USE YOUR HEAD AND NOT YOUR HEART !!!!
Several months ago I wrote a blog about a story of a friend of mine (Flirting on the Net) which you can find in my feed.
Now I have decided to write a second piece and share something, which has happened to me personally. It is not easy to write this piece, but I feel that I have to say something, in the hope that all of you out there will read it, listen to what I am saying; there are so many victims all over the world. You may be one of them. You may read this and think: ‘this will never happen to me!’ I would agree with you, but believe me, it can. I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person, but these scammers are so clever and know exactly the right words to say, and believe me each and every one of you will fall for this. I can almost hear people saying: “Me! Never!’
So just read on please….
Over the past year or so my blogs on WordPress have been catching a huge amount of attention all over the world. Some of course are written by me about subjects, some are about my books and some have been about my personal situation. This includes the series of blogs, I wrote with my cardiologist, Dr. Lukas Dekker, about the healing of my own heart.
This one in particular and it is a series of 4, because I have published part four this morning, before continuing to write this piece.
The number of emails I received every day was just mind blowing, from all corners of the world. Some short and sweet saying things like: good writing, interesting piece etc and others were even more glowing. I try every day to respond to all comments people write on the feed. Why? Well, I think when someone compliments me on my (or our) work, then it is polite to say ‘thank you’.
One of the reactions I received was from another Doctor. An orthopaedic surgeon, working with the United States Army on a mission with the United Nations in Mogadishu, Somalia. For special reasons I am not going to mention any names and will explain why a little further on.
A huge compliment, how impressed he was about the connection between doctor and patient and this lead to an email discussion between us. Some What’s app chats, photos exchanged.
One thing leads to another and I found myself communicating on a fairly regular basis. Not about much in particular but just chitchat. And we all do that all the time these days on social media.
Then came his story. His wife had tragically died of pancreatic cancer. All far too fast, he was heart broken. It all sounded so plausible. Because he really had no will to live anymore, he signed up for a mission in Somalia. This is a serious war zone and it is tough out there believe me. His work entailed more or less, helping victims of terrorist violence. It all sounded really horrific.
He was really interested in my writing he told me, had read a lot of the blogs on the feed and please where could he purchase one of my books? The thought that this could just be ordered and posted off to some US Army base in Somalia, seemed impossible, and because of this, I sent him the entire manuscript by email in a ‘pdf file’. This did not worry me unduly because my books are published through a publisher here in The Netherlands and protected by copyright. He made me feel sorry for him and I thought, well he can certainly pass the time as far as I am concerned, when not working, reading my book. I share a lot of my work through this platform, so it is not entirely new for me.
Then the next bit of news came. He has a son, 15 years old and he had left his son in boarding school in the USA whilst he was on his mission. This was the first moment, that I had any doubt. I wondered who would leave their child back in the USA and then go on a dangerous mission, after the loss of his wife and the boy’s mother? There were really no answers, so I just left it, thinking perhaps it was a painful subject to discuss.
And so the contact continued, nothing out of the ordinary, just a couple of emails now and again and just discussing general subjects. He had my mobile phone number, and again this is on my website, so I did not think much about it and we had ‘whatsapp’ contact.
Then a disaster, his son had been involved in a ‘hit and run’ accident and was dangerously ill in hospital. This man needed to get home to his son, all sounds feasible doesn’t it? I just presumed that the US Army of course, will arrange everything and he sort of disappeared ‘off the radar’ for a while. Just assumed he was on compassionate leave and had gone home. His son had died by the way, that message I had received. It all sounded very tragic, first his wife and then his son. I truly felt really sorry for him. In such circumstances this is exactly what the US Army would do in a family crisis. Planes are flying into these zones on a daily basis.
I had a couple of photos of him. And believe me he was very very handsome, looked really nice and he had some of my photos. As I am a writer and work through a lot of social media channels, you can easily find my photos too, I often share them in my blogs, but they are all always marked with copyright! Always!
It was quiet for a while and then he came back to me, the discussions were hard sometimes and often I felt like saying things, please stop sending me messages. Things I said would often irritate him. Talking in short sentences either through Whatsapp or email is not like having a normal conversation with anyone. Believe me.
Then the compliments started to come: He thought I was pretty, had a nice smile, beautiful eyes and there is a saying in English: ‘flattery will get you everywhere’. It is true it does. Why?
Well, each and every one of us, likes to be complimented, it is good for our ego. Our own self-worth and esteem. It is a ‘feel good moment’. We do not give one another enough compliments. If you are thinking by chance, not true, just be honest and ask yourself when was the last time I really complimented someone on either their appearance, their work, their manner, the way the look after their family, children, friends. The way they are your friends, how they support you, if they are totally honest with you and so the list goes on.
But be honest, when was the last time you really did that?
This is why I am sharing this painful story about myself, as a sort of ‘wake up call’ for all of you out there. Saying even though you may be shaking your head and thinking, this will never happen to me. It will. These people know better than anyone else how to appeal to your own vulnerability.
