In the book Fool Me Twice: Confessions of a Perpetual Internet Dating Neophytes by Hong Kong-based Australian Jules Hannaford, she candidly shared her experiences on online dating scams, and tips on how to avoid heartaches and losing money.
“Yeah, scammed not once but twice,” Hannaford revealed.
In her first experience in online dating scams, she said that she let the man from the United States abuse her credit card after she fell for his trap about being troubled financially. And in 2010, Hannaford was once again conned, which is more costly.
She fell for the bait after seeing a man on an online dating site with a profile that reads: “Truman, aged 35 from Manchester, United Kingdom. Occupation: construction/trades.”
In her book, Hannaford shared the exchanges of emails between Truman and herself.
“He was going to come to Hong Kong but couldn’t because of his businesses [red flag]. He also talked about being a victim of dating scams [red flag], told me he loved me [red flag],” she said.
The two exchanges emails for two months before she finally decided to visit him in Britain. But then, a pattern of money lending and fear starts; it lasts a week and ends with her being trapped in a hotel room that scared for her life.
“What’s interesting about my story is a lot of people who are victims of online dating scams usually don’t meet the people who scam them. It’s all done online with a familiar pattern: I love you, there’s been an emergency, please send me money.”
According to Hannaford, it took her some time to find courage in writing her book, but the experience has been cathartic. Now, she wanted to share her story to serve as a caution to other lonely people who are looking for partners online.
In her case, Truman indeed used his real picture, but not his real name, where he came from, and his job. Hannaford said everything about him was a lie, except for his profile picture.
When it’s over, she discovered from the police that Truman was actually a career criminal having more than 20 aliases and a rap sheet back to the 1990s. She revealed she had lost a significant amount of money.
Hannaford advises people to meet the person they met on online (if they live in the same country), demand video calls, and be careful particularly if there is money transferring involved. Her advise might help especially now that most people are being duped to dating scams, Hongkongers are included.
Just last week, according to the South China Morning Post, a 66-year-old businesswoman becomes the biggest victim of online romance scam in Hong Kong. The woman has been duped out of HK$180 million (US$23 million) over four years by an “engineer from Britain.”