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Internet Dating: A Personal Experience Of Deceipt

The computer age has opened a new Dating avenue for those who are not into the bar scene, one-night stands, and those whose busy lives seem to lack the time and avenues to meet people.

In fact, an August 2005 report released by the Nielsen/NetRatings, the leading provider of internet research, claimed one in three internet users have, or plan to use the web to meet a potential Dating partner. More recent statistics claim internet dating has far surpassed earlier estimates and shows the highest growth to be in persons over the age of 50.

Internet dating has typically been portrayed with success stories, mostly because people are embarrassed to admit that they were "taken in." When television and movies also seem to portray the lighter side of net-dating, people are more likely to think they were "unlucky" or one of the few who had a bad experience. And, few of us like to admit being a victim.

Unfortunately though, the internet has provided con artists a new playground for scams and games. For those of us who enter cyber-space with the goal of meeting new people, making friends, and if we are lucky, meeting "that someone special, " it may be more difficult to realize that some people approach relationships as a playground of imaginary games.

Sometimes these "players" create lives and situations that serve no purpose and are so believable that it is practically impossible to recognize them for what they are; especially for those who are honest, trusting and on the internet dating sites for the reasons it was created.

There is no question that everyone is on the site to meet someone, but the challenge is in knowing who you are actually meeting. It can be an opportunity to meet people that you may not be able to meet otherwise because of location, not traveling in the same circles or going to the same places. It is also a chance for those who are shy, who avoid the bar scene and those who have been out of the dating scene for sometime to meet people in the comfort of our homes.

I doubt anyone can dispute the many benefits of internet dating when people are open, honest and willing to share the person that they really are. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to monitor those who approach the internet with a much different goal. Having no experience in these senseless lies, no awareness of the extremes that people would go and believing like so many others that I had nothing to make me a victim to con-artist and, that I was too intelligent to fall for lies, I entered the world of internet dating with confidence. I found that it is these beliefs that can leave us wide open to the kind of experience I recently had.

While there was a part of me that viewed Internet dating as kind of a desperate move, I was curious. I was also looking at my life a little differently as my youngest approached going off to college. I never thought about my children growing up and moving away back then. Most of the time, as the only provider for three children, I was just grateful to keep our heads above water. Suddenly, I found myself wondering, "Where does my life go from here?" I thought about how I would like to have friends, someone to hang out with, companionship, and yes, maybe even love.

I am very close to my children and discussed the idea of internet dating with them. My daughter knew a co-worker who had met someone on-line and was now married. And while we spoke of being careful because you didn't know for sure who you were talking to, we had no real stories to base concerns on.

I felt like I was approaching internet dating with the right frame of mind - I still believe that. I didn't set out with the goal of meeting my true love and getting married. Partly because I have been single for nearly 17 years and wasn't sure that marriage was something I could even adapt too. Secondly, (call me old-fashioned if you chose), I always believed that friendship is the basis to any relationship. I convinced myself that I would be open-minded if a relationship did develop but I would be grateful just to make a good friend or two in the experience.

Once I decided to give internet dating a try, I looked at several sites before choosing one. I felt comforted that the site offered warnings on what to look out for in scam artists and liars. There were some great articles and tips on recognizing those who were married or involved with someone, money scams and other areas of concern. Even though they were common sense to me, I read every one.

As recommended by the site, I included photographs. I noticed that many people, more often the women, had provocative photographs or ones they had obviously dressed up for. I was determined to show recent photographs of the real me.

One was a close-up shot that the kids had taken when we were sitting around the house. I had no make-up on and was wearing jeans and a sweater. In another, I had been fishing for three days. My hair was wind blown and my expression was grimacing as I held up the 14 pound bass I had recently caught. In another, my hair was in braids and I was wrestling on the ground with my large dog. I did include one where I was wearing a dress, but there was nothing provocative about that one either. It was just a rather plain black dress of medium length and me with minimal make-up.

