Ask Wendy

What Can I Believe When Online Dating?

Friday, January 20, 2017
Hey Wendy, 

I put a profile up on over Christmas and within a couple of days I struck up a weeklong conversation with a guy on Whatsapp.

He lives in Sydney, I live in Adelaide. He's an engineer who’s working in Kuala Lumpur. I'm in my mid-forties, never married, and don’t have children. He's mid-forties divorced nine years and has an adult daughter.

I suppose my question is do I take a leap of faith and believe everything by taking what he says at face value as I tend to do? He asked me last night if I was chatting with anyone else, which I thought was odd.

He says when he comes back we’ll have dinner together in my town. I can't help but picture the situation of someone leading a double life...That's the cynic in me.

Dani B. — Adeline, Australia

Hey Dani,

Cautiously optimistic with eyes wide open is your optimal approach for dating this guy. If you take what comes at face value and you trust an out-of-town stranger blindly (one who has not yet shown you what he can be trusted for), you’re sure to be in for trouble of one kind or another.

You’re a smart cookie. Calling out “are you chatting with anyone else” as odd is dead on. Can you reserve a suite on a cruise ship without putting a significant deposit down? Nope. He can’t claim you as his and expect exclusivity if he has no skin in the game and no tangible connection to you yet. It’s weird, it’s red-flaggy, and I don’t like it.

I’m not saying your guy is sure to be a weirdo, but what you’ve described—engineer out of country, lives in a town relatively close but not too near to you, hinting at exclusivity before you meet—yeah, that could be the profile of a very common con that I’ve seen happening for the last couple of years. It goes something like this…

  • He’s on his way home for an extended weekend and he makes a dinner date with you for a week or two out.
  • Two days before your date, he has to cancel because his daughter in Melbourne is in the hospital and he has to fly there instead. He’s heartbroken he can’t meet you.
  • More Whatsapping and talking on the phone every day bonds you even more.
  • A new dinner date is set upon his return three weeks later, and you’re elated.
  • The day before your date, he calls in a panic. He’s been robbed. They got away with everything; his credit cards, passport, everything! Luckily the embassy is getting him back home, but he needs you to wire him $7,000 so he can get back. He’s also going to fly straight to Adelaide, so you should meet him at the airport and he’ll pay you back.

Yeah, that dude doesn’t even live in Australia. He lives in Libya or Kazakhstan or Alabama. Do you know how many smart, savvy women have stood at the airport in their city waiting for this guy? Probably thousands.

So how do you avoid the Internet con? First and obviously, don’t send money to anyone you’ve never met for any reason. Ultimately, the best way to avoid this potential mess is to meet right away. Don’t bond over the phone or an app.

Hear my words: Nothing is real until you’re face to face at the café. If you two meet up and he turns out to be who he says he is, then that’s fantastic! If he refuses to meet in person or continues to give you excuse after excuse, then you’ll know he’s not for real.

Pro tip: If you’re concerned that a guy might be leading a double life, don’t date him if he lives two hours away from you by plane. There are 1.3 million people living in Adelaide; I’m thinking you have a pretty good shot at finding a nice match for you locally.

Happy dating!



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