0

TL;DR I've been messaging a "woman" every day, for hours a day for almost a year who hasn't asked for money but also won't video call. What kind of scam is this, why would anyone put in so much time and effort, and how are they thinking it might "pay off"?

For background, I have never fallen for a scam, am very well-versed in scams, scammers and their evolving tactics, and have posted a question about my experience with scammers on this site before. My question then was more around "why", and I guess this is a similar question in some ways, except the details are significantly different. My previous question was about a "female" scammer who basically mentioned crypto from day 1, was pushing me to invest within a week, and did the cold handover to an obvious other account very quickly - textbook pig-butchering with a touch of romance scam thrown in for good measure. This is very, very different.

I'm going to refer to the person as "her/she" throughout as that's how she is presenting herself to me. I'm a straight man.

I was on a dating app about a year ago and saw a captivating woman on the site only briefly - she either deleted her account or was banned on the same day. However, I messaged her on the app and we exchanged WhatsApp details and moved our messaging there straight away. Her backstory is that she's a university student in South Africa who is pretty poor, basically due to student debt.

Green(?) flags:

  • We have been messaging for almost a year, almost every day, for hours a day! She has never once asked for money, or alluded to crypto or investments, or anything remotely like that. In the first few months she mentioned her student debt a few times, but a few months after that said that she had slowly paid off her debt and was now debt-free. She hasn't mentioned anything to do with money since, apart from looking for work now that she's graduated
  • She is extremely intelligent, well-read, and articulate with perfect English, an excellent sense of humour, and just an all-round great person to message with. In fact, I honestly enjoy our banter more than I do with many of my real friends!
  • She messages me literally every day without fail, starting around the same time (about 6am her time as she's an early riser). We message for hours each day - in fact the limiting factor is my work, my personal life, and the time zones as I go to sleep around 11pm but I feel like she would keep chatting if I were to stay up
  • We have virtual "dates" once a week for a few hours where we do things like watch a movie together and comment throughout
  • She just doesn't seem to want anything from me and seems happy with my company
  • She is very direct - to the point where it's considered rude down under. No offence, I know many South Africans and know how brusque they can be so I don't take it personally, but man sometimes she really pisses me off. I tell her that and her response is basically "deal with it". Not what I'd expect from someone who's trying to romance scam me
  • Once, due to this aforementioned "rudeness" when she was drunk, she pissed me off so much that I told her I'm not going to speak to her again. I didn't message her for weeks (but didn't block her). Without fail, every day (sometimes many times a day) she would apologise, say she wants me back, kept saying things like "have I lost a friend?" and would not stop until I started messaging her again. There were never any extortion or blackmail threats which is what I'd imagine a scammer might do if you cut them off
  • She has sent pictures that don't seem to turn up on any reverse image search
  • She has often mentioned how poor her dating life is, and keeps me informed when she does go on a date and how she (inevitably) either gets screwed over by the guy, or just isn't into him
  • I have also mentioned to her that I regularly date and have pretty good luck with women (short-term). Inevitably, when I tell her about my dates she either doesn't want to know, or gets a little pissy - she says she's "jealous" but can't articulate why. Anyway, I do this because it's true, but also to show her that I'm not some lonely guy who is desperate for the attention of any woman
  • Her messages and references to previous events or conversations we've had are always bang-on. I've tried to catch out her potential lies before but nope; she has an iron-clad memory and if she's making all of this up, her attention to detail beggars belief. I know she could be keeping a script/log of the conversation, but man there is no way I would be able to pull up previous info that fast and bang out a reply with confidence!
  • She has given me her full name (including middle name), birthday, location, and various other personal details but has never asked me for my surname, birthdate, city or any other personal/private information like that

Red flags:

  • She can't/won't voice or video call me, or even leave voice or video messages. The initial story was that her phone was broken and she couldn't afford to get it fixed. I know I could obviously push this point, but I never have because my curiosity of who this person is and why they are doing this is greater than my need to push her into a corner she can't get out of. Plus, if she is a scammer, then the time she spends with me means less time with some other poor, unwitting soul
  • She often talks about flying out here to live because job prospects are so poor in her field in SA (biochemistry if I remember correctly), but has never mentioned wanting me to pay for flights etc. and I've specifically told her I'd never give her money. She doesn't seem to want anything specific from me, just "help getting settled" if and when she arrives (no asks in advance). I guess this could turn into a "I was flying to meet you but oh no customs are keeping me here/I had to change flights/something else serious happened and you need to send me money right now!!!" (which I've had a few times in the past) but seriously, would anyone invest that much and try to extract money in a silly way like that? And even if so, other scams like this I've experienced go south within days and they usually only want from $500-2,000 as everyone knows it just doesn't cost that much to fly, as opposed to the greed of crypto scams where, yeah, investing hundreds of thousands are justified
  • That's about it

This seems like a "real person" (as in, one person not a team, and not AI) and I've actually enjoyed the conversations over the months. I've told her explicitly that I won't be sending her money as I don't send money to people I've never met, and she always bristles at the suggestion that she's a gold-digger. However, I'm also 99% sure that this is some sort of scam - I just don't buy the "pretty, smart woman on the other side of the world loves you" fantasy trope.