I was as honest in the written profile. I was on the lower end of the income bracket; I worked in an office and was going back to college. Neither did I lie about my age, though many people have told me I could pass for almost 10 years younger.

I was surprised at the number of initial responses, though I learned later that this is typical in the beginning. I responded to everyone as a courtesy, though in some cases it was merely to thank them for writing and to say I was not interested. There was some weeding out to be done. Some rude and crude, younger men wanting to learn from the 'more experienced', women interested in meeting other females who might be 'curious', men who were ready to send a ticket to come meet them and those who wanted an address and/or phone number with the first email.

I even received a few emails from men who simply warned me "to be careful as the internet opened a lot of doors to liars and scam artist." I don't know if there was something in my profile that showed how nave I was in this dating thing or if they just warned all newcomers. Of course I thanked them but I didn't take it too seriously. What could anyone gain from scamming me? There are many months I still struggle to make ends meet, and while I am not bad looking, neither am I drop-dead gorgeous.

Dave was only the second man I gave my home number to and the only one I met in person. We had emailed for several months, followed by even more months of phone calls before meeting in person.

When he sent me the first introduction email, I went to his profile to read more about him. If there was something in the profile such as someone who drank a lot, frequented clubs, just looking for casual Sex or something a long those lines then I would kindly explain that I was just looking for friendship and/or that it seemed like we had little in common.

When I read his profile, though, it seemed like we had many of the same interest. He had written he was looking for friendship or marriage and while I wasn't sure of someone who actively stated marriage as a goal, he seemed open to friendship. We both stated that we enjoyed the outdoors, had both been single parents for the greater part of our lives and were unsure how to get back into the dating scene. I looked at his photographs, and while he wasn't what someone would call handsome, neither was he bad looking for a man of 51. He seemed to have kind eyes and a good smile.

His profile showed a man with a sense of humor, one who was close to his family and enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. The more we emailed back and forth the more it seemed we had in common. I was further impressed that he never pushed me for a phone number or contact information but seemed as comfortable as I to take our time. He told me that he was a retired federal marshal and had gotten burned-out always seeing the worse of people. I could identify with that on a lesser scale from my previous years as an animal abuse investigator.

Dave told me he started driving a semi a few months ago because he had always worked and retirement just didn't suit him. I could understand that. Even if I didn't have to work financially, I think I would have to do volunteer work or something because work is all I have ever known. He said that driving was ideal for him because it gave him a chance to travel and a lot of time to think and figure out what he wanted to do with his life now that his children had families and lives of their own. I, too, questioned where my life would go now that my children were making lives of their own.

Our conversations on the phone only seemed to draw us closer. I had never met anyone that I seemed to have so much in common with. It was refreshing to talk to someone who understood the hardships of being a single parent and how, too often we tend to close ourselves off from others in attempts to make ends meet and spend quality time with our children.

We talked about books, finding that both of us read the same authors. Neither of us watched much television or movies preferring to be outdoors whenever possible. Dave was more of a thrill seeker than I was and told me that he parachuted on a regular basis. Something he always tried to convince me to do with him and I agreed to consider it. He agreed to go horseback riding with me in return - a new experience for him. While he lived in the city, he said that he preferred country living. The more we spoke to each other, several times daily, the more we became convinced that we would have to meet in person.

Maybe if everything had been perfect, I would have had more doubts about him than I did. But we had little spats along the way. The ones I remember most were due to my very active schedule. Working a full-time job and going to school full-time, does make a busy schedule. I understood his point of view, and even when he was irritated he always supported my goal of completing my education. He just wanted us to have more time together and hated to see me working myself so hard. I actually appreciated his concern. Our little disagreements were minor and so seldom that they didn't concern me. Like I said, if anything, they seemed to almost guarantee normalcy to our relationship.

