February 27, 2015

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The Love Scam - A Lesson in Intuition, Self-Worth + Taking Back your Power

March 12, 2018

 

When the idea to share my story first popped into my head last week, I thought I might be a bit crazy to share something so deeply personal. This was the most traumatizing experience of my life. But I realized how important it was for me to get it out and give it exposure, to spread awareness on this global issue. I felt ready. So here I go..

 

End of November 2015, during my very brief second attemp at online dating, I got a message from Jay D’Andrea. A message that was not your average online pick-up line, it was sweet, intelligent, and sensitive. A quick view of Jay’s profile and photos and I was intrigued, he seemed nice, interesting and attractive. He was in Turkey and told me he was half Polish (said he had a Polish father who died in his early 20’s). Within a week we were talking on the phone, his English was almost perfect. Phone calls became regular very quickly. Within a month there was talk of meeting, he wanted to come visit me in Canada and I was very excited to meet him. I’ve had long distance relationships in the past where I was the one doing the travelling, so I was happy he wanted to come my way. As he was about to buy his ticket, he mentioned that his personal training clients hadn’t yet paid him and he was a bit short for the ticket and asked to borrow so he can buy it asap (told me he didn’t have a credit card because of his temporary status). I instantly got a very strange feeling in my gut, it did not feel right. But somehow with his charm he convinced me, told me he’d pay me back upon his arrival in Toronto. A couple days later he tells me his mom had a bad accident at home (same day he supposedly bought his plane ticket) and now he has to delay his flight and be with her. Again, a very weird feeling in my gut.. especially since he was asking to borrow money for her hospital bills. I hesitated again, this time only sending some pocket change as he was able to somehow guilt-trip me.

 

The flight was "postponed" and plans for him to come continued. But the problems on his end seemed to quickly escalate. It became his business that he was trying to sell but couldn’t, friends who owed him money but wouldn’t return it, selling personal items to make up for lack of money, always something. And all this time he would go from being a total sweetheart to a complete asshole in a split second, he had a very bad temper. I was dealing with a psychopath who was manipulating me emotionally: I would get anxiety when he’d be in a bad mood, happy and relieved when he was ok, complete co-dependant tendencies. I was so deeply affected by the state of someone across the globe I’d never even physically met. Eventually it became talk about me visiting him in Turkey, but every time I started searching for flights I got a feeling not to go. Turkey was already on my list of places to visit for years.

 

The communication went on for a year (started fading 6 months in). Still his problems never seemed to end. I kept feeling like I just wanted to finally meet this person to finally have my answer. Especially since so much time and emotion had already been invested. There was lots of exchange of photos but never any video chat, I just wasn’t someone who ever "Skypes". He even recommended I install Skype within the first couple weeks, but we never ended up using it. Later I found out that they get you to do that so that they can hack your computer to spy and take photos, but I learned long time ago to put a sticker on my laptop camera. Later on when I would ask him to video chat, he would make excuses why he couldn’t.

 

The requests for financial help continued for the whole year, they were desperate and aggressive pleads, but I stopped any help within the first couple months. After I realized in January 2017 how stressed out I always was I knew it was time to make a decision, but it was so hard for me for some strange reason. Many friends could see I was not happy and felt I should end it, but I had become so attached to the idea. For the first time in my life I sought out the guidance of an Angel intuitive, Sarah Mott, to help me with my answer (as my mind was in such a fog). Should continue and meet him? It was a big NO. Within 2 days I finally broke up with Jay, he told me he wanted me to be happy no matter what and he wished me much success. Over the course of the relationship, Jay had become my best friend, I came to him with everything, family problems, business questions, I could talk to him about anything. He was always full of very helpful and intelligent advice.

 

 

The break-up felt real. I was deeply saddened, but extremely relieved at the same time, it dragged out way too long. I no longer had to worry about someone else’s problems, who kept trying to make them mine. I got over it very quickly which I luckily tend to do in these situations. Life continued. But a couple months later I felt a strange sensation of missing him, and I thought to myself “Why am I missing someone who treated me so badly??”. The next day I felt ready to face the reality of just how "off" the whole thing was. I started searching Romance Scams, there were so many articles and videos on this subject. After watching a short documentary about Nigerian scammers who targeted British women using fake identities, I became positive that this was what happened to me. I was completely shocked!! I had many strong intuitive feelings before, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Something inside me didn’t want to face the possibility of such an extreme scenario. How can someone do something like that?! I had never heard of such a scam before. Turns out my case was classic and international. Though I got off easy. I read about women who lost life savings, women who commit suicide not being able to cope with their financial losses, women who just never get over it, women who have been killed or kidnapped when they went to visit, or used in more elaborate frauds once they flew over. I cried watching and reading all of it. There was so much shame, embarrassment, shock, self-doubt, insecurity and sadness. Even if you didn’t lose much financially it was still emotionally and psychologically devastating. A complete utter violation.

