and I'm living in my parents spare room.  Never a fun prospect for anyone over 44, who's been married before.  I decided I wanted to start meeting people.  Moved to a new state, though I've lived here before, its still a new state.  So I signed up on a few online dating sites.  OkCupid,,,, and  I plugged in my profile.  and I actually had a nice date, with a man I met on OKCupid, but he was leaving the state to find work, so that was our first and only date.  
Listening to the radio I heard that was having a "free" communication weekend.  All of the dating sites listed above cost, all except OkCupid, you have to "subscribe" in order to get emails or notices about people who want to meet you.  So I popped onto  I liked the questions they asked to best match you with people on the site. 
So, I pulled up my list of men who were to be my best "matches".  I live in North Texas, and clicked on the men locally that I found interesting.   Having been recently divorced my self esteem wasn't at the highest, but not as low as it had been, I have a dear friend who has a rather high and biased opinion of my appeal and attractiveness.  But I am realistic.  Before the end of my marriage I was in the process of losing weight, still not near my high school or goal weight, but less than I was.  
I am blond and have blue eyes, and I like my personality.  So I chose men who I found attractive, and who's goals were in line with mine and who's profiles were clever or witty.  I was about done "looking" had indicated my interest in a few men, which I never heard back from, all except the most handsome of them all.  I picked him Solely on LOOKS...I was being shallow and base and wow did he ever have the most incredible blue eyes!!!  Dark Curly hair, his profile was kind of cheesy, but I actually like that sometimes.  I was almost not going to, his location was in Austin, Texas...that's about 4 hours south of me.  I figured I'd never hear from him because; 1) he's far too handsome for me, 2) he lives in Austin, 3) he's just gorgeous, not the kind of man I thought would be attracted to me.  But, I decided to throw my arguments in the bin and clicked on the "I'm interested" Button.  Then I signed off the site, and went to play bingo or something on Facebook.  In less that 10 minutes I got a notice that I had an email in my Google account.  So I click it and Oh My HECK!!!  Larry McLaurin was the name he used, said he was Interested in me TOO...I think I may have said "NO FREAKING WAY!"  So I went back to the chemistry site, to see which one Larry was, He was the GORGEOUS ONE!!!  So I'm all giddy and feeling light like a balloon...I remembered to breath eventually.
I sent an email to him, and we started talking ... emailing and he invited me to IM him through my yahoo account.  So we started chatting briefly.  The next day he sent me a very sweet email, I thought wow...not only is he GORGEOUS, he's a romantic one.  Nice!!!  After not having much in the way of romance from my now ex-husband for a while, it was nice, very flattering.  
He told me he was Scottish, born and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland.  He'd inherited a Diamond company from his late father.  His mother passed in 2008, and was their only child.  His extended family was not in the picture, as his father married against the wishes of his family and as a result was dis-owned.  His mother was American, his Father Scottish.  
I was tickled that I'd not only found me a gorgeous man, but he was polite, romantic and occasionally would wear a KILT, I do like a man in a Kilt, NOT in a skirt, IN A KILT, there is a HUGE difference...Believe me!
Well fast forward about a week. I had not gotten a phone call, so I told him I thought he wasn't real, that perhaps someone was playing an elaborate joke on me.  He was not pleased with this, for some reason.  But when I received my morning IM from him the next day he said he had a surprise, and sent me a request to view his webcam.  I was a bit worried, but a picture of a very nice looking man popped up. The man looked very much like the man in the picture, except his eyes were hooded and seemed a bit swollen, and he was much paler, his hair not so curly.  Okay so he got a hair cut, and hadn't been out in the sun for a while, and the color of shirt he had on was not a good color on him, washed him out.  The room behind him was bare and a particle board wardrobe was behind him...and I thought I saw plumbing pipes in the corner of the room.  
I did have a feeling this was strange, but didn't question it.  Then Larry asked if he could send me flowers.  I again, thinking he was on the Up and Up said well gave him my address, and received the most beautiful bouquet of flowers.  With a pick that said "I Love You" a Teddy bear, and a box of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Chocolates.  Oh Wow...this guy must really think highly of me. 