The story continues:
Yes, of course he was in love with me, wanted to meet me, would like to start a new life with me. Wanted a second chance in life. It had all been so horrific, upsetting, traumatic so far. He has lost his first wife (first love of course), now his son. Was stuck in a dreadful place, dealing with death, trauma and heartache every single day and wanted a second chance. He even went so far to contact me saying he was now in the US back in his home in Florida. I believed it all.
The friends I told about this contact all despaired of me. I was open and honest with them, showed them his pictures and all of us agreed he was really totally lovely and that he seemed to have entered my social field in a totally legitimate way.
Within a matter of weeks, he was totally in my life and in some ways I was with him. He asked me if I was married? Yes. Children yes! Told him their ages. He asked me my age but I refused to say, making a comment along the lines: a gentleman never asks a lady her age.
He sent me romantic love songs, told me he was falling in love with me and so it went on and on.
I was well and truly hooked! And everyone would have been. Lovely romantic messages, like good morning honey, did you sleep well? Hi, love hope you have a wonderful day. On my birthday he sent me a long message along the lines of maybe this time next year we can celebrate together….. you are the most important woman in my life. Oh my goodness it makes me almost cringe typing these words. It sounded so good but it was so untrue.
At a certain moment, I began also to have doubts about his English. English is my mother tongue and even though I know that American’s can perhaps do their grammar in a different way, but it was things like: saying ‘he’s book’ instead of ‘his book’. Small tiny errors like that. I saw it and thought maybe it is because he is rushing typing like me sometimes on an Iphone.
The photos I had at that stage were the only 4. Two of him in his doctor’s tenure, maybe just out of an operating theatre. The other two of him: one in a car and the second, which was the one I actually liked the best, of him running in some park. He talked about sport, healthy life styles, eating healthy food. He had explained that because he was in a protected warzone, he could not send pictures, he could not talk via video on Whatapp, he could not record messages. He worked with a military desk top, protected of course so that the terrorists cannot locate where signals come from. The speed of the Internet too was amazing and I was so naive, thinking this was because of special satellites around a US Army base, United Nations, all heavily guarded and protected.
So stupid and so gullible. I cannot find other words to describe myself.
Then one morning out of the blue, two more photos, even more handsome, every more devastating and then the nagging questions came up in my mind. A man who looks as good as he does, why me? What does he think is so special about me? He could have his pick of thousands of women all over the world with a smile like his (perfect white teeth), lovely brown eyes, the point was he was just gorgeous and I was so flattered that he actually seemed to think I was something special too.
Suddenly and I do not know the reason why, one of my friends checked one of his photos. I had shared it with her, asking the same questions as in the paragraph above: why me?
Also my own husband, with whom I had been fairly open with about our contact as it all seemed to be so legitimate. I did not tell him about ALL the messages, but I had shown him the photos, said we were in contact, just general chatter. Which is all was.
He had also told me that he wanted to come to the country where I live, wanted to meet me.
Then I started to dig around the Internet, called in a favour from someone very high in the US and asked for help. Suddenly the rosy coloured glasses had been completely removed from my eyes. I was so shocked the more I surfed around! Yesterday was an awful day, a day when everything became apparent.
There on the Internet were thousands of photos of the same man. Hundreds of different aliases, and even more sad, hundreds of stories from his victims. People who were all saying the same thing. He was so handsome and looked so nice, they had ALL FALLEN FOR THE SAME STORY! Sometimes he was a doctor in Syria, in Mali, the Middle East. Everywhere you can imagine in the world where there is some drama going on. It is all done to make you feel sorry for them. He fell quickly in love with everyone supposedly and everyone was flattered, just like I was.
I read all the stories and some of them were really heartbreaking and this is the reason why I am sharing this with all of you. A woman in the US who had sent more than $180.000 !!!!!! Stories about needing money for sick children in Africa. Stories about him having had all his personal things stolen and being stuck somewhere. There was a long article from the NY Times on this subject. Well there were literally hundreds of stories on the sites (scam hunters to name but one). The same pattern, the same story and hundreds of women who had been taken in by it all.
He seemed also to be using the photos of a Dr (a neurosurgeon in Sao Paulo in Brazil), who can be easily found on Internet. And there in all his photos were the ones I had had too! It was a big shock believe me. Angry at first and then my own determination to write about this and share with everyone. I am not mentioning names. But believe me I have done absolutely everything I can to report this, going as high as the FBI and the CIA. You can find the necessary forms to fill in yourself on internet by just typing in the words I have used: like romantic scams, false scams with US Military, US Doctors etc etc.
These are serious forms and you have to fill them in properly. As I have travelled a lot in the past to the USA and North America, I know that these forms are similar to requesting an ESTA visa to visit the country. They are on a special site and you have to download the forms. If you fill them in, you are making a legal declaration. Do not be tempted to fill in rubbish or lies, you have to digitally sign them at the end and making a false statement is punishable by US law. Do not do this half-heartedly should you decide after reading my blog to do this.