Eventually, we agreed to meet in Oklahoma City when he had a layover in my area. As close as I felt to him, I considered canceling as the date approached and almost turned back a few times as I made the two hour drive. I kept telling myself it was just nerves and I drove on. When I met him, my first thought was that he looked older in person than he had in his photos. It wasn't a major concern, I hadn't agreed to meet him for his looks but for the man he appeared to be. We went to lunch and as we talked, I felt again, the connection I had felt in our phone contacts. We spent that day and the next, sightseeing, talking, holding hands and just drawing closer.

Every weekend that Dave was in the area, we started spending together. After a few times of meeting this way, he told me he requested to get Oklahoma City routes whenever they were available so we could be together as often as possible. He even tried to arrange loads so he'd arrive in my area on weekends.

With every meeting we only seemed to grow closer and learn more about each other. I found myself sharing things with him that I had never told anyone except my own children. Dave shared a lot with me too. I had never thought it was possible to be as close to another person as I grew to Dave.

He told me early in the relationship that he had been thinking about moving somewhere warmer like the Dallas area as he had grown tired of the Minnesota winters. Now he knew for sure he wanted to move in this area, he had fallen in love with me.

Several months into our relationship, Dave told me that he lived on what he made trucking, so his retirement and other investments had just been adding up and were more than enough for two people to live on comfortably. He apologized about not being honest about his financial situation in the beginning but he'd had bad experiences with women in the past who were more interested in his financial situation than the man he was.

So there we were, both of us surprised to be talking about a future together. He talked about finish the contract with the trucking firm, which would be up in August. He told me he wanted to put in for a transfer at the training facility in Dallas. He would be teaching drivers and would be able to come home most evenings except for an occasional over the road training exercise with new drivers. Dave said he had spoken to his immediate supervisor about me on numerous occasions and "Jill" found it romantic that a couple the ages of her parents found true love. He said Jill was kind of plump, not real cute and kind of shy. Most of the men seemed to ignore her, but Dave realized that she was a good person with a kind heart and they had developed a wonderful friendship. That was in our favor too, as she would do everything in her power to get the paper-work through as quickly as possible.

I told Dave that I didn't want to live in the Dallas area but he assured me that this was nothing I had to be concerned about. We could find a house in my area that would still be close to the hour drive I took to college and he assured me that he didn't mind a longer drive back and forth to work. It was because he enjoyed driving that he chose trucking in the first place.

We both celebrated when only a few weeks after Dave put in the paperwork for the transfer, Jill told him about a position opening in near my home. Not only was it even closer to where I lived but it was a local run, guaranteeing that he would be home every night. Dave called me to discuss the new offer because he didn't want to accept the offer without my input. Of course I was excited at the prospect but I knew how much he enjoyed teaching when he was in the Marshals and didn't want him to turn down something that he really wanted to do.

A transfer would mean extending his contract with the company and I knew the frustration of working a job you didn't really enjoy, I'd had plenty of experience in that area, so I wanted him to choose the one that he would have the most satisfaction in. I felt so special when he assured me that being home with me every night was more important than teaching.

One thing that Dave had really been pushing for after our first few meetings was to meet my children. He was as anxious for me to meet his but we both knew that it would be late December before I would have anytime off and of course, I planned to spend the holidays with my own children. I kept assuring him that I would try to get time off after the New Year.

Because Dave was coming through my home area so often now, he saw no reason to delay meeting my children. He told me he really wanted to "thank" my eldest who encouraged me to try internet Dating, and pointed out it was important that we meet each others' families. Of course that made sense. We had been drawn to each other since the beginning and as the months passed we both seemed convinced that we were meant to be together. Although I had fears and doubts of getting married at my age and after so many years of being alone, I found these concerns slipping away as Dave talked about how badly he wanted to marry me and how it was "meant to be."

My children were as anxious to meet Dave as he was to meet them. They had spoken to him on the phone a few times and seemed pretty impressed with him. As I said, we are very close, my children and I, so they knew a lot about our discussions and where our relationship was heading. More than anything, my children saw a wonderful change in me. Suddenly I wasn't all about work and responsibility. I was smiling more, laughing more and they loved teasing me for behaving like a "giddy school girl." They were anxious to meet the man I was "falling for".

