We all get Facebook friend requests from people we don’t know. Sometimes they’re from total creeps and we hit delete immediately. Other times, the person looks sweet and we consider an add. But how do you know the person in the profile picture is really who you’re talking to?
One woman named Patricia Meister from Queenstown, Australia, found out the hard way that she had been “catfished” – big time! The term “catfish” rose to popularity after the documentary of the same name featured a young man trying to locate his internet lover, only to find out she was a fake. For Meister, her catfish called himself “Carlos” and managed to not only break her heart, but to also break her bank account. He convinced Meister to give him $100,000 Australian dollars before he was caught.
Meister fist came into contact with “Carlos” when he sent her a Facebook friend request in 2015. At the time, Meister was single and did not have any experience using dating websites, so she thought there would’t be any harm in adding “Carlos” as a friend.
“I’d never been on dating websites, and I only used Facebook for business. So when I got the friend request, I thought it couldn’t do any harm, can it? I guess at the time, I was going through a period in my life where I felt isolated. I’d been single for a while and I’d never been on dating sites.”
Meister said that “Carlos” was very romantic online. He claimed that he was a widower and was now looking for a serious relationship. He used good english, said he was an interior designer, and that he supposedly lived in a nearby city. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to Meister, and she admits that at one point she had fallen very much in love with “Carlos”. The first suspicions that something strange might be happening occurred when their online relationship progressed to phone conversations. Mister claims that “Carlos” did not have an Australian accent.
“When I first spoke to him, I heard his voice but he had a different accent to what I’d expected. I remember thinking ‘what is that accent?’ I couldn’t place his accent. I wasn’t familiar with his accent at the time, but thinking about it now, he was definitely African. He was Nigerian.”
The whirlwind love affair continued for eight weeks before “Carlos” asked Meister for $600, claiming he was in Malaysia on business and that his credit card had stopped working. Meister paid up. “Carlos” continued to ask for more money in larger sums. Mister said things didn’t quite add up, but sent the money anyway. She revealed that “Carlos” had a lawyer involved and included a link to a tracking sheet for the money to be returned via courier. Mister followed the parcel’s progress but saw it get held up at Kuala Lumpur airport for a $25,000 “fee”, and again at Melbourne Airport for a similar “fee”. The day the package was supposed to arrive, “Carlos” and his lawyer were supposedly in a car accident and needed the money for their medical bills.
This was Meister’s breaking point. It’s easy to be in denial about the faults of a lover, but having now lost $100,000, it was plain to see that “Carlos” was a scammer.
“My stomach dropped to my shoes. I knew at that point, I’d been scammed. I couldn’t pay him anymore and I even told him I wasn’t going to send him any more money. Shortly after that, he made a ‘miraculous recovery’ but I’d stopped talking to him by then.”
Meister reported the fraudster to the police and refused to pay any additional “fees” on the parcel. “Carlos” has since gone quiet.
Meister joined Romance Scams Now, a support group for those who have experienced similar situations. She is now devoted to raising awareness about scammers like “Carlos” so that no one else has to experience what she has gone through. She wants people to know that it can happen to anyone.
“People think you’re stupid but they’re not walking in our shoes. It’s not a matter of being stupid. Even the most intelligent, educated women are getting scammed.”
So next time you get a friend request from an unknown hottie, just remember that chances are they are not who they claim to be.
People have been meeting potential partners for centuries before Facebook ever existed. Why not just go old school and go to the bar? Aside from seeing a new friend’s actual face, you’ll also be sure they don’t spend their time wearing pyjamas all day parked in front of a computer screen. But Facebook can and does have its benefits. Here’s how a community came together to help a woman find her stolen bike once and for all…
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