Last spring, Michael McAllister’s inbox started filling up with messages from heartbroken women. “I thought you were the man,” one wrote. “Embarrassing, but I kinda became obsessed with ‘you,’” another said. Michael discovered that his photos were being used to catfish women on dating apps — from Germany to Brazil to Chicago.
Today’s story explores a global dating scam (that’s still going on, by the way) and the pandemic-fueled loneliness of digital life. Also, we hear from two women who were duped by Michael’s impostor. One of them shares a trick for determining whether or not a dating prospect is real. Click here for more info on the episode.
- “How I Got Caught Up in a Global Romance Scam" by Michael McAllister
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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ten people from Hungary to Brazil to Chicago it takes place at the beginning of the pandemic, when people were isolated and they were feeling just, Euro, especially vulnerable and alone, and reaching out and reaching out the that they could, which was on the internet. The essay is called how I got caught up in a global. Romance scan it's written by Michael Macalister and read by Eric Martin this past spring. My inbox is begin filling with messages from heartbroken women. The first came through Instagram. Hey I'm Lena. I live in Germany. Someone is using your pictures for scamming. file revealed a woman who looked to be near my age, late, forties boring, but
framed glasses. She told me she had met the guy on tinder, but After a few months of exchanging messages, she grew. Cissp of his motives. Her daughter image, search. Photos on Google which led them to my profile. I felt a bit in love with you. said I thought I'd have some luck to meet a wonderful person from England. The fake me was Simon and investment banker from outside of London. He had sent Lena As of me and my dog, Agnes he'd call him pompous, the some basic facts: I'm a single, copywriter. In western Massachusetts, the name pom pom, embarrassing. Also, I'm gay
everything was fake, Lena Road. I only want to be happy. I think my day will come. Are you looking for a partner It makes me sad that so good looking at guy is not interested in women. I? the next week. I heard from a woman in Hungary fooled by your photos. He called himself Harvard from Colorado But you were the man. I fell in love, a woman in Santa Barbara, embarrassing, but I kind of became obsessed with you not sure why I felt compelled to share this with you, except maybe my obsession, I'm not looking for anything the
told me. I should feel flattered that someone would consider me attractive enough to use as bait, but it felt grew, is that some version of me was preying upon them. This all started last spring when virus fear. Mounting unemployment and the loneliness of digital life combined to create a perfect invite meant for on line romantic scams. These women didn't me as being especially gullible, they were just looking for love for confines of their homes, like so many others. I've been single for years following a divorce. Stranger, At my photos may have seen someone trying to look happy, but as one from Nebraska wrote. got sad eyes. They were generous in We know about the scams. But their messages held complicated layers for months each woman. build something with this fake me in the wake of the skin.
collapse. The real me was all that Left to absorb their bitterness and provide what they hadn't yet received. Honesty. It wasn't hard for me to relate many years ago when catfish was still just known as a fish, I was twenty something man in San Francisco who fell for a fellow. many states away. Over two years. We grew close in closer by email and phone, but every plan for us to meet in person. Always mysteriously fell through. In the end, I was able to peel back the layers of his lies. He was not see em in Pittsburgh. He lived in his parents basement in Dubuque Experience devastated me but help me understand all too well how these women could. all for a stranger online and how he could use their hope against them. I told them. I was sorry that someone using my photos had caused them so much pain
causing them more pain by telling them they weren't the only victims, but I figured they deserved the truth. My those were circulating all over, creating who persona is a sure cargo stockbroker, an organ park, Ranger Dogwalkers named Larry, I couldn't stop it. I couldn't even confront the impostor. Or could I sprang turned to summer? I kept thinking about one email from a woman who had share The phone number the impostor had used to chat with her on Whatsapp. Recognized his area code is one from my hometown, Minneapolis The phone numbers can be faked. I decided I would text in this
