The fox always loves the chickens, but it's not good for the chickens.
— your grandmother's advice
This is a topic I've least expected to take an interest in, let alone write about, but I feel it necessary to bring this to light, with the hopes that it can for the lives of people I've not met. My interest stems from my personal involvement with a small business owner, a 42-year old woman, who has haplessly been in the grasp of a 25-year old man from Algeria for months now. This is not going to be a light or easy read, and I apologize for the length, so make a coffee, settle down, and begin reading..
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You might have heard of romance scams in general, where the victim falls for someone online who uses a fake profile picture, says he's a rich businessman, or a doctor, etc., and love bombs you while requesting money for some emergency.
Here, this is different than your general romance scam, because the man who bewitches you would show his real face, and even hold video calls with you — his goal is not just your money, but entry into a better country. He ultimately wants you to marry him so his emigration into your country becomes legitmate.. by this point, as he reveals his true colours as a bum, he will inevitably screw you over in a very painful divorce.
Bear in mind, the idea is not to dismiss Algerian, Muslim/Arab people as "bad"; but to bring awareness to a phenomenon that goes on through online private messages. (This doesn't even have to be just from Algeria; it can also originate from other places!) What I'm about to tell you in my story is just one way out of many how this could happen; the details can vary for other such online relationships, but the basic framework of seducing the woman's heart for a visa remains the same.
A few months back in May, the Algerian guy met her on Facebook, through a group where people can meet for serious marriage, and soon, she grew to be totally in love with the person. From what she told me, he is a nice person — much nicer than her earlier boyfriend. As her friend, I wanted to believe her. But something at the back of my mind gnawed at me: Still a young adult, and apparently a big fan of Algerian soccer.
My boss was more than attractive; I've seen a lot of guys fall heads over heels over her beauty, and admittedly I did too. So I supposed the Algerian fellow was simply onboard that same train, and didn't pay it much attention as I heard them converse in French over WhatsApp - whether it was morning or evening. But more red flags cropped up.
When I was checking the business e-mail, I saw an alert from Facebook, notifying that I asked my boss about it; the Algerian had found out she was talking with another man, and was crying in tears. So, as a show of trust, he had her allow him access into her accounts, Facebook, Instagram.. even her WhatsApp. I told her to never allow this to happen. Especially over a person you haven't even met. She ignored me and told me it was okay, and I even got into trouble as I tried to eject that person from her accounts myself.
As I heard their voice calls, I grew to dislike the raspy sound of his voice, emerging from her phone's loudspeaker. It was like he smoked twenty cigarettes a day. Through the days I worked, I tried to talk my boss out of this relationship, sharing my concerns. She would not listen, and I held back the urge to just tell this guy to take a hike.
One day, I saw messages in Arabic from FB messenger on her phone. I checked it out; she happened to be logged into his account on Facebook; the Algerian's friends were messaging him, and I decided to look into the conversations between my boss and him. She was sharing intimate stuff - nudes of her body, family photos, her daily life - while he offered nothing in return except love bombs, his need to get money and a job, and the desire to come to Canada and marry her.
My boss meanwhile: As though one-half of her, being organized for her business, while her other half was overridden with an emotional trance.
In another instance, my boss revealed another thing the Algerian made her do: send her ex-boyfriend a message on WhatsApp - "I think you are a beggar, and I pity you from the bottom of my heart. I don't want to know you anymore. Goodbye." Although her ex-boyfriend was a genuine asshole (who threatened my life over jealousy and extorted over $10,000 from my boss), this did not sit right with me.
Later in October - my boss went to the mall, obtaining a new phone and a second data plan. Why? Because her Algerian boyfriend was crying in a phone call, his jealousy over other men leeching through from online, from a place 10,000 miles away, and he told her to do this. The second phone was to keep their conversations private, while leaving the first phone for taking calls and text messages from clients. I heard in my boss's voice as she talked with him, a sort of melancholy, dejected tone. she said,
Finally.. a few days before I was fired, as I grew uncomfortable with listening by with my boss talking with her habibi, I took the phone from her, and told the guy in English: The man did not seem to understand my words, but my boss was flustered, and apologised to him - all the while, I felt a deep rage. Each passing day, as she anticipates getting him into Canada, a tragic fate was approaching, closer and closer.
On the day when I ended up being fired, as I tried to put my feelings aside - I had just mopped the floors, cleaned the washrooms and the other chores - my boss showed up in the evening to do a facial. As she was doing the facials, and entrusted me with both her phones to respond to the calls, I saw the messages on WhatsApp from the Algerian.
Before, when she had used her older phone, she had locked her WhatsApp with a fingerprint sensor. It never used to be like that, as she trusted me with details from her personal life and relationships, until she was dating the Algerian. And with the new phone, the WhatsApp was right open. I opened it, and the messages I saw were nothing short of insane. He was talking with her about wiring her money into his brother's account in Lithuania, in a classic scammer move, and I just could not take it anymore.
After I took photos of the convos on my own phone, I hesitated as I began typing letters onto the chat box to this guy. I knew if I told this guy off as her, there would just be no turning back. But deep down, if I just sat by, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I don't want to be that person who goes, "Haha, I told you so" after the fact. I had to throw a wrench into the unwinding cogs.