I guess I put off Dave's visiting partially because I was ashamed of my home. I mean it's paid for, but it's an older mobile home that is a constant challenge to keep in repair. I had seen photographs of his home he had recently sold and I couldn't help but compare the two. My eldest daughter pointed out time and time again that I had been honest with him and he wasn't interested in me for my home, but in the person I was.

Even though everything seemed so perfect I still questioned "what if things didn't work out?" or "What if my children don't like him?" It all seemed too good to be true. The one man I met on the internet and here I was falling in love. My daughter and I talked about that a lot, comparing the time Dave and I took in getting to know each to time spent by those who meet in more traditional ways. It seemed like we probably knew each other better than most people because of all the time we had spent emailing and with phone conversations before ever meeting in person.

It was just hard for me to accept that I had so much more than I ever expected when I first went online searching for friendship. I guess I just wasn't use to be so happy and looking at a future with someone I loved in my life. I tried to control what my daughter called pessimism but my "what ifs..." became something my children and Dave would constantly tease me about. Dave and I even argued about them on occasion because he felt I didn't trust him or believe in our relationship as much as he did.

My eldest and youngest liked Dave immediately. He was very personable and they knew how happy he made me. My middle child didn't warm up to him as quickly as the other two but that didn't concern me as the few times I had dated over the years, she hadn't liked anyone. She seemed to give him more of a chance than she ever had anyone else, so what more could I ask or expect? I also had to take in account that she lived a little further away and had a family, so not being home as much as the other two she'd not had the opportunity to talk to Dave on the phone or know as much about our relationship.

I worried needlessly that my son who had always been "the man in the house" might feel a little jealousy or concern about the man dating his mother. They hit if off from the start. David began spending weekends at the house whenever his layovers worked out to our advantage. He and my son would look at college information and talk about his plans for the future. Most weekends my eldest daughter and her boyfriend would be over and the five of us would talk long into the night. I remember that weekend Dave was sitting down with my children and telling them how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I was embarrassed when he spoke about how much I meant to him and how much we had in common. He wanted them to be happy for us, he said. My daughter said something that touched me more than probably anything else ever has. She told Dave that there was no one else in this world that deserved happiness and love as much as I did. She said I was one of the kindest and most self-sacrificing people that she had ever known... I had to stop her when she started to share stories of my animal welfare work and things I had done as a parent.

For one thing, it was embarrassing, but also Dave being a single parent himself and having the job he held, had probably gone through his own shares of challenges, we all do in life. But even though I stopped here from finishing, her words meant the world to me. They seemed to touch Dave too who assured my children that he was totally and completely in love with me and would never do anything to hurt me, "That I promise, " he said.

Dave and I only grew closer with time. Our phone calls when we were apart went from a few times a day to at least twice that. He kept me company on the long drive to and from school and work; we talked between classes, my lunch break and every evening. We never seemed to run out of things to say.

One weekend when Dave was down we went to one of the jewelry stores to look at engagement rings so Dave would have an idea of the style I liked. I think it meant a lot to my children that he invited them to come along. We began to talk about real wedding plans, not just in passing but even checking on things like the photographer, who would marry us, where, the colors and so on.

While I was content with the idea of just getting married at the local courthouse, Dave pushed for a real wedding and my children sided with him. I had never had a real wedding and it would be a great opportunity to bring our families together. Planning a wedding became a new and exciting experience for me, and even my middle daughter got drawn in for that one.

Dave told me that one thing that was really important to him was to have a home to call our own. Because of his job, it would fall on my son and me to drive around and check places out and weed them down to some top choices for him to see when he was in the area. He suggested that I contact some real estate agents to help. I told him about my daughters' boss who was a part-time agent. Larry was also the director of a school group my son was involved in so I had spoken to him on numerous occasions and knew him to be a good and honest man. Dave was excited to hear that we knew an agent. It might help us get a better deal and he'd had enough of pushy agents when he'd assisted his daughter and son in purchasing their house. We both agreed that if someone was getting a commission we would rather it be someone that one of us knew. In the weeks that followed, my son and I spent hours driving around places that would be within reasonable driving distance for Dave and me.

