I was listening to the radio and it talked of the dark side of social media. An American guy had been duped out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by a women he met online. The same old story, someone with no interest in this widower but to empty his bank account. The man got into so much debt sending money to his “love” only to find out that it was all a scam when he arranged for her to come from Ghana to visit him in the US and nobody turned up. His son found him a few days later dead on the couch, he was in so much debt, had begged borrowed and stole from this lady and saw no way out.
The curious in me has been trawling the internet reading stories. I remember a few years ago a friend of mine met a guy on match.com, he claimed to be a soldier out in Iraq, he sent pictures and everything, turned out to be a guy in a back water hole in Osu. Thankfully she didn’t get as far as sending him any money, his stories just wasn’t adding up and she switched him off. However, type in “romance scams, west Africa” and there are so many stories from both male and female, talking of how they met this person online, fell in love, then parted with all their worldly savings.
They say these people do “sakawa”, some kind of juju (voodoo) on these people and they fall in love with these tricksters, if I hadn’t lived in Ghana, I would have said it is not possible, but having lived here and heard other stories, it could be so. However, when you look at these stories, it is people who were already vulnerable, they were widowers, or people who had had their hearts broken, these guys gain their trust and build their confidence, they are so consumed with the idea of being in love that they don’t see straight. Whatever it is, it’s like the email spams that you find telling you a head of state has died and they want to send $1m to your account. If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
It made me think of Shakeesha, I really hope that this boy who found her on facebook and declared his undying love within seconds is really “the one” but chances are he isn’t. But I write this as another one of my public services.
The scams are two-fold are think, there are the ones who straight up want your cash and will make you fall in love with them without even having seen you by face, promise marriage and then leave you high and dry once they have bled you dry. Then there are those that use you as a green card lottery. Same method, may even go as far as spending out a bit of cash on you. Well of course, you are an investment, but they will recoup their money one way or the other, and then some. Either way, the outcome or the method are the same, you will end up being worse off than before he/she came into your life, plus you will be alone.
On the American Embassy website they warn of these tricksters and give you information to be aware of when you meet a guy online, the most important message they say is not to send out any money. I also found another article which gives a more detailed analysis and advises on what to look out for. I will share it with you out there, with an added caveat to those of us with foreign papers. They are not just online and can sniff foreign blood like a blood hound, so if you find yourself in a situation that may seems fishy, ask yourself the following:
1. Does he or she ask you for help pretty early on in the relationship? We all need a little help from time to time and us girls are pretty high maintenance, but really why do you need the latest iPhone when the one you have does the necessary. Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc.. Especially guys and being an African man, they pride themselves on looking after their women so he has no business asking you to invest in any business venture especially when he barely knows your last name.
2. Did he/she tell you he loves you and try to rush you into marriage? I know Ghanaians like to use the L word like a greeting but honestly, love at first sight is for the movies. It’s pure unadulterated lust, the person could be a serial killer for all you know, love comes with time, after your first argument or a year down the line when you fall on hard times, that’s when you will really know if this person really loves you. You certainly don’t need to be getting married after a couple of phone calls and one visit to Ghana. You don’t need to be even contemplating it a week after your first date. In addition, these guys will not want a church wedding, always at the courthouse with a “blessing” later. Why, because it is easier to get divorced that’s why. If you do really feel that you love this person, take time to think about it, and watch his reaction, does he make you feel guilty for wanting that time?
3. Has he introduced you to his friends or family? If the answer is yes, don’t go breathing a sigh of relief just yet though. There is that whole bro code, and family, well it depends how well brought up he is. A Nigerian friend of mine told me the story of how he met and married his first wife, a Caucasian lady who fell in love with him and he fell in love with her passport. The family attended his (registry office) wedding, they even had a couple of kids. Then one day his mum and his “cousin” came to visit him. Obviously the lady did not understand the language and so did not know that the “cousin” was actually his wife in Nigeria. Hadn’t done the white wedding but he had done all the traditional stuff, and well I believe his wedded wife found out the day she came home early from work and found them in bed together. Chances are he will introduce you to a selective few friends and family who will cover for him.
4. Does he lie, or things are just not adding up. A liar is a liar, and if they are capable of lying, they are capable of cheating, and if they are capable of cheating they are capable of stealing. Yes we all tell little white lies, but when it is all the time, and the lies also change every time he/she tells the story, ask yourself, is he going to be honest once we are married?
5. Did he call you every day then all of a suddenly it decreases, does he want to be with his friends all the time. In my experience, when someone wants to be with you, they will find the time, when they don’t, they will call you a nag.
6. Do your friends and family like you or do they think that he is using you? It’s good to ask the opinions of those close to you because when they say love is blind it is an understatement. It is also deaf and very dumb too. You know those in your circle that have your back, and they wouldn’t want someone to hurt you. If you are having doubts, they probably saw it months ago.
7. Does he make wild promises and shower you with gifts? Those promises are probably just that, promises, but if they ever come to pass, well I doubt it. You may be thinking to yourself, but he paid for my ticket to see him, or he bought me these gifts so if he asks for help, I must assist. Wrong, he has bought you those things knowing that you are going to refund the money back one way or another.
Well in the event that you reading this thinks that I am just a sour black woman who is bitter because of a failed relationship(s), I say go ahead. You think he/she is your portion, go for it. However, think of the following while you are on the love journey and see how your partner reacts.
1. Discuss the possibility of you moving to Ghana. He has probably said that he has no intention of going to the States or maybe he may want to go to further his education. If it is the latter, it is not going to happen overnight as there are papers to file and a wedding to plan. So suggest taking time out to live here and see what he says.
2. Insist on getting married in his country and in a church. Also make him do all the traditional trimmings. In Ghana a marriage is a union of two families and the guy is supposed to step up and say I have the means to take care of my wife, so he does the knocking and the traditional wedding (which is now called the engagement). In addition, we claim to be a religious nation (Christian or Muslim). Therefore as a church going “Christian” he would believe that a marriage is not a marriage unless it is blessed by God. I also suggest the pre-marriage counselling also. If it is real love, he would want to do what makes you happy on that big day.
3. Don’t send any money. If you are going to get married, if you are going to be starting a life together, you need to be saving money and not sending it by Western Union. You have your own account, you know how to save, not until he actually puts that ring on that finger will you be anything other than two individuals with a promise that hasn’t come to pass.
The last point, well that goes to anyone who meets a person online, or otherwise, until you are 100% that this person is genuine, treat everyone you meet with caution especially on this side of the world. You may find that your partner is genuinely hard up, but if a family member is constantly sick he/she is probably playing you. In addition, if he/she is waiting for an investment to come through (usually a very large sum of money), then he he’s in the type of profession that can cover his arse until that deal comes through.
In any event, I wish you all the best, ultimately those of us with clear consciences are looking for the same thing, I hope that you find it.