So I told the guy (as her) that he was just a scammer who wanted money and a visa, and a liar, and blocked + reported him over her WhatsApp. Then I left work, for the last time.
By the time I arrived home (my phone was off from lack of battery), I found vindictive messages from the Algerian in my WhatsApp. My boss had given him my phone number, and he was desperate on calling me too; I simply never answered - only blocked and reported him too from my phone. As well, my boss:
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It's heartbreaking to see a friend go down a troubled road, and while I am no longer involved in her life or business (as of this writing), my hope is to avert such a thing for other people who may end up getting caught in the same honey trap as my boss. Engaging with this crap doesn't just hurt you, it hurts the people around you too, as your valuable time and energy is sucked out the window.
Now, it's not unheard of for older women to get romantically involved with someone younger. But from a place like Algeria, where they take tradition seriously, it is unfathomable. The men are expected to provide for the woman and their family, and as such, the men would be older and more experienced than their wives. It is extremely unusual for an Algerian man to have a first-time relationship with a woman past their prime.
So why would younger men look for older women - and women who are overseas? Let's forget about Dat Marriage Visa™ for a second. From what I've looked up, the political situation in Algeria is not good. They have a corrupt government who has lost $100 billion in their currency reserves since 2014, and more than a fifth of their budget is used for subsidies. As such, there is rampant unemployment, especially amongst the youth with an unemployment rate of 26%.
In short, Algeria is like another Venezuela, a failed state. Despite some of the pretty scenery Algeria has to offer, it's not a place you'd think of when it comes to tourism. Apart from the petty crime rampant, with drug use and bribery, there's also occurances where visitors end up kidnapped by terrorist cells.
If you lived there, of course you'd want to leave for a better life elsewhere:
The reality in Algeria is that many men drop out of school early and spend their days dressed up with gelled hair holding up walls with their backsides. Kids do not move out of their parents homes at 18, the boys live with mom and dad permanently and they generally live off of them. You are likely chatting with one of these guys. Someone who at 22 or whatever still gets his pocket money from his mother. The idea of marrying you to get his greencard, which is what he wants, does not disturb him at all. Marriage is primarily a contract in Algeria (and) although some love marriages happen, he does not love you and this does not concern him. You should know this. He will push for marriage quickly because he needs those papers. His needs are the most important, that will remain the case throughout your marriage. What he wants and needs is important; what you want or need is not. He will say he is pushing for marriage because of his religion. This is not true; Islam does not allow unmarried women and unmarried men to carry on correspondence like this.
I am a Muslim and lived in Algeria for 16 years. The reality is that many Algerians want to emigrate to any western country.. I would put everything on the table and ask hard questions like why you and not another? How does he view your future relationship from a practical point of view? Does he have a job? Is he educated? Failing that, you might end up supporting him financially or he may quit you as soon as he gets a green card.
This love scam industry is far, FAR larger than what you'd initially imagine. Take it from the guy in this video below, who speaks his experience of making a French girl fall in love with him to the point of wanting to marry:
The first step in prevention is always simple awareness.
"What does this drug PSA have to do with anything?"
I will retort with another question: what is love? How do you define love? If you're talking about what you feel, your heart fluttering over someone's words, or the very sight of someone's face, then love is simply electro-chemical signals produced by your brain - not unlike what you can get from taking heroin.. a drink of beer, or an interaction with another person.
Although my boss here comes off as someone less than sane, this can happen even to people who think they're above falling for fake e-mails, or someone like you and me. Because the way their manipulation works is directed towards - the part of you which seeks acceptance from family, from friends - which operates on a deeper level of your psyche than your thinking and reason.
No one will willingly die over the simple tenet that , but they'll give their lives for country, for Jesus Christ, or for love and friendship.
There's an unspoken promise, lurking in the fantasy of human yearning, when connecting with people online. That this stranger from a different place you don't know, could be your angel - who'll understand you. The online predator knows this, and that's why they target people who seem lonely over social media, who have low self-esteem, or in need of a good relationship. Those people would be the most open to the kind of fake "love bombing" they'll stuff your message inbox with.. and more.
LOVE BOMBING: when you first meet, in person or online it's lovely; they're friendly, interested in you, paying you compliments, keeping in contact, saying how much they like you, how you're not like anyone else they have met, you're nice, normal, they enjoy talking. Soon you are looking forward to the contact, they're reliable, always happy to hear from you, and the convos grow in regularity and intensity, becomes more affectionate, gradually, subtly, you start to think about a possible meeting, a future, fantasies begin, a lovely romantic life, rescuing him, this man has a hard life, finds comfort in talking to you. It's a well-trodden path and a well-used script that many fall for.
In the parts when they aren't just love bombing you, they can lie to you:
I lost my phone, lost my job, my mother, father, any family member is very sick, has cancer, has even died multiple times. They may have been mugged, in a car accident or have a sad tale about a dead fiancé or wife.
From what I remember with my boss's Algerian habibi, one time he said that his grandma was very sick, but on his Facebook profile, no mention of that is ever brought up.
