The Military Ruse
“You don’t know me, but I stumbled across your picture, and I couldn’t look away. You’re just stunning!”
Not many of us wouldn’t be intrigued if we saw this in our inbox on Instagram. It is the hook that many scammers use to catch the attention of women all around the world. Sometimes the writing is less articulate and full of grammar errors, but the message is the same: I don’t know you, but you’re beautiful!
The military ruse follows a very predictable pattern. They always message a potential victim through Instagram. They pour on the flattery like hot butter over popcorn. Sometimes they may send you poetry. They will call you “babe, sweetie, and love.” They are always in the US military. Almost always they are deployed overseas in Africa. Often they have a dead wife or they have been hurt by their previous girlfriend. They will often send you pictures of them in their uniform. However, an astute observer might notice that the name on their uniform doesn’t match what they say their name is, or they claim they’re in the navy but send you a picture of a man in an air force uniform. They may even send you a picture of their military ID, but if you look closely it is obvious it has been photo shopped. They will try to get you to chat with them on Google Hangouts, their preferred method of communication because they cannot be traced. Sometimes they will call you on the phone, but they will never video call you.
They will then begin to create intimacy with you as they confide that they can’t stop thinking about you. They will reveal that they have never met anyone like you before, and usually within just a few short days they will confess their undying love. Usually within 24 to 48 hours after that declaration of love, they will ask for money or gift cards. Sometimes they will slow down a bit if they sense their potential victim is getting wary, but almost always the “relationship” progresses very fast.
These scammers are individuals in third world countries who have used this ruse, and many others, to successfully take hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting, eager-for-love victims. They use every social media site including creating fake profiles to infiltrate dating apps. It is very important to keep your mind in full gear while you are looking for love. Each scammer has several ruses he/she uses, but the military ruse is quite popular on Instagram. So, if you see any of the telltale signs of the ruse, here is what you can do:
- Remember that Instagram is NOT a dating app. If someone approaches you on this app and tries to start a relationship with you out of thin air, be very wary.
- Do a reverse Google search on their pictures. Most scammers have stolen pictures off of Facebook or other sites. There’s a good chance you will find out who the image belongs to by doing a reverse image search.
- Ask the person to video call you or Face Time you. If they’re a scammer, they will give you an excuse as to why they can’t. With the military ruse, they will usually say it’s because they are deploying soon so they are too busy or they aren’t allowed to because they are on a secret mission.
- Remember, real love and emotion takes time to develop. If they are professing love after knowing very little about you, it’s not love—it’s a lure.
- Learn to be skeptical of everyone! When you are honestly searching for a relationship, it is hard to engage your brain once your heart gets put into gear. Scammers know this. They send you sweet messages. They flatter you. They know if they can get your heart involved, you will likely turn off your brain. That’s when they start asking for things. Don’t get tricked. At the first sign of trouble, block the person.
Some scammers are a little more sophisticated and they start with something that looks legitimate, but they all will ultimately follow the same pattern: get their victim onto Google Hangouts, profess love, and ask for money. Don’t fall prey to these schemes. They continue to use this ruse because it works! It’s time for the singles of the world to shut these pathetic scammers down.
If you’re like many singles, you’ve been dating for a while. You think you know what you want, so each time you get on a dating site you make sure to select all the correct criteria: gender (male), age (35-50), height (at least 5 feet 5 inches), activity level (moderate to completely active), children (open to having his children), blah, blah, blah. You hit enter and then the program spits out a list of potential soul mates for you to wander through. However, after months and months (and maybe even years) of using this same strategy, you’re still single. What if this strategy of using criteria to limit who you meet online has been wrong all along?
What if this year you try a different strategy? What if instead of focusing on superficial criteria, you leave things completely open? What would happen then? And, stay with me, what if you committed to conversing with and committing to having coffee or ice cream with every single person who reached out to connect with you? Of course, if you felt there was a safety issue you should definitely listen to your gut. However, barring any safety concerns make a commitment to dating outside your box!
