How I Was Saved From a Dating App Scammer

woman texting her date

“Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) is one of the hottest dating apps. There are success stories of users who found ‘the ONE.’ Why not give it a try?” I thought to myself. With 2020 in lockdown, I went from super busy to killing time.

Swipe left, swipe right,
all the profiles look alright,
I wondered who I should like.

After three months, I noticed a guy who gave my profile a ‘like’. From his profile, “Alex Kong” looked like a decent guy. He was a Christian, an engineer, and an okay-looking Chinese chap. He lived in Petaling Jaya, which meant I could easily meet him if things went well.

As I scrolled through the pictures he posted, one caught my attention. It was a picture of him holding a lantern. It was quite similar to a picture I had used for my profile and reminded me of when I was still overseas. I had released a giant lantern to the sky, praying that God would send the right ONE for me.

I thought: He must be the ONE!

Naturally, I liked the picture. If there’s a mutual like in CMB, both parties can use the chat feature to talk to each other.

Thus began my journey with Alex

I was thrilled. It was my first time chatting with someone on a dating app. Alex sounded like a really nice guy. He was so “sincere” that I felt touched.

Little did I know, he was not what he seemed to be.

The first week, I was floating on air. In the second week, I crash-landed. I did not suspect anything at first. But looking back, I really believe Alex was a scammer targeting me. Thank God that the Holy Spirit made my suspicions tingle, and I immediately went into red alert mode.

His tactics were typical of predators.

Love bombing with flattery

It took Alex just a day to move our conversation from CMB chat to WhatsApp. His texts came fast and furious. There would be 4 to 5 messages every day asking how I was doing. Emotionally, I was quite “hooked” to his messages in the first week.

“Do you presently talk to others on CMB or other dating apps?” Alex asked on the second day of chatting on WhatsApp.

When I said yes, he continued, “You are the only one I talked to because you are friendly and have a sense of humor.” He added, “You seem nice. I deleted my CMB.” Who wouldn’t be touched by this gesture? I followed suit and deleted my CMB.

Every morning, I was greeted with the same greetings and questions.
“Good morning, beautiful. How was your night?”
Every part of the day, he would compliment me for a week.
“The students love you so much because you seem nice.”
“I love your cute smile.”

His words fed my self-esteem.

But on the third day, I was prompted with a thought.
“How do you know I am beautiful? You have never met me.”
But the exhilaration overtook me, and I brushed the thought aside.

I know now that this is a tactic called love bombing! This is the scariest and most manipulative tactic used by narcissists, abusers, and con men. It’s hard to detect at first.

“Love bombing is characterized by excessive attention, admiration, and affection with the goal to make the recipient feel dependent and obligated to that person,” according to Sasha Jackson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

“And as the recipient, love bombing feels really good because of the boost of dopamine and endorphins you receive. You feel special, needed, loved, valuable, and worthy, which are all the components that contribute to and increase a person’s self-esteem,” she added.

A dodger and overtly curious

One day, he asked me, “Where do you see yourself in the next few years?”

I shared that I would probably still be a teacher. When I asked him the same question, he never gave me a reply. I posed more questions to him. “Where is your office?” “Which church are you attached to since you attend online church service?”

He dodged any questions I asked about him. He was overtly curious about my pay as a teacher, asking not just once but three times!

“How much a teacher is paid?”
“You probably earn more than me since you are an engineer”.
“Your pay is still more. I don’t earn much.”
“Really, how much?”
“It’s so little compared to yours.”

He stopped chatting with me when I didn’t give him a direct answer.

Mirroring sob stories to connect to emotions

One thing about scammers, they will never share their stories first. That’s because they want to mirror your stories.

I shared with him that I once had a dog for ten years. It waited for me to come back from the university before dying in front of me. I felt terribly sad because he was my first pet dog. Then, I asked him, “Have you kept a pet before?” He replied, “Yes, a dog, but it’s dead now.”

Another time, I asked him, “What is one thing that you are appreciative of in your love journey so far?”

He said, “Share yours first.”

I shared, “I appreciate those who love me. I try to appreciate people and not be judgemental. I appreciate God for loving me unconditionally and being my protective Father always.” Then he responded, “It has made me more loving, caring, and understanding of others and not to be judgemental.” I thought, “What kind of sharing is this? It’s like a summary of my sharing.”

Many scammers will also tell you a sob story to get your sympathy. When I asked him about his past relationships, he replied, “My last relationship was six years ago. My ex cheated on me, and we broke up.”

The wake-up call from the Holy Spirit

Towards the end of the first week, he surprised me with a call. It was 2.35pm. I was having my hair cut, so I texted him instead.