Because Larry was such a busy man I didn't want to drag him around to numerous places until we were interested in something. Larry had real estate catalogs and information sent to my email that met the requirements I had shared with him for the home.

I guess partially because I was a "what-iffer" and probably too because I had always been such a private person, I hadn't told anyone outside of my family that I was going to get married. Even Larry thought I was getting the information from a friend.

Dave never understood that and asked me on numerous occasions if I was ashamed of him. I don't think he understood that I really didn't have friends, merely acquaintances and no one that I shared my personal life with - not that I'd ever had a personal life to speak of before now. What was I suppose to do, just walk into work one day and announce to everyone, "Hey guess what? I'm getting married!" He said he was so happy that he was telling everyone while I on the other hand, told no one but my children. I assured him that would change - I just had to get use to the idea myself.

Another disagreement we had concerned my giving notice at work. Between work and school I didn't have a lot of free time. While he supported my completing my degree, he saw no reason for me continuing to work when he could easily support both of us. It wasn't like I was working my dream job and, as he pointed out; it would give me a chance to really concentrate on school and my studies, in addition to giving us more time together. We couldn't even plan a date for me to fly out and meet his family with this hectic schedule of mine. He wanted to plan several days for us to get away on vacation around his work and my school schedule but when my work schedule was thrown into the equation, it just wasn't possible.

Dave said that I could meet with his broker and keep track of his investments and for that I could get a salary just like he paid himself for tax purposes. It would mean less time and more money than I was making now. That way I could still earn my own money - something that remained important to me. Neither would I have to worry about the loss of health benefits for my son and me. Because he was retired with the federal government, my son and I would receive full medical coverage once we were married. My son would be covered as long as he was in college which was pretty much the same way my present insurance ran.

We also had an ongoing debate about my cat coming in the new house we were planning to buy. My old cat had always been indoors and I was not about to throw her outside. Eventually, he gave in to me.

We even disagreed about the gifts he had already ordered and those he was planning to get my children for Christmas as I thought he was spending too much money. He insisted that they were now his family too.

The worse moment was one evening when he called almost in tears, his voice shaking uncontrollably. He said he had received an anonymous phone call where some woman claimed that I was a scam artist and he was one of the people I was targeting. He kept asking me why someone would just make up something like that if it wasn't true and demanding to know how anyone had gotten his number.

I was, of course, shaken up and confused. I had no enemies and at this point had only told a very few people about our relationship. Dave asked if my middle child would have pulled something like this and I assured him that even though she was upset at me at the time, she would do nothing so cruel. And while he often spoke to my other children on the phone, she had no access to his phone number. I suggested that he call his cell phone company and try to discover where the call originated from. It was a long and confusing night. My eldest came over and she and my son also wondered if their sister could have done this, but I just couldn't believe it. Neither could I find any other explanation.

I guess it must have been very early the following morning when Dave called back to tell me that his cell phone carrier was able to give him the area code of where the call originated from. He knew only one person in Arizona and called the son of a woman he had dated for several years, Trudy. She had been killed by a drunk driver two years ago and Dave had remained friends with her adult son. It was a relationship Dave had shared with me early in our own relationship and one I admired him for maintaining. According to Dave, the son, Alex, had gotten drunk and in a childish fear that he would lose Dave in our upcoming wedding, convinced his girlfriend to call Dave with these false allegations in an attempt to break us up.

Dave apologized to me over and over for ever doubting me. He said that he was so happy and secure in our relationship that he wanted to tell everyone about us and he'd had no idea that Alex would have reacted that way. I told him it wasn't his fault and if anyone had called me with allegations about him, I wasn't confident I would have handled it as well as he did.

