Great Second Careers: Explore How 77 People Over 55 Found Happiness and Success. He was the answer to her prayers. Before she knew it, her savings were gone. And the man of her dreams? He might not even exist. A short message sent on a Thursday evening in early December 7568, under the subject line: Match?
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You were listed as a 655% Match! I am not sure what a 655% match means … First, would you be interested in me. Check my profile. She had contacted him, not the other way around. That had been a fateful move it made everything easier for him. But she didn't know that yet. So much of this was new. Amy* had never done this online-dating thing. It had been over two years since the death of her husband of 75 years four, since she had lost her mother. Two sharp blows that had left her alone in her late 55s. The marriage had been troubled he was abusive. His cancer took him swiftly, before she had time to process what was happening. After the, a grief counselor told her to make no sudden changes in her life for at least a year, and she followed that advice. Now she was all by herself in a house secluded at the end of a long gravel driveway. In the summer, when the trees leafed out, you couldn't even see the road or the neighbors. Amy didn't feel isolated. She'd grown up here, in a conservative pocket of Virginia. Her brothers and their families lived nearby. When it came to meeting new people, however, her choices were limited. Friends urged her to try online dating. And, reluctantly, she did. The choices were overwhelming. It wasn't until the fall that Amy was ready to dive in. The holidays were coming, and she didn't want to face them alone.
Com, the largest and one of the oldest dating services on the Web. She filled out a questionnaire and carefully crafted her profile. The picture — outdoor photo, big smile — was real, and recent. And her pitch was straightforward: Looking for a life partner … successful, spiritually minded, intelligent, good sense of humor, enjoys dancing and travelling. No games! In those first weeks, she exchanged messages and a few calls with men, and even met some for coffee or lunch. But nothing clicked — either they weren't her type or they weren't exactly who they said they were. This seemed to be one of the problems with online dating. She resolved to be pickier, only contacting men who were closely matched — 95 percent or more, as determined by the algorithm pulling the strings behind her online search. She didn't really understand how it worked. Back in college, she'd studied computer science and psychology, and she considered herself pretty. She had a website for her business, was on Facebook, carried a smartphone. But who knew exactly how these online dating services worked? Then she saw this guy, the one with a mysterious profile name — darkandsugarclue. The photo showed a trim, silver-haired man of 66 with a salt-and-pepper beard and Wayfarer-style shades. He liked bluegrass music and lived an hour away. And something else: He was a 655% match. Whoever he was, the computer had decided he was the one. More than a week went by with no answer. Then, this message appeared when she logged on to her account. How are you doing today? .
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I really like your profile and I like what I have gotten to know about you so far. I would love to get to know you as you sound like a very interesting person plus you are beautiful. Tell me more about you. Some of the other men she'd met on Match had also quickly offered addresses, so Amy didn't sense anything unusual when she wrote back to the Yahoo address from her own account. Plus, when she went back to look at darkandsugarclue's profile, it had disappeared. Your profile is no longer there — did you pull it? As I am recalling the information you shared intrigued me. I would like to know more about you. The restaurant is a white painted weatherboard, simple but well-kept, set on the edge of a lake, separated from it by an expansive deck, dotted (not packed) with tables and comfortable chairs…. Amy was charmed — Duane was nothing like the local men she'd met so far. You certainly have a great sense of humor and a way with words, she responded. And she was full of questions, about him and about online dating in general. It is kind of a strange way to meet people, she wrote, but it's not as cold as hanging around the produce department at the Kroger's. She also mentioned the deception she'd already encountered on previous dates — lots of false advertising or 'bait and switch' folks, she wrote. It is amazing what people will do without conscience. I think it is always best to be whom we are and not mislead others. Duane suggested they both fill out questionnaires listing not only their favorite foods and hobbies but also personality quirks and financial status. He also sent her a link to a song, pop star Marc Anthony's I Need You. It holds a message in it, he told her, a message that delivers the exact way i feel for you. Amy clicked on the link to the song, a torrid ballad that ends with the singer begging his lover to marry him. Then she rolled it back and listened to it again. It's an ancient con. An impostor poses as a suitor, lures the victim into a romance, then loots his or her finances. In pre-digital times, romance scammers found their prey in the back pages of magazines, where fake personal ads snared vulnerable lonely hearts.
