Our friend is grieving, and possibly getting scammed. What can we do?
May 6, 2014 8:04 AM Subscribe
A good friend was in an online relationship with a European woman for nine months. She was supposed to arrive in our country next weekend. On Saturday morning, he learned that she died in an avalanche. As details pile up, it has become clear to us that this woman never existed. The charade seems to be continuing and we are not sure how to proceed. Details inside.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Things we know that have led us to conclude that the woman (we’ll call her A) was Not Real:
- They met through a mutual acquaintance that our friend has met only once, a few years ago. Acquaintance is an elderly woman. A was in her twenties. A claimed to have no email address, skype id or facebook. She used the acquaintance’s accounts to email/skype him.
- They largely communicated via phone or text. She used a phone number from our country, not hers. She ostensibly lived in Europe/the US for the duration of their relationship.
- When they skyped, only he had his webcam on. He never saw her in a skype call, and he never met her. He only has photos but those could be of anyone.
- She fits the classic profile for fake internet romance instigator – constant positive reinforcement, moneyed and accomplished (ran an NGO, several businesses and was a med student), had a slew of personal issues that she needed him to help her with etc etc
- He heard of her death via text. The only call from her family was from her number (again, number from our country, not theirs) and he barely heard a voice because most of the call involved crying. Texts are still coming from her family on and off, consoling him.
- Google brings up a giant blank for her name, and the names of her family members.
If this story ended with a death, then we would be treating it as such and not raising any alarms but it seems to be going further than that. Here’s what is worrying:
- There is talk of an inheritance, and businesses that she has left for him to run. There are no details of any of these.
- She apparently wanted him to take over her NGO. He is considering moving cities to do this. We have looked up this organization – it makes no mention of her whatsoever.
- It’s not farfetched to assume the emotional scam may escalate to a financial scam. Despite the general theme of this girl being very well off, who knows what requests might emerge? The inheritance line especially could lead nowhere good.
- All roads lead to the mutual acquaintance. Her accounts. She owns the NGO. She is the same nationality as the fictitious A but knows our country well. She lives in the city he is considering moving to. Her facebook shows she organised an event exactly like one A supposedly hosted at the same time, a few months ago. We don’t know if it is her phone number but we hope to get a chance to look it up soon.
Our friend is shattered and he definitely does not suspect a thing. He is not close with his family. We live in a small town, and the support system here is limited (no therapy available). We are unsure of how to proceed. Our questions:
1. Do we tell him what we suspect? We can't offer any proof!
2. If we should tell him - how? And how much? It would be really helpful here to hear if anyone has dealt with a similar situation in the past.
3. Should we reach out to the acquaintance directly? We were thinking maybe to ask for more details of the funeral that she apparently attended. Would it be unwise to do this?
4. He has been talking about how he has nothing to live for now, and how he will spend the rest of his life trying to make her proud. What is it going to do to him if this turns out to have been a fake relationship all along?
Any other suggestions you may have are very much much appreciated. Throwaway email - mefiquestion672(at)gmail.com