Ann Marsh tried just that kind of experiment in 2003. She decided to go on 100 dates in six months. She did her due diligence and vetted the emails as they came in, but she decided to cast off her preconceived ideas of what she was looking for and date outside of her box. Here is an excerpt from her article:
“I got a lot of responses right off the bat. Some were ludicrous, like the 50-something guy in a Hawaiian shirt who offered to fly me to Vegas for the weekend. I deleted far more than I answered. But Week One still found me on dates with 14 men at local coffee shops. In Week Two, I slowed down to seven. I shook hands with a Danish architect and an hour later zoomed across town to meet a swoony soap opera actor. The next day was tea with an airfreight handler, followed that evening by a walk with a real estate lawyer. I dated aerospace engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, an oceanographer, film animators, a romantic man who lived impecuniously on a boat, and a self-proclaimed gazillionaire who resided atop a mountain.”
So, what did Ann Marsh learn from this experiment? She learned honesty. She learned how important it was to be honest about if she was truly interested in someone after the first date, and she learned to appreciate that same honesty from someone (even if it hurt a little bit). She learned that men who sounded fascinating in their profiles were less than fascinating in person while others who weren’t quite sure how to “advertise” themselves were really amazing. She learned how to set healthy boundaries by having exit lines prepared when it was clear a date should not continue. She learned how to take rejection and roll with it.
She met so many fascinating people she would have never met had she checked too many restrictive boxes on her dating profile. And, would you believe it? She met her soul mate. The man of her dreams who, as chance would have it, would have been weeded out by her selection criteria.
So, if finding your soul mate is a goal for 2019 consider a new strategy this year. Try dating outside your box. You will meet a lot of amazing people. You will learn more about yourself. And, you might just find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
Ann Marsh. “What I Learned From Dating 100 Men.” February 2003 issue of the O magazine.
A few years ago, using an online dating service was considered shameful and people would often lie about how they met their significant other if they met each other online. Today, times are changing. Last year, meeting someone online was the most common way people met their spouse or spouse-to-be (19%). This was followed by being introduced by friends (17%), meeting someone in college (15%), and then work place romances (12%). While you should always exercise safe dating practices, when you meet someone online you have an increased risk, so you should be extra cautious.
What does that look like? First, make sure you use a reputable dating service. Dating Safe is revolutionary in how we approach dating safety. We go over and beyond other dating services to vet and verify all of our members. No other dating service does that. However, even with all of the safeguards we use, we encourage our members, and everyone else for that matter, to follow these great tips as they look for their soul mate.
- When it comes to your online profile, limit the amount of personal information you give out. Particularly, pay attention to the pictures you post. Do they reveal where you work, live, or play frequently? Does it show your license plate or your jogging path? This kind of information should be kept private until you determine you can trust the person you are interested in. That should be several in-person dates down the road. There is a delicate balance to be reached between getting to know someone and revealing too much private information. You can talk about work, but you can keep the location private until you feel safe with that person.
- Do a little online sleuthing. Do a Google search on their name. Do a reverse Google image search on their pictures. If you find them on Facebook, see if you have any friends in common and message your friends to get information on them.
- Consider using a Google phone number and have it forwarded to your phone. This is free by using Google Voice. This is an easy way to avoid giving your personal number to someone before you are ready to give that to them. You can also use your online dating service messaging to communicate until you are ready to reveal your phone number.
- While it is tempting to text to set up the first date, psychologists highlight suggest you talk to someone on the phone. There are things you can only learn from talking to someone and your instincts will respond more clearly from hearing their voice than just reading some words on a screen.
- If the person you are talking to online starts to ask for money, this is a huge red flag. Do not fall for their sob story. Never send money. Usually the request for money is preceded or followed by passionate professions of love. Don’t fall for it. Delete the person. Block them.
Once you’ve decided to have a first date, there are some things you should do. These are essential when meeting anyone new for the first time even if your best friend has set you up and given you her full endorsement.
- Tell someone where you will be, who you are meeting, and how long you will be gone.
- Drive yourself there.
- Go somewhere public.
- Keep it brief. Meet for coffee or lunch. Grab a drink after work. If you are drinking alcohol, limit your intake so you can stay alert and aware.
- Consider carrying a self-defense tool and some emergency cash.
- Trust your instincts.
- Have your “gotta go excuse” ready to go in case the date is going poorly or your instincts tell you something is wrong. This can be coordinated with your check-in buddy.