I have given my address, phone number and details. Why? Because I know from experience that these forms are genuine, you can only download them from a proper site.
I have given my own IP address too, I have nothing to hide I have done nothing wrong, just been yet another unfortunate victim who fortunately woke up in time. I am so grateful to all my close friends and one in particular who set the ball rolling.
You will find words written about never ever sending money to anyone you do not know personally. I must say that I would never, under any circumstances have done this, but believe me I have read so many stories over the past couple of days, people saying exactly the same thing but still doing it. The trick is that you are asked to send money to Western Union and the people behind this can just go and collect. As simple as that.
I have also seen forms about requesting Military Leave in the US Army, they all look so genuine. Stories about emails received from US attorneys, who are dealing with their leave, about their so-called frozen bank accounts, about being a recipient for their funds. To be a recipient of their funds you will be asked to send details, perhaps even your own personal bank account. In everything I have read, the US Army confirm you will never be asked such questions by their personnel, soldiers or doctors alike.
Be careful if you have sent details already, they will then ask you to send a transfer fee of 1% of the total sum.
Be sensible, be aware and use your head and not your heart!!
The Dr. in Brazil has a very active profile indeed, he is all over social media, from Instagram, You Tube, Facebook: you name it he is on it. There are photos and videos. It all looks genuine, but is it? I don’t know and I will make no judgement other than to say, as you have read in my own blogs; I am a friend with my own cardiologist. I know the hours he works every day, the amount of emails and work pressure he is under. He may also be easily found on Internet, photos and his work but I would only say that he is just too busy to constantly be adding posts on social media. Doctors have a very busy life style all day every day and more important the care of their patients. That is why they have spent years and years doing their training, got their medical degree and become specialists in their field. It takes years.
Another thing I looked at yesterday was my own Instagram account. I use it as a medium to send out messages about my work, my books and sometimes just nice pictures of sunsets, flowers and such like. Sometimes of my dog, but never ever of my home. My children are also on social media, you can link them in with me easily.
And not only by the fact that we have the same surname!
In my followers I found a number of people with the same photo, different names, the same man. It is quite frightening when you think how easily they can penetrate our social media. As I said earlier we are all on social media in some form or another. Facebook has recently had a lot of negative publicity about the safety of data. Data is not safe.
Take the time to ensure you regularly changed your own passwords. Protect your own privacy. Some accounts have a two -step identification procedure. Yes, it is all time consuming but so worth it. Put your privacy setting to the highest possible, as far as Facebook is concerned. Only allow people to post on your own time line when you approve. Just take more care. We are very lax on this matter, all of us.
If you save your passwords in a so-called secure wallet. Change that password or code regularly. Experts are not advising us to do this without a good reason.
Hackers and scammers are brilliant and they get in everywhere easily and why? Because we talk too much about our personal life. We all share far too many photos. If you want to share a photo with someone, do it through the encrypted message to message in Whatsapp. Only the person you mark as the recipient can see your message and vice versa.
So I will bring this long piece to a conclusion. I want to say how sorry I am to read all these stories on the internet about the victims, maybe you are one of them, I hope maybe you will feel brave enough to share your own story on my feed. I will certainly approve anyone’s honest story and you do not have to be ashamed. Literally everyone can be taken in completely by these scammers. You are brave if you dare to share.
I could have mentioned all the names, but I have not on purpose. I have sent a message privately to the Dr. in Brazil; he does not seem to do anything about the fact that these people are constantly using his own photos. Maybe he thinks and this I can agree with on one score. By giving it attention you give it energy! Think about that. If anyone reads this who knows him personally, I hope you will pass this blog onto him to read. I have no wish to offend, or make judgement about him.
For those of you who wonder who this Dr. is, I will only say: Google a neurosurgeon in Sao Paulo Brazil and you will find him easily. He is all over social media.
Look at his photos, you are allowed to think he is totally gorgeous looking, he is!
It has and I will be totally honest, hit me hard! I have spoken about it with my own family. Luckily I have never sent money anywhere and would not. But there are people who are so desperate to find love and affection and this is exactly what scammers are looking for and then they pray on your vulnerability.
I have learned a lesson from this and I am not going to go into the victim role, but I am writing this blog in the hope that everyone who reads this on my feed will pass it around in their own social circles. There are too many victims in the world, all over the world and this has to stop. It has to stop now.
Finally, the US Government is very clear. This is a punishable offence by law. Recently three Nigerian people were arrested for doing exactly this in Texas and the prison sentence 27 years for each of them. 27 years!!!
It is food for thought isn’t it?
THIS HAS TO STOP.
If you have anyone in this situation, I will only ask be gentle with them. Let them read this blog, Talk to them, try and make them realize that it is literally a scam, try and stop them doing things they may regret. To read that someone lost $180.000 is just shocking.
Please feel free to share, the more women around the world unite (and maybe men too) this terrible harassment will maybe become less lucrative!
USE YOUR HEAD AND NOT YOUR HEART!!!!!!!
Image: Google Images