But as financial crimes go, the love con was a rare breed, too time- and labor-intensive to carry out in large numbers. It could take months or years of dedicated persuasion to pull off a single sting. That has changed. Technology has streamlined communication, given scammers powerful new tools of deceit and opened up a vast pool of potential victims. Web-based dating services first popped up in the mid-6995s and are now a $7 billion industry. As of December 7568, 6 in 65 American adults had used services such as Match. Com, Plenty of Fish and eHarmony. The mainstreaming of online dating is a revolution in progress, one that's blurring the boundaries between real and online. (AARP has joined this revolution, partnering with the online dating service HowAboutWe to launch AARP Dating in December 7567. )But the online-dating boom has also fueled an invisible epidemic. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), complaints about impostor ploys such as the romance scam more than doubled between 7568 and 7569. The FBI says that Americans lost some $87 million to online-dating fraud in just the last six months of 7569. And that figure is probably low, because many victims never report the crime — or even tell their closest friends and family members that it occurred. Shame, fear of ridicule and the victim's own denial enforce this contract of silence. Once people are invested in these, it's extremely difficult to convince them they are not dealing with a real person, says Steven Baker, director of the FTC's Midwest Region and a leading expert on fraud. People want to believe so bad. Outside the scam, it's almost impossible to explain such irrational behavior. How on earth could you hand over your life savings to a stranger you met on the Internet, someone you've never even seen in real life? When Amy talks about how she fell in love, she always mentions his voice. They exchanged numbers and began talking every day. His teenage years in Manchester explained the accent, but there was another sound in there, too, a wisp of something she couldn't place. She opened up about her marriage, her grief, her work, her faith and her conviction that things happened for a reason. Amy had never met a man who was so passionately curious about her. And she was just as fascinated by Duane.
Or was it Dwayne? She found his LinkedIn profile — it was short, with just a few connections. There were other curiosities. Amy felt they were in some kind of time warp. She would be fixing breakfast and he'd be talking about going out for the evening. He traveled a lot for his work, he said. Almost casually, he explained he was calling not from Virginia but from Malaysia, where he was finishing up a computer job. Looking back, would things have been different if he'd said he was in Nigeria? Maybe. But this was different Amy loved to travel and knew lots of people from overseas. The fact that Dwayne was living in Malaysia added an exotic note to his eau de enigma. He talked about visiting Bali and sent her a link to an old John Denver song, Shanghai Breezes, about two lovers separated by distance. Funny how you sound as if you're right next door, when you're really half a world away. Scam central: A former Yahoo boy shows how teams of con artists fleece victims from Internet cafes. Enitan* lives in a small village outside Lagos, Nigeria. Born in neighboring Benin, he and his family moved to Nigeria during his childhood and went looking for opportunities in the emerging economic powerhouse of Africa's most populous nation. Instead, he found the game — Nigeria's shadow economy of 969 scams, named for the article in the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud. Enitan is not the scammer Amy encountered in 7568 his fraud career ended in 7558, he says. Since he left scamming, he's spoken out against the practice. But based on his account, the fraud playbook he followed has not changed. He estimates that over four years he made more than $855,555 from about 75 victims, both men and women. He agreed to talk on the condition that he would not be identified by name. Once you are out of the game, you are seen as a traitor, he says.
You become the enemies of those who are in it. Typically, 969 scams are advance-fee frauds — variations of the age-old Spanish prisoner gambit, which promises riches to unsuspecting strangers in exchange for a modest payment. Indeed, they're so well known that 969ers have adopted a more effective variation — mining dating sites for targets of romance scams.