He then started asking me if I was talking to any other men from the dating site, I wasn't, so could answer honestly.  He said I was the only woman he was talking to.  He would send me such romantic emails, full of hopes and dreams and how trust was important to loving someone.  Things were progressing far faster than I'd imagined they would....everything seemed normal, except he never called me on the phone.  I asked him if he would ever call, but he said he was too nervous...okay I suppose its possible that the CEO of a Diamond company may be confident in business dealings but shy in his personal dealings???  I let it go.  
I asked him if we were going to meet, and he told me he wanted me to pick the location and send him the address.  So I did.  I love the Mustangs at Las Colinas, it is a beautiful set of statues...very lovely location, it is a public plaza and I picked Valentines day.  So I could say that I had a date on the first Valentines that I was a single woman, again.  
Well, on Thursday, I got an IM from Larry around the normal part of the day that I would get it, saying he had to fly out to Ghana, where his Diamond mines were, as there was an issue with the government of Ghana and the mines. He said he'd have to leave and didn't know when he'd be back, it might take a week to a month to clear up the issues with the Ghanian government I pulled up my search through Google, and read a story from the Ghana news about this, so that was verifiable.  I also pulled up the list of mines in Ghana and could not locate the name of the Diamond Company that Larry had given me.  When I got the flowers, my brothers (I have 4), my mom (I have 1), and my sisters (I have 2), all asked for his name, and the name of his company, so they could perform a background search for him.   I had done the same thing and was able to find basic information about him on LinkedIn.  His name and the name of the diamond company.  I also did a white page search for the name of his company in Dallas and Austin, nothing.  I looked at the Better Business Bureau page for the name of his company, nothing.  I did several searches for his name, and only ever found the LinkedIn reference.  
I started to think more...about our conversations in a more objective way.  Who was this Larry McLaurin.  
He said he is Scottish, but he hasn't called me...every Scottish, Irish, English man is fully or should be fully aware of the effect that their accents have on an American girl.  We swoon, pure and simple.  I have met several men from each of these countries, online and many of them were eager to phone me so that I could swoon over their accents.  But he'd said he was nervous to call.  Well then on Friday of the week he left for Ghana I received 2 boxes from him...I presume.  One was a gourmet basket of fruit and other goodies, the other was a box from FTD, and in this was a velvet box with very pretty emeralds surrounded by silver. 
 Then I don't hear anything from him until Sunday.  He send me an IM saying he hadn't been able to message me sooner because his Laptop and Cell phone had been lost.  And that he trusted me with his life, and I was the only one he could count on.  
He needed me to go rent a Laptop and send it to him in Ghana.  
I had Flags, whistles, lights and sirens going off in my head, it was very nearly literal! 
I asked him if he had money with him, and could go buy one.  He said that the trip was at such short notice that he normally took cash with him when he would go to Ghana, and that all he had were traveler's checks.  And the Bank wouldn't clear the check for 2 weeks.  That sounded odd, but perhaps they did things different in Ghana.
I had told him that I didn't have a job, I didn't.  I told him I barely had enough money for gas in my car, and that my credit was horrible, no one in their right mind would "rent" me a Laptop.  He begged me to try.  As it was Sunday I couldn't and told him that stores are closed on Sunday.  I told him I would see what I could do, but not to expect much as I didn't have any money.  He promised he would send me cash once his traveler's checks cleared the bank in Ghana.  I asked him if he had a credit card, he said that Ghana doesn't use credit cards.  I asked him if he could get his assistants to get him a computer, since he was in the country where his mines were located, surely someone there could assist him.  He said he could trust no one but me, and that asking his workers to use something for his personal use was something that would lower his reputation in their eye.  Odd, but I am not familiar with how people in Africa and Ghana in particular view things like asking for assistance, or borrowing something to complete a job or task.  I let all this slide, though this all just rang false in my mind.
By this time I was texting my brother who is a cop, in Germany currently, I was also talking to a friend on Facebook.  I texted with my brother for a while, told him about Larry and what was going on.  My brother said he would look into him and see what he could find, but if he started asking me for money, to let him know.  So I let him know about the request for a Laptop.  My brother decided he needed to talk to me on the phone.  He is in Germany, and so to call is a big thing.  So we talked and determined that he was a con man. My brother told me that Ghana does indeed use credit card, and in fact Ghana has the strongest economy in all of the African nations and isn't considered a 3rd world country anymore, and their biggest problems were Nigerians who were in their country illegally and were making things rough by committing fraud while in Ghana.