- Go home alone.
Overall, whenever you are on a date, it is imperative to respect time, space, and privacy. While asking questions to get to know someone better is a natural technique for conversation, you need to be careful to respect boundaries. Someone may not be ready to divulge where they take yoga classes if they are protecting their privacy. So, instead of asking: where is your yoga studio? Ask them: what do you love about yoga? You will learn more about your date by asking the second question and respect his/her need for privacy.
While online dating has its challenges, it is definitely worth it. The good news is, research is showing that marriages that result from online dating are happening quicker and are less likely to end the first year. Couples who met online are also reporting more marital satisfaction. So, what’s stopping you? Get on DatingSafe.com and get your profile ready to go. We do a big chunk of the work for you by vetting and verifying our members so you get real people looking for real relationships. Then use the tips above and you are on your way to find the love of your life!
You’re ready. The idea of dating no longer causes you to break out into a cold sweat and head for the bathroom with stomach pains. You feel confident, secure, and stable. You want to increase your chances of meeting someone you can share your life with, so you decide to leverage the power of online dating. Last year, 46% of people met their current partner online. You take a deep breath, grab your laptop, curl up in your favorite chair, and begin to carefully craft your online dating profile.
You struggle through draft after draft of usernames and clever headlines. With 59 million users, it’s an enormous challenge to find something that is unique and hasn’t been overdone. After what seems like days, you feel like you have climbed Mt. Everest, and you have just one step left . . . pictures. This is perhaps the most daunting aspect of creating an online dating profile. Research has shown that people will form an opinion of you in 1/10 of a second. That’s it! That’s all you get before someone decides to like your picture, send you a message, or move on to another profile. Talk about pressure! It’s almost enough to make anyone climb back into their pajamas, grab a quart of Ben and Jerry’s, and decide to try online dating next year.
However, there are things you can do to maximize that 1/10 of a second you have. Dozens of research studies have been conducted in the last five years to uncover what men and women like and don’t like when it comes to online dating pictures. There are some clear guidelines that will help you choose the best possible pictures for your profile. Here is what you can glean from the research:
- No hats or sunglasses. People who had pictures of them wearing hats or sunglasses received 63% less likes or messages. Why? Eyes are one of the first things people notice about another person. Making eye contact with someone, even through a picture, seems more intimate than looking at someone’s sunglasses. In fact, 53% of men notice a woman’s eyes first in a picture. Don’t cover up those assets, show them off. What about hats? Caps and beanies can be fun and appropriate for hiking and vacationing, but often people wear them to cover up flaws. Unless you wear that hat or beanie all day, every day make sure to have a picture without it. If you’re bald or have a receding hairline, own it!
- Include at least one full body picture. People who had at least one on their profile got 203% more incoming messages and 33% more replies to their messages. Why is this? It has to do with transparency. Being physically attracted to someone is an important factor in dating. While it is important to put your best foot forward, it’s also important to put ALL of you forward as well.
- Have a niche? Include it in a picture but only if you have more than one picture. People who wore their favorite sports jersey received 32% more incoming messages than other profiles. Additionally, people who included pictures of themselves on vacation, participating in hobbies, and competing in sports received more messages than other profiles. However, this was only true if it was in addition to other pictures. This is because these are great conversation starters, but if it is the only picture on your profile, it can alienate potential partners who may be interested in you but might not share your interests.
- Taking a good selfie is incredibly difficult. Getting the angle right, cropping out background images, and adjusting glare are all nightmares. As it turns out, selfies are also not that effective as online dating profile pictures. In fact, for women it is a deterrent to getting messages. Women with selfies received 40% less messages than profiles without selfies. Ironically, men catch a break here but not a big one. They receive 11% more messages if they have a selfie profile picture. For both genders, though, mirror selfies are a no-no. Mirror selfie profile pictures receive fewer likes and messages across the board. The solution is to grab your best friend and have her take some pictures or get some professionally done.
- Filters and photoshop. You might not think so, but it is obvious if you have used a filter or photoshop on your picture. People who have profile pictures that have been edited with filters receive fewer likes and messages by 32%. This is especially true for Snap Chat filters. The only exception is the black and white filters. These pictures get 13% more messages.