I LOVE YOU: Professing love, you are my life, you are best for me, until I met you my life was bad, my family love you, I want to be with you. I want to take care of you. I want to be married with you, I don't like kids, I don't like Algerian women, they are hard, materialistic, I hate Algeria/Tunisia/etc., it's not a good life, I want to be free, live with you in your country, I give you a good life, together we can make a business there, or better still together we can make a good business. A business you will pay for but never own and never see make a profit. A car my love, it's essential I have car for business.....
IT IS ALL RUBBISH.
CONSTANT MESSAGING: this may seem flattering but it's to ensure you are kept occupied, that you are his No. 1 and no one else talks to you. You are an investment so he won't like anyone else in the picture. CONTROLLING YOU — who you see, talk too, where you go, what you wear, even what you spend. Wanting to know where you are, where you are going, who you're with, it's all part of the game. Imagine you are a number in a black book, your name and details written beside it, making sure when he calls or messages you he remembers which one you are or he will never use your name — it's always: just to be sure he makes no mistakes.
You won't want to believe it, but much of those lovely words/emojis he sent to you were cut and pasted, repeated and regurgitated, borrowed from friends, copied from a site.
SILENT TREATMENT: it's all about raising your anxiety. Messages go unanswered or unread, suddenly loss of contact, on line but not responding. What's happened, what's wrong, is he sick, has he met someone else, eventually, no no my love I was sick, family was sick, uncle die, lose my phone, no money for Internet, but once they see it worried you, it will happen frequently. It's all part of the game, making you dependent on him.
HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY: Never think what you say with him is private. Everything gets shared with his trusted friends, friends who do the same, who share hints about what works, sharing messages when they don't understand the words, sharing pictures — their friends will even write replies for them. You may notice sometimes their language skills are better or worse than last time.
MONEY AND GIFTS: it may not happen straight away, it may not happen at all, although this is rare. There may be hints about how little he has, how hard it is for the family to find enough money for food or to pay household bills, hospital fees. He may not have money to go to the coffee so can't contact you, not enough money for even a few cigarettes, no money in his pocket.. needs a dentist, You may feel sorry for him, after all what's $10 or $20 to you, you can probably afford it, but from this moment on you will never ever know, once you give money all is lost, because it will become a frequent occurrence and you will want to help. A new phone because his is lost, a laptop to keep in touch, money for taxi, the bus is never good enough, especially if it's raining.
Just a few gifts my love, perfume, jeans, trainers are a must, they all need lots of trainers for all the walking they never do. Then larger amounts, money to buy themselves out of the army, to pay fathers operation, to buy a sheep for Eid, to pay for a visa permit or flight. If you don't give, why? you have plenty, I have nothing. I will pay you back..... Don't hold your breath, I'm a good guy I only ask because it's emergency, I feel shame when I ask or take from my parents, they have nothing.
THE LONG HAUL: maybe you'll think after one, two or even three years, that it's now genuine. But the habibi can and will stick with you for a long, long, long time.. for years as a means of saving for a better life.
It can be quite a shock to step back, and realise that you've been taken advantage of all along. The feeling of a sunk cost can weigh heavily - moreso the longer you've engaged in such a scammy relationship. But the horrendous damage dealt by these cruel, heartless, immoral people can be devastating and permanent if you let them carry their agenda out to the end. Above all, FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS!
Other than that, let me tell you something about love. Real love. Love is not showering you with lots of complements or flattering words; love is not your fantasies of a perfect union, filling in that missing piece of your heart; love is not pressing your emotional buttons to a climax, or being jerked around with feelings of jealousy. The world is not a perfect place, and people are not perfect too; the naive thing is to expect that the one you love will just drop out of the sky someday, fluttering to you - especially when it comes to online where a lot of information can be fabricated or distorted as it suits people.
But Love.. is something you'll know in the empty spaces in-between, waiting inside your soul. It is an invisible wind which blows through you, like the breath of God - and it can carry you through to the best places you'd least expect, when you nurture your heart and well-being no matter what the odds are, and believe in yourself.
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Oh, how those men drip words of honey,
But vulnerable ladies should watch it!
They're just after your money!
They will woo you with promises of great splendours,
Oh they are such magnificent pretenders!
"Just come buy a ticket, habibti, just come and meet me!
Come to wonderful Algeria and you will see;
Come meet me, marry me and live with my family!"
And before you know it, you'll be on that plane,
Not even minding your responsibilities again.
Visa, Citibank, Mastercard, whatever;
The more credit cards you have the much better!
For not only do these men misrepresent themselves,
Some may even look like big rats or little elves!
Pushing and prodding and nagging - you'll see.
Just for your fulus, your hard-earned greenback money!
Let me tell you ladies, you'll be lucky to get out alive,
Never mind with lost dignity and not even a pound five.
Please take it from me and how I learned the hard way.
Stay away from online chats that consume parts of your day.
Instead, take a course, bake a cake or pray
Anything to take the loneliness away.
'Cuz predators online are a-phishing forever.
And believe me:
Such expeditions rarely ever work out.
No! Almost never!