By Kristina Tehrani, April 2, 2021
A few weeks ago, I “met” somebody online. Not just anybody- a man. He sent me a message on Facebook at 3 in the morning “how are you doing??’. I often receive messages from random men online, so I ignored it initially. But after a few days, I became bored and curious, so I ended up responding to his message. I wanted to know where he got the audacity to send a random woman a middle of the night message which smacked of “I don’t know you but talk dirty to me, baby”. Thus began my first, and hopefully only, “catfishing” adventure.
For those of us who have only heard the term “catfishing” without having any solid knowledge of it: it is basically pretending to be someone else, having a pretend long distance romantic relationship- generally with the goal of extracting money from the “fish”, otherwise known as the victim. I did not know “the signs” of catfishing specifically, but I am generally skeptical of single men sending me messages or otherwise attempting to engage me in an unprovoked conversation.
Prior to getting involved with the catfisher, albeit from a distance and only through messaging, I investigated his profile. It was notably sparse and confusing. For example, his “likes” included two pages: Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump. That seemed a bit contradictory. His biographical information was also scant, including very few photos and a paragraph written in Spanish explaining that he “isn’t on Facebook much”. Allegedly, his name is Powell Woods, he speaks fluent Spanish, was born in Spain, and is a pilot for a somewhat reputable private airline that I had never heard of but does have a website. Obviously, I knew that anyone could say anything or claim to be anyone online, so I adopted a curious “why not?” sort of attitude about his profile and probable motivations.
As we messaged back and forth, he “revealed” more details about his personal life. Details that I did not particularly care to know. Frankly, he came to bat with a creative (in my opinion) sob story. In a nutshell, he is the widowed father of a teenage daughter and he is heartbroken over not being able to spend enough time with her. He had dated many women in the hopes of finding true love, but alas, he was not only unable to find a suitable partner, but ironically, he has also been a victim of catfishing. He found many women that he dated to be “unable to handle being a potential stepparent”.
Thankfully, I saved his communications. Not because I knew I would soon be writing an unflattering story about him, but because I saw no reason to delete anything. I can’t even delete all the spam in my email from a single day, so it’s all on record now. I’m happy I saved the exchanges, I can quote him verbatim. And I will say that within minutes of the start of our “relationship”, I was thoroughly amused. Here is a good one from a week or so after we started chatting “Your smile is the sunshine and it brightens up my day, (sic) Your thoughts in my head create the sweetest melody, (sic) You are every reason, every hope and every dream I’ve ever had, (sic) If I was given one last wish before I died,(sic) I’d ask to look into your eyes so that I can get a glimpse of what heaven looks like, (sic) You have the most beautiful eyes in the whole world, darling, (sic) I like you because you are beautiful, charming, warm, loving, caring, and pretty, (sic) But most of all, I love you in a way that’s harder to put into words, I love”….Holy run- on sentence! Had this person never learned grammar? Many of the messages were like this. It was like love poetry written by a 10 year old. The odd part was that when we would message about other things, it seemed that his English was perfect, so I am assuming he copied and pasted some of this nonsense from the worst poet ever.
The communications between he and myself were mostly chatting and joking around. He was witty and entertaining. When he would mix in wild statements like “I love you, you’re my heart and soul, I can’t wait for us to be married”…et cetera, I would usually redirect the conversation. Because obviously, that was ridiculous and I wasn’t going to participate in that part. I DID ask him for a phone conversation. Somehow, that was never possible for him. Also, he had four photos. Total. I have no idea if that was really him or not. Whoever it was though- very attractive guy.
Inevitably, he finally started to get around to his scam. First, he laid a bit of groundwork. His daughter lives in Texas and he’s a widower and a pilot, so his daughter was often with a “nanny”. He mentioned this maybe in the first week of chatting. He proposed marriage the second week, if memory serves. I accepted, of course, as I knew it would never happen and it was kind of fun to play along. We even declared “our engagement” on social media. I was heartily congratulated, but did not reveal that it was totally fake. I was enjoying my pretend relationship. We never spoke on the phone, I never met him, and there was no risk of meeting him- the perfect relationship for someone who didn’t really want to be in a relationship.
After we “got engaged” via messenger, he asked me to be his beneficiary should something happen to him. And not just financial beneficially, but also naturally, I would continue to raise his fictitious daughter. You see, he had just started working at this airline and it was part of the routine paperwork. And as we were obviously engaged to be married, of course I would be his benefactor. What was amusing about this part of the scam was that I told him that there would need to be an actual document with our names, addresses and birthdates on the will, plus it would probably have to be notarized. He did not particularly care for that. He gave me a fake address, and also seemed to have forgotten his birthdate. We sorted it out though and both signed it. I did not offer to change my will, and he did not ask me to.
Finally, the last phase of his scam was then put into motion. The whole process took three weeks, it may have even been a month. He really invested a lot of time on me. I was both flattered and confused. Confused because I did not understand where he got the idea that I had any spare money. All he knew was that I’m an RN with two kids and live in a condo. That does not scream money to me, but who knows what other research he had done on me. Maybe I have money I don’t know about? Flattered because I must come across as wealthy enough to be worth spending a month “wooing me”.
Of course, I was aware that the end game for him was getting money from me somehow. Which he did not get, of course. But here’s how he came to asking for it….As an international pilot, he travels to some countries where there is more pickpocketing and general theft. He claimed to be in Turkey for a day or two and went out for a drink with some coworkers. He ended up walking back to the hotel alone for some reason. However, he was robbed (at gunpoint!) while walking and the thieves took everything he had, but not his mobile phone for some reason. He couldn’t explain why they did not take his phone, but thank God they didn’t because how else could he relay this story to me??
So, here he is- an employed pilot NOT stranded in another country, as he was due to fly back in a day or two- as the pilot- and completely without money, credit cards, access to a bank…However, there was a reason he needed money immediately. In an unfortunate turn of events, his beloved daughter’s nanny in Texas needed to be paid (right away!) otherwise the nanny would leave his young daughter all by herself! So, he really needed me to loan him some money as soon as possible to pay said nanny. And we’re engaged to be married, so of course I trust him, right?! And of course I am deeply concerned about the welfare of my future stepdaughter; I wouldn’t dream of her being abandoned and alone. What a pickle!
Thus, I knew the fun was over. I took my time in responding to his heartbreaking situation, but when I did it was to express my deepest sympathies about his being robbed (poor guy!) and I suggested he ask for money from his employer. He did not catch on right away that I wasn’t going to give him money. He pleaded for about a day and I continued to be emotionally supportive, but unfortunately, I really didn’t have any money to spare. That’s what I told him and it was probably actually true at the time, but even if I did have money, he wasn’t getting a penny out of me. I just don’t fund scams if I can help it.
I never let on that I knew he was trying to scam me. I played along to the abrupt end. Mostly because I was curious about how he would respond. And what would be the point in confronting him? Shockingly, I didn’t hear from him again after the impassioned plea for money day. He never formally broke off our engagement, but I’m assuming the wedding is off. I almost, almost, felt a tiny bit sorry for him that he had spent all this time and energy trying to scam me and it was completely fruitless. I enjoyed it, though. I sort of wonder now if he knew that I knew. Alas, I’ll probably never find out as his profile disappeared shortly afterwards and he never gave me a phone number. C’est la vie!