What I Learnt from Falling in Love With An Online Scammer

Hello Nandita,

You don’t know me but I know everything about you, what you do, where you are. I have all the evidence that will work against you. If you scroll down the email you will know what I mean. If you think you are smart in tracking my host IP then you can try whatever you want to, but you don’t know me, how dangerous I can be, and you won’t be able to walk on the streets again, you will be a walking shame.

So, I have a business proposition, you pay up three thousand and five hundred Euros and ………… Sam”

The Sam I met in 2010 or rather, the Sam I thought I was dating online was nothing close to the letter and here is our story.

After several failed relationships, my love life comes under the microscope. Especially when you are 35 and in a South Asian family, there’s this huge rush for to see you settle. Mine didn’t pressure me but the subtle niggling of the society, call it friends or relatives, was always on the back of my mind.

So, I signed up to an Indian marriage site, started chatting to a lot of guys in Australia (where I live) and overseas. Suddenly, Sam came online from America, saying he was Scottish.

Sam got very personal quickly too soon; and told me that his parents had died in a car accident and that they were politicians. We chatted on MSN (remember MSN?) and things became too serious too quick. He always knew the right thing to say and write, sending me songs and saying he would introduce me to his sister Surah. Before I knew it was six months! We actually talked to each other for three months and at the start of the third month, he showed me who he really was.

By this time, you might be thinking “What was she thinking?’’ Trust me, I have heard it all but won’t you agree that’s what love does to you? Actually, Sam heard the loneliness in my voice which made me his easy target and, as a result, I was blinded by him.

However, a few of my friends didn’t understand the arranged marriage, still a foreign concept to a lot of Australians but an Indian colleague knew what was happening. She told me to be just cautious as “Sam was overseas, that’s all”. She explained that the approval from her was only because she too met someone online, though her person was in Melbourne.

As Sam succeeded in smooth-talking himself into visiting Australia to meet me and family, I, on the other hand, was too busy pinching myself to wake up from a dream.

In September, he finally decided to come to Australia. Everyone was excited. First, though, he would go to Greece for his business is mining. Then the inevitable happened, there was absolute radio silence.

After a week, around one or two in the morning, Sam called saying he was robbed at gunpoint. I was suddenly alarmed and wished he wouldn’t ask me for money. But he did! He asked me for two hundred Euros. I told him I didn’t have.

Giving the benefit of the doubt, I called his sister Surah but she too played her part as a sister very well, sobbing mostly.

The next day, I tried to call him but he didn’t pick up. I then called Surah again and Sam picked up. Confused, I said, “Sam!” The phone went dead.

I called again and this time, it was Surah but she denied Sam being there and stuck to her sobbing. Something was not right.

I spoke to my colleague the next day and she was bombarding me with all these links of scammers, and I found one exactly that fitted Sam’s parent’s death.

I then realised — I was in love with a scammer.

Sadly, I also realised we had exchanged some intimate photos. I tried tracking his IP address but it bounced back. I did confront him when he did finally answer his own phone, asking who he really was but he got angry. I told him never to contact me again.

Then, everything was quiet. Suddenly after a week, I received that chilling letter of blackmail. I was scared to my bones! I had to involve the federal police but they told me that it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. This was an organised crime by a syndicate.

I chose to leave behind everything in Melbourne to go to India to feel secure.

Lots of people didn’t know what was happening to me but those who did blamed me. It was like shaming me for what I had done. They said it was totally my fault. “I was stupid!”, they said.

A decade later, I decided to a memoir on the experience, ‘Dirty Little Secrets.’ Detailing exactly what happened to me, the book goes into the many dark faces of finding love online, as well as how it was living in Australia as an Indian and then having to go back to India after spending all that time away.

Love to me now is not about falling in love with a man — it has a more profound meaning. It is more about me finding that balance between what I’m giving myself and what I’m taking from the world.

Dirty Little Secrets by Nandita Chakraborty is out now.

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