(UPDATED BELOW: June 21, 2018) Plenty of Fish, or “POF” as it is known, is earning an increasingly bad reputation for providing a platform for fraudsters who target people looking for relationships. Of all the dating scams we’ve been hearing about for the last year and a half, POF is far ahead of all other services who can’t seem to control the victimization suffered by its users. Let’s take “Kayla” as our example. She’s from the UK and reached out to us on May 11, 2018. Kayla, not her real name, asked if we would keep her identity anonymous, in part, because she’s embarrassed, and also because she doesn’t want her kids to know what she’s been through. This is her story…
Kayla joined POF in early March in search of a long term companion. The first person she liked and messaged on POF was a man identified as David Roosevelt. After a couple of weeks using POF, David asked Kayla to communicate with her using Viber, which she did. (Viber is an instant messaging app.)
Kayla says this was her first time on a dating site and that she was “naïve and stupid.” We don’t think she’s stupid. In fact, we believe she’s become very savvy at sniffing out fraudsters. But it comes at an emotional cost. In just a few weeks of communicating with David, he led her to believe that he was really in love with her. He said he had made arrangements to come to England on business and also to see Kayla. However, he had to stop over in France to take care of unfinished business there, he said. To quote Kayla… “it was all so lovely and believable…until he suddenly got stuck in France on a rig of some kind and he asked if I could send money to his children!” He couldn’t send the money himself because he was stuck with no way to send it to his kids, Kayla told us incredulously. Kayla knew that couldn’t be right, since we all have international banking facilities at our fingertips using a smartphone!
Kayla was originally told that David’s children were being looked after by a Brazilian woman who doesn’t speak English. (Does that make sense?) She rightfully wondered why he would need money to be sent to his kids if he was a seasoned traveler and businessman? Surely, she surmised, they must have been well taken care of, right? David insisted to her that his poor kids were in a desperate situation because the Brazilian woman left and his best friend was looking after them, but the best friend didn’t have any money.
When Kayla pressed him about this situation she said “he got shirty and I blocked him, and that was the end of it.” Here’s a British colloquialism Americans are not likely to understand, but worth learning from Kayla. “He got shirty!” To “get shirty” means he behaved in a bad-tempered and rude way because he was annoyed with something, in this case with Kayla’s questioning.
Kayla informs us that David Roosevelt’s phone number is +14389926023. He says he owns a jewelry business dealing in gold and claims he took it over from his late father (who was from Boston.) He also says he lost his wife to cancer in 2014 and has a young son (Liam, age 5) and daughter (Michelle, age 7).
Not to be deterred, Kayla continued with POF and, soon after, met a Romanian man named Douglas Nelson. (Phone number: +18456007430) Mr. Nelson also said he was a businessman, but in construction. He said he was divorced recently after learning that his wife cheated on him with his best friend. (Ouch!) Mr. Nelson told Kayla that he has one son age 17 or 18. (Kayla wasn’t sure which.) This time Douglas went to Thailand on business and got stuck there, though we don’t know the circumstances. He asked Kayla for money to help him get out. So, as Kayla so succinctly put it…. “he’s out as well.” Are you seeing a pattern with these two men? (Two points make a line.)
The third man Kayla met in just a few weeks was named “Richard Sandy Parnes,” supposedly an International Broker and planning to retire soon. (Phone number: 0114018304974) Kayla told us he was very, very nice and believable as well! Unfortunately, he also asked Kayla for money while on business in Hong Kong! Kayla dropped him immediately, saying “there’s no way being an international broker, that he wouldn’t have enough money on him to travel on business!” He, too, got stuck and needed Kayla’s financial help to return home. Supposedly, Mr. Parnes has one daughter studying law in a university somewhere and is divorced from his wife, who he described as a “coke-head.” His English went from bad to worse, Kayla says.
Finally, to add insult to injury, Kayla met three military men in quick succession. The first military man would only email Kayla and disappeared as soon as she asked some challenging questions. His name on POF was Tony Hopkinson (on a Military in Peace Mission in Syria, he said.) His English suddenly became very monotonous and he forgets what he’s written, Kayla said. Tony’s email was listed as tonyhop000 “@” gmail.com. (Three zeros after “tonyhop”) As of our publication date, Kayla is till in touch with the second military man via email. Christian Berge is his name (Email: christianberge2121 “@” gmail.com) and he is supposedly an Englishman from Talke, England who is working in the US. He says he has no children and his wife died some years go. He was just completing his contract work as a contractor off-shore. However, he said he couldn’t cash his paycheck until he comes back to the UK and wanted Kayla to send him $1,000 using a Money Gram card sent to his “agent,” a woman named Christina Annette Harris. This was so he could buy a flight home to the UK! Kayla told us that she’s never heard anything more ridiculous in her life! She was most saddened by this because she was developing a genuine fondness for Christian. Now Kayla thinks that “Christian” may have actually been a woman because “his” language was so much gentler and more considerate. How sweet! Considerate, female scammers!