I came to look at that night when I could have lost him as a positive thing. An eye- opener to how much I loved him and how committed I was to our life together. We got through this and our relationship only seemed to grow stronger.

Dave and I continued talking and emailing and seeing each other as often as we could. In time, my son and I found four places that we were especially interested in. Dave managed to come in for a one night lay-over and we drove him to the ones I had told him about. He called agents while at two of these places because he was as impressed as we had been. One property had boundary issues and we agreed that while we loved the home, it was something neither of us wanted to deal with.

The other was far beyond what he thought he could afford. The third house he didn't call because he didn't like the age of the house and saw some future problems. I had liked the house but wasn't very impressed with the location. Dave agreed on that point as well.

The one I saved for last was perfect and he was disappointed that it was too late in the evening to contact an agent. I gave him Larry's contact information and we agreed that he could arrange a time with Larry to see it as soon as Dave was back in the area.

In the meanwhile, Larry had gotten all the information about the house together for me to share with Dave. We decided if we loved the inside even half as much as we did the outside, it was going to be our home. We even decided if we could get everything taken care of in a timely manner that was the place where we would have our marriage ceremony. At Dave's suggestion, I took my daughter to the house so she could help me better plan the wedding. He was determined it was going to be our home and kept telling me to just have a little faith.

We managed to arrange a date to see the inside of the house in mid- November. There was one other couple interested in seeing the house but they had postponed their appointment earlier in the week when we got an unsuspected snow storm. Dave managed to make it in when the snow, which never stays long in our area, was melting and the roads were safe for travel.

When I introduced Dave and Larry, Dave told him, "I don't know if Karen told you yet or not, but we are getting married." Larry admitted after seeing us together he suspected it was something like that. He told me how happy he was for me and we talked a few minutes about what my son thought of my new fianc. Conversation was short though, it was still cold outside and we were anxious to walk through the house.

The inside of the house was more perfect than I could have imagined. It had barely been lived in as the owners who had the house built as a vacation home, seldom stayed there. Dave seemed especially impressed with the security system as the house was pretty secluded. He said that he wouldn't worry about my safety as much while he was waiting to be transferred to the new position. We were both extremely impressed with the layout of the house. It wasn't a large place but it was perfect for the three of us - only two after my son went off to college. We loved the property, the pond and Dave spent a lot of time in the three car garage deciding how and where he'd arrange his tools and wood-working materials.

I remember Dave following me into the upstairs bedroom and asking me, "Do you want it?" When I asked what he thought he told me that he was really impressed and admitted that he loved the place, but it was up to me. I doubt he was very surprised when I told him it was perfect.

Dave told Larry that we not only wanted the place but we wanted to get married at our new home. For that reason, he wanted to really rush the paperwork so the house would be ours in a month. We had already made many of the plans for the wedding.

Larry explained that it usually took a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks to get everything taken care of and the owners might need more time to move out personal belongings. This was the one point that Dave was adamant about and Larry promised to do what he could to make it happen.

Dave and Larry talked a little while about the monetary aspect. Dave said that we would meet the price of the property and saw no reason to make a counter-offer. The house was priced very reasonable and he knew it would take longer to get the paperwork done if we 'haggled.' He was also as aware as I was that another couple had shown interest and he said he wanted to make sure that we got the place.

They agreed that Larry would start on the paperwork immediately and have it sent to Dave's lawyer. Dave provided a fax number where everything could be sent. Dave said that as soon as the paperwork was cleared by his lawyer, he would send the down payment on the property.

Even without the 'trust' money to hold the property, Larry informed the owners and agency that the property was being purchased. He shared the excitement of my new home and upcoming marriage and was determined to pull any strings he could to assist with these plans. I told Dave how fortunate we were to have Larry in our corner and he agreed.

Dave was so excited when I finally agreed to give notice at work a week later. Now I would be able to concentrate on furnishing our new home, moving in, final plans for the wedding and so on. While giving notice was kind of a scary thing, I had to admit there was a sense of relief. I liked the people I worked for but it wasn't the most interesting or favorite of jobs I ever held. It did take a lot of my time and I looked forward to having more free time for my family and my new life.

