Broken Heart, Broken Budget

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When I shot the story you see above, I planned on filling the space below with warnings and statistics about what can happen if your online date turns out to be a scam artist. But as fate would have it, I got a recent email from a reader that says it much better than I could.

Here, in her own words, is her story. She asked that her name and location be withheld…

I love country music. It expresses real emotion and sets life experiences to music. It also recently saved me from financial disaster.

Divorced for a number of years, over 50 with no single men in sight, I turned to an online dating site. What’s the worst that could happen – a broken heart? I nearly ended up with a broken bank account, but a Brad Paisley song playing in the background saved me.

The song is called “Online,”and it tells the tale of how a short, overweight guy that lives in his parent’s basement, works for a pizza place and has never even been to second base magically transforms into a rich, handsome Calvin Klein model that lives in Malibu. This magic occurs every time he logs on to his computer. Although the song has been around since 2007, I never thought of it as anything more than a cute and catchy tune. That is, until last week when it served as a musical warning – a warning that there could be fictitious alternate personalities lurking on the Internet.

Some dating sites claim that one of every five romances start online. Maybe, but so does a lot of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.

Looking back, there were so many red flags that I couldn’t or didn’t want to see, because I wanted so badly to be wanted. He never answered personal questions; instead he talked about feelings – like how we shared such a connection. His profile photo was that of a guy on a tractor (too far away to see the face) yet he didn’t know a John Deere from a backhoe. He wrote he was serving in the Army in Afghanistan. The photo he sent was of a very good looking solider with honest eyes and sweet smile. The name clearly visible on the uniform matched the name on his account, but the number of stripes on the uniform didn’t add up to the number of years that he claimed to be in the military. He moved way too fast and talked about a future together after only a few exchanges. He refused to send his military address, claiming the mail was unreliable. He said he was unable to use a phone in his area do to military security.

I am a college-educated woman with a good job. I should have known better. But he called me dear, sweetie, and honey – and how I longed to be someone’s honey again. Sweet talking, good looking and defending our country – what more could a woman ask for?

He was attentive to everything I wrote and he wrote what I was hoping to read. Could it be possible that I had found the man of my dreams in just a few short days? He said we were perfect for each other. He said I could make him the happiest man on earth if only I would be waiting at the airport when he arrived home in only two short months. I could wait two months for my soul mate, couldn’t I? The next step for us was to have an “exclusive” relationship. He wanted both of us to take down our online dating profiles.

That’s when he dropped the hammer. He wanted me to share my password with him so that he could take down my profile for me. He said it was a complicated process and he wanted to start taking care of me right now. As I was trying to figure out if this just a sweet gesture, a little jealousy, or the sign of a control freak, Brad Paisley came on the radio and brought me to my senses.

Sharing that password would give him access to my personal information including the credit card I used to pay for the account. He would have my birth date, my address and zip code. If the password was the same I used for other online accounts, he would have access to those as well.

In an instant, Mr. Right became Mr. Terribly Wrong.

By sharing my story I hope my experience will serve as a warning for others. I was one click away from becoming another statistic living a financial nightmare. I changed all my passwords – now no two are alike. I added strong antivirus software to my computer and for added protection I put a security alert on my credit.

Don’t let looking for love end up costing your financial future. Guard your personal information with even greater care than your heart because the financial consequences of identity theft can’t be healed with a good cry and box of chocolates.

Warning signs:

  • Wants to use an outside messaging service or email account
  • Talks about “destiny” or “fate” way too soon
  • Claims to be recently widowed or have no living family
  • Asks for your password
  • Asks for your address or contact info under the guise of sending flowers or gifts
  • Says he lives in the U.S. but is currently traveling abroad, working overseas, or in the military
  • Makes a lot of grammatical and spelling errors
  • Asks you for money

That’s one reader’s story – what’s yours?

Have you had experiences with online dating – good or bad – you’d like to share? If so, do it on our Facebook page. And to keep from having your heart or money stolen, check out The 10 Golden Rules of Scam Prevention.

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