And all of the above happened to Kayla in just 10 – 11 weeks while using Plenty of Fish for the very first time. Understandably, she is burned out and says “I’ve had enough.”
Footnote: We can’t help but notice that Tony and Christian both had very similar style email addresses… A full name followed by a few numbers, using Gmail service. Kinda like this: CriminalScammer3434 @ gmail.com
We are grateful to Kayla for sharing her story for our readers. The lessons she has taught us are crystal clear…
- Verify, verify, verify someone’s story! If you begin to take an interest in someone, ask to video chat, ask for photos to verify what they tell you about themselves. Ask for the names of their businesses or addresses or phone numbers and then look them up. Yes, they can steal this information off the Internet in an effort to fool you but now you have multiple points of references to help you tell truth from lies. And we can recommend a service to help you verify names, phone numbers, addresses and more! Even criminal records! If the people you are checking out say they live in the United States, use Spokeo.com to investigate them!
- Protect yourself and put scammers on notice! Into your dating profile, state very clearly that you will never, ever, under any circumstance send money to anyone you meet online unless and until you marry them! We hope this would deter many scammers from bothering with you because you want them to believe they won’t be able to make money from you. If you REALLY want to empower yourself, create/join a club of people who use dating apps and vow NEVER, EVER to send money to men and women they meet online!
- Keep a healthy dose of skepticism! Sadly, it is simply too easy to deceive others online and dating services are notorious for attracting fraudsters. So be doubtful about much of what you see and read, especially if someone professes their love for you AND you haven’t spent any time together in person or for very long!
Early in June we heard from another woman living in the UK we’ll call Melissa. Melissa told us about a fraudster on POF (Plenty of Fish) who was trying to prey on women, hoping to win their trust… and money. We’ll let her it in her words…
“Heinrich Gunter on POF introduced himself as a german artist, living in Florida, but currently working in Bury, England. His picture showed him as very handsome, and he was quite charming. He wanted to email, but I insisted on Whatsapp… to be able to verify. Upon connecting, he then immediately removed his POF profile, too quickly for me to capture
the username or details. He urged me to remove my POF profile too. He shared his web address, featuring his name but with a different spelling, and other strange content. I didn’t query or share these anomalies with him.
We exchanged a couple of photos which showed the same chap on POF, and along the way, he told me he was restoring an antique statue to present to the National Museum in Liverpool in 3 days in hopes of winning a contract to purchase artwork for them.
Over the next few days he shared that the presentation happened, he’d won the contract, then shared an authentic-looking certificate dated that day, which would award him a staggering £4,300,000. [TDS NOTE: That’s about 5.7 million dollars!]
At this stage I had a few doubts anyway, but as we texted to and fro he planned his flights to Abu Dhabi to begin the task, and talking on the phone about champagne which he couldn’t spell, his labrador dog that he appeared to have no real enthusiasm for, and his crap phone that didn’t support video calls, something didn’t ring true!
A WHOIS check of his website gunterartscollection.com shows it was purchased the day before he approached me on POF. [TDS NOTE: We confirmed that Gunter’s domain was purchased on May 27, 2018 and his website was built immediately thereafter. Also, “Gunter’s” domain was registered in Zambia, south-central South Africa and is being hosted on a server in Johannesburg, South Africa. For his address on his website he simply listed an artists business address in Florida.] A google reverse picture search showed his “antiques” on various other sites, and also uncovered a duplicate site purchased three months before, with the same anomalies and a different-named artist!
I think I’ve uncovered a scam that has been played out before, on others now and/or maybe again… Hence my reason for emailing you. I haven’t shared my findings with Gunter, as I’m interested to see where his particular scam will lead. He continues to text, and I’ll continue the ruse of being his victim… perhaps with tales that my brother is a policeman… I’m at Abu Dhabi airport come pick me up… and such, for my amusement.”
We are confident that “Gunter” is a con-artist. Does his game sound similar to others you’ve experienced? Let us know!
We invite your comments and your stories about online dating. Email us at love-online@TheDailyScam.com.