Because I had always maintained a separation of personal life and work, I did not put in my letter of resignation that I was getting married. I just put the part about taking on a different position due to salary increase. This appeased the main boss who had been through several secretaries in her two years and it still gave me the sense of privacy that was important to me.

It was kind of sad to see the advertising go out for my position in a way, but I was flattered that my boss and I maintained a good working relationship and she asked me to assist with the interviews for my replacement.

I guess it was a little more than a week later that the first sign of trouble began to show. As always, it was the small things at first. Larry grew concerned because he hadn't heard from Dave's lawyer or broker and without the contract signed he couldn't guarantee that we could have the house in our possession by the date that Dave wanted. He was pulling a lot of strings as it was already.

Dave and I had a few calls and he explained the lawyer was on a trial case but he had left messages. He had also left several messages with the broker and wasn't sure what was going on there. Dave called me a day or so later to tell me that he had heard from his broker's secretary. The broker's father who had been suffering from cancer for several years had passed away. He assured both Larry and I that things would be taken care of. We were both very understanding and our hearts went out to the family.

After another week of waiting, and Dave suggested I get another copy of the contract and bring them to him as he would be coming to Oklahoma City the following weekend. He had spoken to his lawyer who told him they were the basic contract for home purchase. As he would be in the state anyway, it just made sense for him to sign them and get the ball rolling. The following Saturday I met him. We spent the day together and I returned home with the signed paperwork I would give to Larry on Monday. The next evening, Dave called visibly upset. His broker had died. He didn't have any of the details yet as his (Dave's) son didn't know anything other than that. But we might hold off a day or two in turning in the contracts as he'd have to transfer money from another account and just send Larry the money that way.

In the calls that followed over the next few days, I managed to get the brokers name from Dave. The strange feeling in the pit of my stomach had only grown and I had to do some research of my own. I was not too surprised when I checked every newspaper in the region's obituaries to find that the name Dave had given me was not there. Dave had no explanation for this and said that all he was able to find out from his lawyer was that the cause of death was being kept "hush hush" at this time. I pointed out that there would still be an announcement, it just wouldn't mention the cause of death, and I pointed out, if this were a man of some community standing, the more it was tried to be kept quiet, the more journalist would be after the story.

Dave assured me he'd requested a route to Minnesota and begged me to just hang tight while he found out what was going on. He kept promising me he would get to the bottom of it and I shouldn't worry. Over these next few days we had trouble keeping in contact as he was driving in mountains. Contacts were short and often difficult to understand with all the static.

Larry was also concerned as he was trying to hold the house but without paperwork or a down payment it was difficult for him to do. Although I had a pretty good idea where this was going, I was having a hard time admitting it even to myself. I told Larry I didn't really know for sure what was going on except that there was some kind of problem and as soon as I knew for sure I would let him know. I really did want to believe there was a logical explanation. It didn't make sense that anyone would go through all of this, involve so many people for no reason. What would anyone gain from sending me out looking for a home, meeting my children and telling them how much he loved me, planning a wedding, looking at rings and introducing himself as my fianc?

Why the insistence of a quick closing on a house, the disagreements over silly things like an indoor cat, my telling people I am engaged, and my giving notice at my job? And what about the call that upset both of us when I was falsely accused of scamming him? He hadn't even told me about his investments or money situation until we had been physically dating for some time, so money had never been an issue. Why would someone make something like that up later in a relationship?

There was nothing he gained from me financially. Sure I wasted a lot of time and gas money in our house search and I spent a little more on groceries than usual when he was down for a weekend but there was no personal gain for him. It just didn't make sense, but neither did this latest chain of events.