- Expensive toys. This seems to be a common profile picture for men. Maybe she’ll send me a message if I pose with my amazing car or motorcycle? Maybe I’ll just post a picture of my car or motorcycle and she’ll be so impressed she won’t care that I’m not in the picture. Men, this is a huge turn-off for women. In fact, men who posted pictures of themselves with their toys or just their toys received far fewer likes and messages than other profiles. Save the reveal of your nice car or motorcycle for a first or second date when she can appreciate it in person.
- Where’s Waldo? Group photos are a nightmare for dating profiles. If you have a great picture of yourself in a small group, then include it at the end of a series of photos of you. Never have a group photo be your only profile picture. It is never obvious to anyone looking at your profile who you are in that picture.
- No ex’s or SOs in your picture. Never. Period.
- Everything matters. When someone looks at your pictures, they may notice your amazing smile and beautiful eyes, but they will also notice the dirty clothes on your bed or the hungry kids pulling at your leg. Make sure that everything in the photo tells the story you want it to because it will be judged.
- If your profile picture hasn’t changed but you have, it’s time for a new picture. If you recently cut off nine inches of your hair, time for a new picture. If you shaved your head, time for a new picture. If your beard has become speckled with gray hair, time for a new picture. A good rule of thumb is to update your picture every year unless you make changes to your appearance sooner than that. It’s about integrity. It’s about being authentic and confident in who you are now.
Now you know a lot of what not to do, so what CAN you do to be proactive and successful with your photo selection? Here is what we know from hundreds of thousands of singles who responded to research studies. Singles are looking for someone who fits the trifecta: attractive, trustworthy, and confident. Each photo you choose to put on your profile should reveal these three items. In order to nail this trifecta, you should enlist the help of friends. It turns out you are not the best judge of your own photos. If none of your existing pictures fit this description, take some. It is perfectly acceptable to stage moments that capture your fun personality, your hobbies, and the things you are passionate about. You want the pictures you include to tell a story. You want them to start a conversation with someone and invite them to message you to know more about you. Most of all, you want to be authentic and transparent.
As you take pictures for your profile, keep several things in mind. People respond warmly to pictures where the person is smiling, where there is good lighting, and where the person is taking up most of the room in the picture. A recent analysis done by Tinder discovered that 56% of women and 72% of men wore neutral colors in their profile pictures. So, skip the neutral and wear red. Not only is it a power color that flatters almost everyone, you will automatically stand out from the majority of other profile pictures.
You should always include more than one picture on your profile. The magic number is four. Research has even shown the most effective sequence for them. Order them: (1) your very best, most attractive picture (2) picture of you participating in a hobby or event (3) possibly a small group photo or travel or vacation photo (4) full body photo. People with less than four photos receive fewer messages. Those with more do not necessarily receive more messages, so it’s up to you how many you want to put on there. One cautionary note, be careful if you choose to include pictures with your children in them. While you may want to show what a cute and adoring parent you are, you may want to keep that for a later time when you have met the person face to face and have developed a relationship of trust with them.
So, put down the Ben and Jerry’s, take a deep breath, and peruse the pictures in your phone. If there’s nothing there that matches the criteria for a perfect profile pic, then grab your bestie and have a fun impromptu photo shoot. Remember, it only takes one like, one message to change your life. So, if it takes a while to get the right kind of response to your profile, that’s ok. You are worth it!
Sarah was a beautiful, vivacious 25-year-old attorney. She had just landed her dream job at a competitive firm in New York. Her family and friends were wildly excited for her. Finally, it seemed that Sarah was reaping the rewards of all of her hard work. Law school had been tremendously hard, and Sarah had struggled getting through it while juggling several dysfunctional relationships with men. Finally, it seemed she could leave the struggle behind.
Although starting this new job meant flying across the country and leaving behind her support system, Sarah didn’t mind. She knew the long hours she would have to put in at the firm meant she would have little time for a social life any way. She said a tearful goodbye to her family and friends, boarded the plane with an optimistic smile, and flew towards her dreams.
Sarah really thrived in New York. McFarland & Sons was a multi-billion dollar law practice that rarely hired anyone straight out of law school. She always arrived an hour before the other attorneys, and she stayed long past the time they all left. She often took work home with her too. To say that she loved her job would be an understatement.
One day, a handsome delivery boy brought in a delivery for Sarah. Her friends back home had sent her flowers. How thoughtful she thought. I wonder if they picked out the hot delivery boy too. She giggled at her own joke. “Are you Sarah Jenkins?” he asked in a deep, baritone voice that sounded like it belonged on Broadway instead of coming out of the mouth of a delivery boy. “Yes, I’m Sarah,” she stammered. “Here’s a delivery for you,” he smiled. “Please sign here.”
Sarah was caught off guard by his handsome face and melodic voice that when she grabbed for the pen she fumbled it, and it flipped out of her hand and hit him in the nose. “Oh no!” Sarah cried out. “I’m so sorry. I’m not usually that clumsy,” she apologized. There was a streak of blue pen on his nose. Sarah was unsure if she should try to wipe it away or if that was too weird. After a long awkward moment, he bent down to pick up the pen and handed it back to Sarah.
“No worries, Sarah. Please sign here, and then I’ll be out of your hair.” Sarah carefully reached for the pen this time, signed her name, and then grabbed the box. “Thank you um …” she paused waiting for him to fill in the answer. “Jeff, my name’s Jeff,” he replied. “Thanks Jeff. I’m sorry. I got pen on your nose. You’ll probably want to wipe that off before you do any more deliveries.” Jeff reached up and rubbed his nose. “Oh boy! I guess I will go take care of that. Thanks for the heads-up. Have a great day, Sarah.” He winked at her and then walked out the door. Sarah couldn’t help but watch him walk away until he was completely out of sight. She noticed butterflies thrashing around inside her stomach. Oh no! This was not happening. She was not going to get involved with any men. She was much too busy, and she was always unlucky in love.
However, life had a different plan for Sarah. The following morning Jeff went back to McFarland & Sons and asked Sarah if she would like to go to dinner. Sarah was hesitant. She had a bad track record with men. Her past relationships had always started off well, but then the Prince Charmings morphed into beasts after a few months’ time.
But, Jeff was so charming and handsome that Sarah could not refuse. During the first few months of their relationship, Jeff was warm, thoughtful, and exciting. She learned that Jeff was an aspiring singer and actor. He was in New York chasing his dream to become a singer and actor. He was working odd jobs to pay the bills, but most of the time he had to crash at his friend’s apartments because he did not make enough to pay his rent. Jeff told Sarah about how hard it was to catch a break in acting and how expensive it was. Sarah enjoyed being with Jeff. She was flattered that someone like him would even be interested in her. She was sympathetic with his struggles, so she paid for all their dates. She knew Jeff felt bad that he could not pay right now, but that would change once he got his first big break. Besides, she had a great job, and she was happy to help.
After a few months, Sarah began to become obsessed with Jeff. She was determined to help him be successful. When she was not at work, she would spend time researching agents for Jeff to interview or looking for auditions for him. She knew Jeff could not afford an agent, so she offered to pay for one. Jeff was grateful, of course, and then he said that if he had an agent he would also need acting lessons, singing, lessons, and a photography shoot. All of these were costly, but Sarah happily gave the money to Jeff. She was invested in him and his future.
As the months passed, Jeff’s behavior began to change. He became moody and entitled. He demanded that Sarah let him move in with her so that he could have a stable roof over his head. He blamed his failing his recent auditions on not having a stable place to live. When she told him she wasn’t sure about living together, he became enraged. He yelled and cursed at her. For the first time, Sarah was frightened of Jeff. She asked him to leave. He kicked the door on the way out and left a hole in it.
The following day Jeff apologized and blamed his poor behavior on his dysfunctional childhood. He spent the next few hours confessing to Sarah that his mother had abused him as a child and that is why he had yelled at her the previous night. Sarah was really touched by this confession. She felt honored that Jeff trusted her enough to confide in her. She vowed to help him heal his emotional wounds and become a successful adult.
But, as the days went by, Jeff’s behavior became more chaotic. The smallest thing would set him off. He would yell and kick the wall. Often he would call Sarah demeaning names. And sometimes he would disappear for days at a time with no explanation. When he returned, Sarah noticed he had lipstick on his collar but never dared ask him about where it came from. Ironically, as the relationship deteriorated and Sarah’s heart felt the mounting pain from Jeff’s actions, the more she felt committed to “saving” him. She knew if she could only love him enough then he would change.
One night after a particularly bad screaming match with Jeff, Sarah locked herself in her room. She called her best friend, Julie, and confided in her about her new relationship. As carefully and lovingly as Julie could, she said, “Sarah, I hate to tell you this, but your old pattern is back. Jeff sounds just like Tim and Steve. Sure, the details are different, but the pattern is the same. You’re trying to rescue another lost puppy and now it’s gone rabid and it’s attacking you.” Sarah sobbed. “Why does this keep happening? You would think I could spot a loser a mile away! I’m a lost cause.”
Are you like Sarah? Do you have a pattern of forming relationships with men where you sacrifice your own needs for safety, love, and comfort for someone else? How would you answer the following questions?
- Are most of your conversations with friends (or family) about him, his problems, his thoughts, and his feelings?
- Do you excuse his moodiness, bad temper, indifference, put-downs as problems because he had a bad childhood, a stressful job, a tough life?
- Do you read self-help books and underline things you think will help him?
- Do you dislike many of his basic characteristics, values, behaviors but put up with them because you think you can change him?
- Does your relationship with him jeopardize your emotional well-being or physical safety?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a woman who loves too much. In our culture, women have been conditioned through music that love should be painful. Rarely do love songs become number one hits if they talk about two people who have a mature, balanced, respectful relationship. Songs only become a hit if someone is willing to die for love, sacrifice everything for love, bleed for love, or cut out their heart for love. It is no wonder that around 30% of all women find themselves in relationships that are extremely dysfunctional and that this pattern repeats itself until one of three things happen: (1) she gives up on relationships, (2) love does kill her, or (3) she identifies the pattern and gets help.
Women who love too much have several common characteristics. Do any of these describe you?
- They come from dysfunctional homes where their emotional needs were not met.
- They try to fill their emotional needs vicariously by becoming a caregiver to men who appear needy.
- They are terrified of abandonment.
- They will do anything to save a relationship.
- They will sacrifice anything to help the man they’re with.
- They’re accustomed to a lack of love in a relationship, and so they’re willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please their man.
- They’re willing to take far more than 50% of the responsibility, guilt, and blame in a relationship.
- They have critically low levels of self-esteem.
- They have a desperate need to control their man because they had little security in childhood.
- They are more in touch with the dream of their relationship than with the reality of it.
- They are addicted to men and emotional pain.
- They may be predisposed to chemical/food addictions.
- They have a tendency towards depression.
- They use sex as a tool to manipulate their man.
- They are not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable, or who are interested in them. They find them boring.
So, what do you do if you see yourself in any of these descriptions?
First, do not despair. There is something you can do. Make your recovery a priority. You cannot break this pattern on your own. Find a therapist who can help you work through the issues that are keeping you locked in this pattern. Most of the research I’ve read strongly suggests that women see women therapists. If possible, find a female therapist near you and tell her you think you are a woman who loves too much. Second, find a support group. Your therapist can recommend one for you. Third, develop your spiritual side. Set aside some time daily to get in touch with your higher power. Invite him or her into your life. Ask for help and guidance as you tackle this problem. Meditate. Fourth, stop managing and controlling others. This will be a hard one. This has become a skill you have used to “love” others, but it is self-serving. You need to find more genuine ways to connect with people. Fifth, make a commitment to cultivate what needs to be developed in you. Make a list of talents, skills, or abilities that you would like to work on. Set short-term and long-term goals to help you develop yourself in these areas. These will help you fill the void that you have been trying to fill by your dysfunctional relationships with men. Instead of “mothering” needy men, spend time mothering yourself.
Loving too much is just like any other addiction–it is a dysfunctional coping strategy that must be treated with a professional’s help. The good news is women who have loved too much can have healthy, successful relationships in their future! So, take advantage of the help that is available for you and set yourself up for success when you are on datingsafe.com. Love does not have to hurt. In fact, it shouldn’t. Period.
Information for this article was adapted from Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. I also recommend the book Healing Your Emotional Self by Beverly Engel