She was in no hurry.
Karen Chapman had been divorced for seven years before she decided to reach out again about three years ago.
Now a “50-something” Tallmadge resident, she was content.
“I made a pledge never to go on a dating site,” Chapman said.
But she thought it would be nice to meet a man she could talk to and, maybe, develop a relationship. So, like millions of Americans, she decided to go online to see who was out there.
She was careful, but that almost didn't stop her from falling prey to a scam.
Chapman considered what site would be best and the most reliable. She was wary about big sites like Match.com. She didn’t think they would work for her.
“I thought the safest place to go might be a Christian site,” she said. She looked around and signed up at Christian Mingle.
“I looked up a few men that might be interesting to me,” she said.
There were two or three men at first that piqued her interest, but one man eventually separated himself from the group.
“We emailed each other for a few weeks and got to know each other,” Chapman said. The man told her he was on an oil rig in Scotland. “He would send me lovely messages and, here or there, a poem.”
Chapman and the man started talking on the phone. During one conversation, she mentioned her work.
“He got excited and said, ‘Oh, do you own a spa?’ “ Chapman said. The man seemed interested in material things. That disturbed her, but not enough to break it off.
“I continued to speak with him,” Chapman said. “He said he would like to meet in person.”
Her misgivings, for the time, were put aside. They would meet soon.
“I went out and bought a lovely new outfit,” she said.
But when the time approached for Chapman to meet her online suitor, something came up. She received a text that he’d gotten a position on an oil rig and their meeting would be delayed a couple of weeks.
“He sent me a long email about how I was his future and he just knew I was the one,” Chapman said. He opened up about his wife’s death from cancer and his daughter who was getting married. She would get along well with Chapman, he wrote.
And then came the breaking point when Chapman knew she was being scammed. The man asked for money — $10,800. She immediately knew their budding relationship was a fraud.
She’d invested time in the supposed relationship, but so had he. And all the time he’d spent in constructing and continuing his fraud would go for naught.
“Well, it’s been nice,” Chapman wrote back to him. “I don’t even have $108 to give you.” If she did have it, Chapman said, she wouldn’t have given it to him.
“It was a deep disappointment,” she said. “I had invested several months in him. I was emotionally invested. I hadn’t had anybody in my life for seven years.”
She’s had time to reflect on the experience. The man did not get money from her, but he gained a measure of confidence and interest. He played on it. Chapman said it’s not an experience she’d like to repeat, but she’s almost stoic about it.
“I’m realistic about things,” Chapman said. “I think probably in my case this man thought I was some lonely, middle-aged, bankrolled woman.”
She knows there are legitimate people on the online dating sites. But there are also scammers who play on people’s emotions to bleed off money. They’ll write and say anything for a buck.
Chapman reported the man to the dating site. They knew of him and said they would handle it.
But it still disturbs Chapman — enough that she’s willing to talk about it if it will help just one person who might be deceived by a scammer.
“I’m not desperate,” Chapman said. “[But] I’m a woman. I’m a human being and you hope.”
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859, firstname.lastname@example.org or @newsalanbeaconjournal.