My question is, what type of scam is this? It doesn't seem like pig-butchering as there is no mention of crypto, and she just doesn't seem to be interested in money. In fact, I've teasingly accused her of being a scammer a few times and she keeps re-iterating that she's never asked me for money, and why would she be wasting her time? It doesn't seem like a blackmail/extortion type scam as she would have pulled that trigger when I stopped speaking to her. It doesn't seem to be about getting personal information to access accounts, banking etc. as she really only knows my first name. It might be a romance scam, but how is she thinking it will pay off? And how could any payoff possibly be worth the time, effort and emotional energy she has put in? Given that it doesn't seem like I'm being passed off to others (typically people in poorer countries with poorer English skills) as there is never a change in tone, grammar etc., if she is a scammer she can't be doing this to more than, what, a couple of people at the same time? How could that possibly be worth it?

As a bonus question, is there a way to find out who this person truly is and/or what their motivation is, without backing them into a corner they can't get out of (e.g. forcing a video call)?

19
  • 3
    Unanswerable. This could be the lead-in yo any of a large number of scams. It's less work than you think if they're mostly working from scripts or chatbots. And given identity obfuscation techniques starting with VPN and extending through using stolen accounts as cut-outs, there is probably no way for you to trace it back;
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 15 at 7:52
  • 7
    On the other hand, it could be someone who is just enjoying the conversation. Insufficient data.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 15 at 7:58
  • 4
    She could be playing a long game or maybe, she just enjoys your company and just enjoys you as a friend. Anecdotally, I met someone online 25 years ago who lives circa 1500 miles away. We hit it off and have we have talked on the phone multiple times a week since then. I met her about 10 years ago when she was visiting her daughter who had moved to my area. She is just a good friend. Maybe that's all this is (your situation). In any event, watch for red flags but until then, enjoy the company. Commented Mar 15 at 20:23
  • 1
    Trust your instincts. If it feels like a scam, it probably is one, even if it's just some teenage boy in his mother's basement trying to see how long he can make you believe he's a hot girl so he can laugh at your gullibility. We're still in Endless September, after all. Probably is not certainly, and if you're being careful (don't trust any links, and be careful what information you release) and are adequately amused by the conversation you can continue it and find out whether it eventually turns weird.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 16 at 0:39
  • 1
    @Keshlam - Practically speaking, it's highly improbable that "some teenage boy in his mother's basement" could impersonate a very intelligent mature woman. Commented Mar 16 at 1:41

2 Answers 2

3

It's certainly a somewhat unusual situation but it doesn't appear to be an obvious scam and since you are aware of the risk, it's unlikely to turn into one.

We can't really tell what's happening here. Could be genuine, could be harmless, could be a scam, could somethin like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjcVJsHF3Cw

So if you are having fun and feel that is a good you use or (considerable!) time investment, have at it. If you stay vigilant you should be ok.

I'm almost certain this is a scam

If that's the case: why do you spend many hours per day with her? Do you want to be scammed? What is your goal here?

2
  • Haha thanks I've seen the film :) Thank you. Upon reflection, perhaps I shouldn't have said that I'm almost certain it's a scam. More like: statistically speaking, in 2024 this is most likely to be a scam. I guess there's still a little hope inside of me that there are some genuine people left in the world, and maybe this is the 0.1% example.
    – Arj
    Commented Mar 17 at 1:16
  • I spend so much time with her because as I've said the conversation is enjoyable and I want to find out the truth one way or another: either she is who she says she is (best outcome for me), or she's a scammer, but then I'd want to know who she really is, why she did this, and why she would possibly invest so much time/effort/emotional energy into something with such a small chance of such a small payoff!
    – Arj
    Commented Mar 17 at 1:16
-2

The end game, if there is one, is that she asks you to do a small harmless favor because she's in a bind of some sort. Then she asks you to do a bigger favor to solve a problem with the first one, now that you're emotionally invested. And so on.

Or she casually tells you about a financial opportunity and that leads into any of the investment/banking scams frequently seen here. Or they could be waiting to get a relative's name and try the foreign-bail scam. Or...

Just go hit a scam-awareness website and run down the list; it could be a slow set-up for almost any of them. Or multiple depending on which one they think you might fall for.

The only way to know for sure, unless you can somehow identify the source, is to let it run and see what happens.

If you decide to do that, you may want to consider adopting a partial false identity of your own, to limit how much real information you are giving to a stranger. I've been known to claim my pet is my child, and I've got a fictional employee who has some internet presence; I usually give public discussions my location by state or nearby major city rather than anything more specific. And so on. Less data exposed reduces attack surface; "smoking gun" false data is a warning that someone knows less about you than they think they do.

2
  • Thanks for your answer, although I don't think any rational person (and she seems very rational) with ill intent would wait this long to ask for a "favour". I did research this as you suggested before posting the question, but I guess it's the length of time and not asking for anything that just doesn't line up for me (in terms of her being a scammer). I do agree with your suggestion of letting it run its course though, which is exactly what I'm doing, out of curiosity if nothing else. And your suggestions for how to protect my identity are good ones.
    – Arj
    Commented Mar 18 at 1:58
  • You're the one who has all the data. Draw your own conclusions. I just advise that you continue to be cautious. Remember that the time they have invested is not realtime; it's not as much effort as you might think to keep paying out line before trying to set the hook.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 18 at 2:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .