Ongoing need for vigilance with striking up online relationships

Recently, we heard the plus side of online dating and how it can work positively in people’s live (Express Aug. 10). But there’s also a negative side that those who choose this route need to consistently keep in mind.

First off, let me just say my opinion about striking up a relationship online has changed over the years. At one time, I was very wary of the concept.

When somebody would tell me they’d met someone ‘online’ I would immediately be skeptical, although of course wouldn’t say so.

But over time I started to see that in our ever-increasing technically-savvy world, online dating is simply part of normal communication; online communication in general is how we deal with people on a constant, day-to-day basis.

I also knew personally many people who had met their significant others online and enjoyed strong, healthy relationships and marriages.

But of course, there are still the horror stories that are a reminder that all may not be as it seems in cyber space. Recently a woman I know (we’ll call her Miranda) struck up a relationship with a man via a Christian online dating service. Now, you would think that folks signing onto a Christian online organization to meet others would at the very least be honest. One would hope so anyways.

The long and the short of it is Miranda was swindled big-time out of thousands of dollars. The nerve of the man in question also seems to know no bounds, and the excuses are plentiful. She said he even blames her for the fact that he hasn’t paid her back the money she lent him because she moved on from the relationship. Unbelievable.

Now she is questioning everything. Because he lives in another country, how does she even know the photo of the guy is actually him?

And this is all after hours and hours of phone conversations and online discussions. There were even early plans to meet earlier this spring here in Canada. All seemed to be going perfectly, and I remember her enthusiastically telling me how they seemed so well-suited to each other.

Obviously, there are two issues here. Police always warn folks about sending money online or virtually in any way when you have the slightest inclination of doubt about who is on the other end.

We hear the stories of vulnerable citizens who send thousands to someone only to learn they’ve been duped. And there is little recourse to ever seeing any of their hard-earned cash again.

But as I listened to Miranda’s story, I was struck by the pain that duplicity and deceitfulness causes. We tend to simply believe that people are telling us the truth.

And when you’ve established what seems to be a solid, happy relationship after a lengthy stretch of time, perhaps the notion of lending money doesn’t seem far-fetched. I don’t know, as I’ve never been in that place. So I can’t judge or say what I would do.

Also, what Miranda was devastated about was how a man could say he was a Christian and then turn around and essentially rob her. It may sound naïve to some, but it’s a painful and vivid reminder that many people out there with good, generous hearts tend to believe that others have the same attributes.

Meanwhile, Miranda is working long hours and has even picked up an extra job to help make ends meet. Being bilked out of the money has set her back significantly. Stress levels increase as does the weariness of the extra workload.

But in the middle of it all, she’s thankful that the financial damage wasn’t worse. Or that the situation didn’t disintegrate into any kind of physical danger.

It’s a reminder that goes beyond the online dating world. While we may choose to live with a sense of openness to others believing the best about other people, we have to be aware there are those out there looking to manipulate and take advantage. And they don’t give it a second thought.