It's no small act for me. I'll do anything to avoid confrontation, but I needed to know I had a whatsapp account, but I crept up to the guy sideways. At least I assumed it was a guy, stripped my profile photo and name and text it. Just one word a minute The word hung like a beaded hook them a reply, Who are you please? I had intended to scam the scammer to pose as a lonely woman before eventually revealing my identity, but my motive was to dig for the truth, so I abruptly decide. They come at him from the same place. When I tell you who I am, I wrote,
don't be afraid. I sent him my photo. He responded simply lol, I think you know who I am now I wrote I'll, never ask you for your real name, and I can't get you into trouble. It took several minutes of tense back Fourth for him to believe my identity. Yes, the irony he asked how I found and I told him how but not who he kept asking. which woman had revealed his number. I told him. You've hurt them enough. Well, he wrote I actually sorry for using your pictures. I appreciate that I only did this to get money for my poor family. Unfortunately, no one gave me money I kept trying, but it's kept failing
When I pressed him he said he first built a relationship and made them love me. After a few weeks, he would ask for money for hyper thyroid surgery, two thousand dollars, but nobody paid me. When I asked about the Minneapolis number, he said lived in Brazil. Are you married? Why do you ask he said? I know you gay? I guess I was wondering if you were lonely too. He told me he had a girlfriend two year old son, He lost his cashier job when the pandemic hit, we are safe. He wrote But we are hungry, he told he had found my pictures on Instagram liked my tattoos. And figured I made a believable lure. I hope
we're not angry with me. He said, and I wasn't I couldn't quite believe him I didn't know where to hang my feelings, Then he asked me the question I've been dreading. Can you help me? the man who had stolen my photos to scam lonely people was now asking me for money. so much of our willingness to help? Other people depends upon what we know of their lives. Without, being able to confirm anything. He said Could I believe his story, of course not Still, he had answered my questions. What was that worth? I told him, I barely made enough to get by it won't be much. Twenty five dollars. Can you
and an Itunes card with it. I thought you were hungry, yes, but twenty five dollars. is very small. My friend deed. It is. I learned he had tried to scam only one of the women who had contacted me, although he had I ten others. I knew nothing about. If that was true I meant there was more than one imposter using my pictures in more than one location, I won't use your picks any more. He said I thanked him and closed the door. Call exchange reminded me of the blogger, who had led me on for too long without facts. Without trust, human connection fails And what is trust on the internet, except a suspension of disbelief. I haven't sent him money, but I keep
about his son, who I believe may exist. Maybe I've always been more sucker than cynic, but in any case my imposter and I may not be done with each other, So how is life in America? He texted recently I may still respond in the meantime I'm learning to live with the discomfort of knowing my images are still being used in ways. I can barely imagine I keep. with some of the women we meant on each other's instagram posts and send occasional texts. I hope you find the right man to Lena told me recently. whether I do or not human connection during a pandemic may be worth the heartache. However, it finds me
I try not to obsess over all the things my standards are saying on the internet to other lonely people. But it seems they've been busy If you find yourself messaging with one if he tells you you're, beautiful I hope that you believe it don't believe him, I've learned it's important to people the lies. Until you can see the truth. The Michael Mcallister is still getting emails from women around the world and he still writes back to each one. He put us in touch with two of the women after the break we'll hear from them, fundraise is a real estate, investing platform complete with an app a website.