Then I get the call I had been half expecting, though in a more creative way, I suppose. He was angry because there was a legal document that his daughter-in-law (a woman he had claimed several times in the past was a "real piece of work") had signed for. Her husband (his son) had found it and called his father. I can't remember the legal name of the document but basically it said that the surviving family of the broker had claimed bankruptcy upon his death. It seemed that all his funds were on hold at the moment. Dave said he couldn't talk long because he had to keep the phone clear as he had calls into his lawyer to find out what was going on and if his money had been tampered with.

I got the latest news a few hours later. The broker had committed suicide and had moved around money of several of his clients and Dave was not sure how extensive the damage was until he got home. I pointed out to Dave again that the death would have been noted in a newspaper somewhere, especially when one looks at the kind of story that he was sharing with me.

At this point, Dave still maintained that he loved me and would never lie to me. I told him that I deserved to know the real truth. He told me he would be in Minnesota in two days at the latest. He said he could understand my doubts with all that was happening and asked me to please believe in him just a little longer. He would send me proof of everything he was telling me as soon as he got home.

I told him that I hoped I did spend the rest of my life apologizing for ever doubting him. We ended with me telling him that if he had any feelings for me at all, I deserved his honesty. He told me again that he never had or never would lie to me. He kept begging me to be patient and promising he loved me and would prove everything to me as soon as he got home.

Late that evening, Dave called again. He told me that everything had been a lie. I forced myself to remain calm as I asked him why. He told me that he didn't know why and that he guessed that he had a problem and needed help. I told him that I deserved a better explanation than that. For him to lead me on for so many months, to lie to me and my family, to involve so many innocent people... I deserved and needed to know what he possibly gained from this, why he did this and why me?

As one might expect, that conversation did not go well. Dave admitted that everything had been a lie from the very beginning. He said that he had pulled scams like this numerous times. (Was I suppose to feel better when he said that he had never taken one this far before?) When I tried to find out what it was about me that drew him to pull this elaborate scam on me, he kept saying "It's not you, it's me." Like that explained anything. He kept falling back on how sorry he was and that he knew he needed help.

I couldn't hold the anger back anymore. I demanded to know what he got out of me being unemployed or having to face the embarrassment of a "fake engagement" and what about the involvement and time of third party people like Larry who did so much to try to help us get a house he had no intention or ability to purchase? Dave told me I was interrupting him when he was trying to apologize. I said, "I don't need your apology or whining about how you guess you need help. What I need, what I deserve is an explanation." I guess he had nothing to say to that and he simply hung up. I haven't spoken to him since.

I suppose I will always question why anyone could or would create such an elaborate scam that has nothing to be gained from anyone. I may always wonder why a person would go to such lengths to have a negative impact on another person's life. I also will have to learn to accept that these are things I will probably never have an answer to.

As hard and embarrassing as it is to admit my own short comings and lack of smarter choices, I write this in the hopes that it can keep others from making the same mistake. I discovered that you don't have to be a person of financial means to be taken advantage of; that there are people in this world who find some kind of perverse pleasure in lying to people, hurting them and impacting their life in as many negative ways as possible. Maybe to them, that is the reward.

Sometimes I think I will drive myself crazy trying to understand this kind of mentality, maybe I should just be grateful that I can't. I doubt that I will ever resort to this manner of dating again; I can only hope I can help others be more aware of the challenges and pitfalls that can accompany this new and growing experience of internet Dating. Without a doubt, there are those who have positive experiences in making friends or like my daughter's friend, success in love and marriage. But we have to be even more careful when building relationships at distances. We don't want to be suspicious of everyone, but as I have learned, neither can we just take some at their word.

I encourage others to share not only the good experiences but to speak out on those that impacted them negatively as well. It is my plan, oneday, to write a book of experiences so that others can learn by our good choices and our mistakes. If I can prevent at least one person from feeling how I feel at the moment, reliving those past 9 months or so of my life, maybe at least something positive will have come from this.

By KC Martin - I'm a single parent. Mostly I worked in non-profit, often working 2nd jobs to supplement income. I have a BA in journalism/communication. I was recently laid off and am now seeking another job.  

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