My brother let me know that he had been working with a very similar situation involving a highly intelligent and well respected person, who had been conned out of several hundreds of thousand dollars.  My brother said that he was proud that I listened to my instincts, Finally had thought to get in touch with him. 
My brother suggested I try to get more information from him, like an address, knowing that any further information from this man would be false. My brother also has asked me to contact the FBI and let them know all the information that I can on this person, names that he used, the company name and even the order numbers that were on the cards in the flowers, the basket, and jewelry.  He tells me there is a division in the FBI that deals specifically with this kind of fraud.
I was able to IM with Larry again on Sunday and let him know that even though I was broke that I see what I could do. 
Well Monday came, I told my mother what my brother and I had discussed and that the possibility that Larry was a con man was highly probable.
I decided to try to go over to the rental store nearby and see just how easy it would be to rent a laptop.  Oh My gosh!  It is way too easy.  All you do is fill out paper work, and if you have the first payment all of $83.00, you get a laptop worth at least $400.00.  I was shocked at how fast and easy that would have been.  
When I got back, my mother informed me that there was a box on the front porch for me.  So I went out and got the box, it was a large box, from the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.  I opened it and stuffed inside was a HUGE 4 1/2 foot tall teddy bear. With chocolates and a plush bouquet of roses, the were made of cloth, not real roses.  There was a card included in the box, of course.  I deposited the bear on my bed and there he has remained.
My best friend was talking with me, and we decided that if he could manage it, he would get a broken laptop to send him, if I could get an address.  I composed a pretty good email telling Larry that I may have succeeded in obtaining a laptop if he were to send me an address for him in Ghana, and also an address in Austin, as I would like to send him a surprise, and since he had my address, it was only fair that I should have his.  
He apparently was able to get another worker to lend him use of their computer as he was eager to IM with me at 4am on Tuesday morning.  I had Monday to work out my thoughts and though I felt silly for having fallen for this imaginary man, I also felt rather lucky that I have the intelligence and confidence to question things.  
When Larry IM'd me he asked if I liked the Bear, I said yes I loved him, the bear.  Larry said I was to hug him when I missed him.  I said that would be all the time.  I let him know that my brother in Germany and another friend of mine had been doing a search for him online, and that they weren't able to find anything out about him.  I told him that was rather strange, and he said it was because his company was private.  I said okay but there would be something on the internet about your company.  The name of the company would hardly be private, just financial information and other things like that would be kept private.  He said that the website was under construction.  I said okay, but one should still be able to find some reference to the company with a mention about the website being under construction.  He apparently did not like this line of thought and decided it would be best if we didn't IM anymore, that I was acting like a 17 year old girl needing protection from my brother, and that he was upset that I would not be as trusting as I said I was, and after he'd been so nice to me.  So he ended the conversation.  And that is the last I've heard from my Con man, Larry McLaurin.  
He was far too quick to tell me he loved me, and trusted only me, after a few chats, and emails.  
He couldn't call me, because he's more than likely NOT Scottish, and I certainly would hear this and would have certainly questioned this. 
He sent me gifts in ever increasing monetary value.  I estimate that I've got nearly $400.00 in gifts.  
Also He did not Know who Monty Python and the Flying Circus is...any self respecting British citizen, and most Americans know who or have heard of Monty Python and the Flying Circus.  That should have been MY FIRST RED FLAG!!!
He most likely is an African who has not been to America, and has no idea how we really live here, assuming everyone in America is wealthy.  Regardless of my telling him I had no job and no money, not even a credit card   He obviously is working under the misapprehension that American women are not aware of the world and how things are done, and are just led down the primrose path by our men.
My brother suggested that I copy a line from one of the emails he sent, and put in into the search bar of Google.  I did this...the man wasn't even writing his own emails....all of the flowery, romantic emails I received from him were copied from LOVE LETTER sites on the internet.  In my last email to him...I copied a love letter from one of these sites, changing around some wording to make it sound like me, and sent it to him.  Apparently he did not catch how funny that was.
I am thinking the man that I saw on the webcam, may have been a recording.  I did ask him to smile on the camera, but he didn't.  
So, Ladies....if  he seems too good to be true, says he loves you and trusts only you, way too soon, but never calls and then starts sending you gifts...I would ask him if he's sitting in a bare room in the middle of Ghana.
And If the man who is in the Picture is indeed real, and single...You are absolutely gorgeous and I am very interested !