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My name is your Abingdon. I live in Michigan, I'm a shell markets and I'm from cannot show its content I had been on a date since, before I married my husband, which was over twenty some years ago. last time I was on a date with one thousand nine hundred and ninety one put it that way. So I was just looking for a guy come take me out for dinner, have a good time and drink twelve years,
I tried dating five year, thought I just wasn't ready, but I had just recently started again on the website, so I'm on plenty of fish right now feel ass, plenty of fish. It's a free website, some people to pay for it, but it's basically free, I was on feel ass. I was talking to a few people here and there and then I could send a profile because I liked his bitter alike to catches. He looked like a bigger guys, short dark, hair nice looking face. He had facial hair, good nice eyes and he had muscles on their tax returns. Her profile said he was sixty two
said he let the Detroit and he was a widow and he was looking for somebody for long term. I myself, okay, well, I'm a widow and it could lead to that. I said that he was from Chicago area that he was the the fall that younger than me. So fifty one maybe I'd say they liked to fit your side, take a chance and message him and I Nice tats MM the gay, it was within a day and he said thanks, and he asked my name and we just went there as hers, texting back and forth on the website. Why was pretty excited a good looking guy like that interested in me,
He said he was an antiques. He might germ earth are a little bit leary, but yet at the captain I will now. Maybe you know somehow. down the dispersion of hot cars, and so Would I argue about which was better? I prefer the challenger and he liked the Mustang. We kind of joke back and forth about that, which is awesome, because I like to do that, even if it was only through texting, which I thought was weird, I just walk and we meet. He says. Well, I gotta go out of town for awhile. He says I I'm going to Maine to see. If I can find some antiques. I said: okay, how long are you going to be gone? He said a couple of weeks. Finally, one day I tried calling
and yeah. I can go through so I knew there was something not right. I was suspicious the whole time, but I really enjoyed our conversations, so I kept letting it go thinking. I just kept pushing my suspicions to the back on and just let's see where this goes he's there for a couple of weeks and then it went into another week. I said I thought you were coming over two week. Well, things are bad and I need money for this money for that may arise as how much do you need, and he told me this teen honoured hours. I said I don't have it I he says, but you know you care about me. I said I didn't care about somebody and still not given fifteen hundred dollars, we taught haven't sale, is at least a total of three months. Until I find me that Smart
I will go to his picture at the picture. We line shoe a writer in Massachusetts. He was a gay man, though I knew he was not the man I was talking to. I said: well, what's your last name and that's when he told me Mcallister and that's when I started looking it up and I searched for Michael Macalister that there's a lot of Michael Macalister than there, but only one with agriculture, I says so you're, not the real MIKE Macalister. I am the room I can tell stretches out according to the victory or not Why would a gay writer be interested in me? He says well yeah, but I I since I met you, I'm not gay anymore. I said right
ain't no way this woman here is going to change any man from what he already is. I know what I look like: I'm a little fat old lady. So might the man in the picture from his site. I had an email address and I let him know what was going on that someone was using his pictures on gaining websites and he he made me there that I was not the only one that told him where few than told by a few other people that they had been captured. Also with these likeness MRS Pictures and he actually said that he wrote in the article for the New York Times, and when I read the article I started laughing because it was about this than I do. That's great yeah.
Hmm, I'm just glad. I didn't lose anything life goes on. I mean disappointing much calm, I mean it would have been nice for him to be real was a let down. I don't want to say it was heartbroken. It was a let down, though, and I think that's kinda- why I contacted my baby in and out of my system to China. Perch say: okay, this is my goodbye. Now. Does this man in the picture I've come to the conclusion that I just have to look out for myself and be careful and warn anybody else. I know on dating sites just to be careful, so you don't get ripped off. I've had about probably as close to one hundred people
there were scammers and now I know just how to weed them out. So I don't even answer when they contact me, my niece told me it'd be want to find out if the guy is real, ask her to take a selfie with a spoon, because nobody has a selfie of himself holding his phone up. Nobody and most of these guys they say. Well, we don't have any sport, they said. How can you not have a spoon, so you know they're, not real, I'm actually dating somebody house, we've been doing pretty good. We also were friends first. So, let's see where this goes. I met this guy he's he's three hours away, though he's a big guy, but he he works for the phone company in Muskegon.
He's supposed to come out this side of town next weekend, so we're supposed to meet up and go out for dinner. So I'm excited about that because he's my type and yeah he's real he's real. How do I know I gotta suck? I got a selfie. bull. Modern love is produced by Julia Botero with help from Anna Martin and HANS Pluto. It's edited. Wendy Door and Daniel Kim. This episode was mixed by Corey shrapnel This week's essay was written by Michael Macalister and read by Eric Martin special thing. Robin Limca and Michele and all
go to Julia Assignment Mahima to Bonnie Bonnie Wartime on yesterday me and SAM Dolnick, LISA Tobin, Corey, Seca and Ryan Wagner at autumn I'm danger- and I merely will be back next week with more stories from modern love As for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-27.