He replied, “I slept well and woke up thinking about you. So I called.” For some reason, his text “jumped” at me. I believe it was God’s Holy Spirit warning me. I asked him immediately, “Slept till now?” He must have realized he had made a mistake because he replied, “Ok, we will talk later.”

Half an hour later, I called him back on the Malaysian number he used. I was confused! The dialing tone indicated he was roaming in another country.

Surprisingly, he didn’t take my call. He didn’t reply to my texts either. I went home and checked the time for UK. 3pm in Malaysia is 8am in the UK. “Ah, so, he must be in the UK now. He had told me that he worked on projects in the UK before.” I said to myself.

Still, I suspected something was not right. “He’s not a sincere guy,” my mind told me.

When he texted me again later that night, I asked him, “By the way, where is your office?” The first time I asked, he had dodged my question. This time he answered, “I’m currently in Miri, Sarawak, working on a project.” I have called people in Sabah and Sarawak before. It’s not the same dialing tone as a roaming call. I knew because I had worked in a telco before.

He was lying.

For some reason, I carried on with the relationship. I was cautious not to share anything personal from then on. I would still text, but my conversations with him were reduced to sharing things related to work and Bible verses from my daily devotion time with God.

The voices

One day, he surprised me again by calling me in the morning while I was at work. He talked with a heavy English accent. He sounded so soft that I could barely hear him. He sounded a bit elderly. I ended the call quickly, saying I was busy.

My thoughts went wild. How could a Malaysian Chinese guy have such a heavy English accent?

The next day, at night, he called again. The caller has no slang and sounded a bit young this time. We spoke for a while, and I made the excuse I wanted to sleep early. I thought to myself before sleeping, “Do you think I am stupid? Do you think I didn’t recognize that the voices talking to me belonged to two different persons?”

I must have sounded like an easy “prey” for him. I wanted to see how far he would go, so I carried on as if nothing had happened.

The test

One day, he told me that his birthday was just a few days away. Was it a random coincidence? I think not. He probably made it up.

I set up a tea treat at a DIY painting cafe to celebrate his birthday. The birthday treat was a test for him. He needed to show up to pass it. That’s the ultimatum I gave myself. He called to say he couldn’t make it because of work.

So he failed the test.

I decided to end it with him after almost three weeks. I texted him to say he was not my type, then blocked him from my Whatsapp. He called several times after that, but I refused to take his calls anymore.

End to a fairy tale

It started like a fairy tale, but it didn’t end with a “happily-ever-after.” It was like waking up from a bad dream.

I couldn’t believe it! My first attempt at finding love online was snuffed out by a scammer! I was really pissed off that people would resort to manipulating other people’s emotions just to get money.

I was sad. But at the same time, I was glad I pulled out before it was too late. I’m not saying dating apps are bad, but it’s always good to be careful with strangers, just as our parents taught us.

  • Safeguard our hearts. Know what your want by having a checklist. It doesn’t have to be carved in stone but write down your non-negotiable criteria. For me, the ONE has to be a Godly Christian who walks the talk, is honest, thoughtful, and shares similar visions and beliefs, even though we can be opposite in likes and dislikes.
  • Be clear-headed. Know how much better off you are without the relationship. Ask ourselves, “Am I happy now? Are we complementing each other with our strengths?” If the answer is a resounding “No!” then we are better off being single till the right ONE comes along. Know when to pull the plug when it’s not right.
  • Read and stay updated. Be aware of the latest tactics used by scammers. You never know who will be lurking around. A good documentary is the Tinder Swindler. One of the victims, Cecile, had to borrow money to “fund” her supposedly rich boyfriend. When asked why, she simply said, “Because he is my boyfriend, naturally, I want to help him.” After going through a scam scare, I realized how difficult it is to pull back when one has invested so much emotions.
  • Let others know of your relationship. Get the necessary support to keep you grounded. This is especially important if you think someone is trying to control or manipulate you. We may think we can change the love bomber’s ways, but seriously, we are no match for these heartless professionals.
  • Finally, have faith that God has your best interest at heart. Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, said, “When you surrender your plans and dreams to God, God can give you His plans and dreams for your life. You need to be prepared to walk through a door when he opens it. So choose to get ready today.”

    I have a frequent prayer—that the ONE God chooses will be the BEST from God, and I can sleep well at night knowing that. My encounter with Alex had me constantly lying awake at night, thinking about what he will do next and how I should respond. I was not happy and at peace.

I am really thankful to God for protecting me in this episode. I hold dearly in my heart a promise of God in the Bible: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

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