Victims of desperation
By Francis Marangu
"This is all about me with love, faith and trust," read the message in my inbox when I logged into my yahoo account a few months ago. Although the sender was a stranger to me, curiosity got the better of me and I quickly clicked on the unread message. "Dearest sweetheart" were the first words that met my eyes — and I was convinced that love was in the air though from unknown sources.
"My name is Suzee Goodluck from Ivory Coast in West Africa, 5ft 8in tall, fair in complexion and never married before," message continued. "My late father, Dr Dion Goodluck was the managing director of Dion manufacturing industry and was the personal adviser to former head of state the late Dr Robert Guei."
The more I read, the clearer her mission became. At one point she even requested me to send her my picture as a way of knowing each other although I was not quick to comply. She also wanted to know more about my likes, dislikes and hobbies. In short, she had initiated a distant dating process without my consent.
Being eager to find a new love, I replied to her email telling her she was the woman I had been waiting for. I also swore never to leave her and lavished compliments on her ,such as how beautiful, loving, caring and good-hearted she was. All that mattered to me was that I was going to have a new love, and a foreign one for that matter.
Conventionally, it is the man who approaches a woman but this was a reversal of the norm. The following day, she replied with similar praises plus three of her photos that showed a gorgeous body to great effect.
We played the game for a couple of days before she sent me a shocking message one morning. Suddenly, a ‘lover’ had turned into a con-woman. Love had shifted from our hearts to the banks.
In the message, Suzee told me that when her father died, he had left millions in his bank account and that I was the only person in the world she trusted to help her get the money into her possession.
As a result, she requested me to send her US$1000 (Sh77,000) to cater for the speedy transfer of the cash into her account. The money would also pay for her air ticket to Nairobi where we would meet.
It is then that she would refund the money in addition to formalising our relationship and thereafter we would enjoy her father’s millions together. She even sent me her bank account where I would deposit the cash. I smelt a rat. In the following weeks, I received similar messages from other women that I ignored, given my experience with Suzee. One, from Susana Williams who claimed to be from New York and in serious need of a lover, read, "I am tall, slim, and a very good looking girl who likes travelling, dancing and loves to be loved."
Welcome to the intrigues and drama that come with the now popular online dating trend where desperate men and women, young and old, date partners not known to them both from within our borders and outside. But instead of finding love, they discover that there is something sinister about the game.
Mike, a college student, was once a victim of such tricks. After falling out with his girlfriend, he got so desperate for a new partner that he gave no second thought to a chance that came his way.
When one day he saw an advert in an Internet site about women looking for male partners, he quickly subscribed and was given a list and photos of five girls to choose one from. He soon started receiving as many as 20 emails per day, from women he didn’t know and all proclaiming love and sweet things for him.
"From what they sent me, I was fully convinced that love was at play," he says.
Eventually he settled on a woman called Mary. They went on communicating and exchanging all lovely words until they finally met and he couldn’t believe what he saw.
"She was not the kind of person I was looking for. She had lied to me about her looks and I didn’t believe she was the one I used to send money every month," he says.
Mike says he was even more shocked after Mary confessed to belonging to an illegal organisation that uses women to solicit for money from unsuspecting and desperate men. That was the end of their relationship and his desperation continued.
Jane, 27, had her hopes of finding a Mr Right to settle down with shattered courtesy of this online game. A man from Kisumu whom she met through an international online dating company and promised her heaven on earth provided she fully committed her life to him. So sweet was the offer that Jane even ended her relationship with the boyfriend she had been planning to marry.
But what followed has left her traumatised. "It’s now two years since he promised to meet me and I am still waiting. He cut off our communication six months ago leaving me confused," she says.
Her efforts to reconcile with her ex have been futile as he is already married.
James Murithi, a freelance salesman, says he stopped using Internet services over a year ago after a woman from the US conned him in the pretext of looking for a lover. "We dated for three months within which she squeezed Sh120, 000 out of me. I was desperate and couldn’t imagine her doing such a thing."
After receiving several emails from a woman he only knows as Natasha from Washington, James saw the love light and committed his heart to someone he didn’t know.
She promised to come to Kenya and conned him into sending her money for her air ticket. "I spent most of my time at the airport waiting for her to arrive to no avail. I never expected a woman in America to con me."
Mark’s one-year relationship with his online girlfriend ended abruptly when he realised that they were just beating about the bush and were headed nowhere. "Every time I requested her for a meeting she refused saying she was out of town. She kept telling me we would meet tomorrow which has never dawned. The only thing she did was to ask for money."
After a year of false promises, he decided to cut his losses. "I had spent a lot of money and time on her and ended up losing my well paying job into the bargain."
John Kirimi not only lost his job with an NGO based in Nanyuki town but also had all his property confiscated by auctioneers. When he started a virtual relationship with a Nigerian woman, she sweet talked him into taking a bank loan and promised him that they would repay it together once she arrived in Kenya.
Eight months later, she had not showed up and everything he had bought, including his house, went with the auctioneers. "When I told her what had happened, she became rude and cut off our communication. I am now a beggar," he says.
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