 

So who was this person in the photos? I attempted to look up the brand/business names and logos that were on the t-shirts in the photos he sent me. Very quickly I found something; a business that was on a few of the t-shirts was Glory Fitness. As the home page of this website pops up, there he was. The photos I was being sent were of UFC figher James Krause, owner of Glory MMA & Fitness in Missouri, USA. I was completely stunned to find this, it was so insanely surreal! I then went on his Instagram, I saw all the photos that had been sent to me. Since James was a public figure and athlete, it was easy to steal his photos and use them under a false identity. I contacted him right away to let him know that his pictures were being used in this way, his response was very kind and understanding. I reported my case to local police and notified OKCupid about this fake profile which they instantly removed. Unfortunately the police weren't able to do anything as this was in another country which made things very difficult, and the scammers know this.

 

When I told my friends what I had come to terms with, they were in complete disbelief. Though many felt there was something "off", nobody could quite grasp that someone could do something quite like that. I was in a state of complete shock for about a month. I felt like my mind had been raped. Close friends were there for me for comfort, but nobody could quite relate. I felt so alone. After reading more online, I learned that this was a global epidemic of massive proportions. Billions of dollars were being lost to these Romance Scammers. They work in teams and are very good at what they do. I’ve even read stories about actual romances sparking after the scammer reveals himself after falling for his victim. With the world relying so much on online communication and exchange, it is no wonder that this has become one of the most successful types of scams. Many people will tell you that if money comes up in this kind of scenario it’s a huge red flag, which is very true and seemingly obvious. But I think I can safely say, that a majority of us have been in relationships where we financially supported a partner at some point. So if you've done it before, its likely you'll do it again. Especially when you are the trusting type.

 

This is why I was called to share this, because it is so massive but so hard to talk about. Women have a hard time reporting or sharing because of the shame and embarrassment. I only shared my story with close friends and family and still it wasn't easy. I felt that I would be judged as stupid, people look at you like a fool when you are scammed, whatever type of scam it may be. This has nothing to do with intelligence, they play with emotion, preying on both women and men looking for love. I needed to get to the bottom of why I let myself go through this for so long and not acting on my initial instincts? Answer: It was based on my past. Its not what we attract, its what we allow. I’ve had a pattern in my life of unhealthy relationships (not just romantic) where I was used and taken advantage of, mistreated, and abused emotionally or psychologically. This wasn’t the first time I allowed myself to be manipulated. This was a huge kick in the ass and a massive wake up call. If I hadn’t kept so much of it a secret I would’ve figured it out sooner. I took full accountability for this. At first there was so much anger, but I couldn’t stay in victim mentality very long. I had warning signs from the beginning but I rationalized all those thoughts. I could’ve easily avoided the whole thing. I could pinpoint the exact moment I had my first warning to walk away, when he lost his temper on me in the first month and I obviously didn't do anything wrong, I made excuses for his behaviour believing he was in hard situations. I even confronted him about the possibility of him being a scammer and catching him in small lies early on, but he always talked himself out of it. Somehow always manipulating the situation and making himself to be the victim of circumstance, and me being the privileged one living in Canada. Turkey was going through some political turmoil during the course of that year which just added to the whole drama.

 

I then realized since, that though I was healing and moving on from this traumatizing situation, I felt slightly damaged. I wondered if I’d ever really feel like myself again. And even though I thought I did, there was this underlying feeling of a drop in how I valued and saw myself. After experiencing such manipulation and negative emotions, it had somehow made me feel like I was less-than, like my value as woman had decreased. It wore me down. It took a year before I came to terms with this. I could understand why women who had been raped had a hard time reporting it. We internalize it. We make it about us. Someone can do something so disgusting and as their victims we absorb the shame.

 

I want to shed light on this darkness, the fear of exposing yourself and letting others know what you went through. We all experience dark moments in life, some of us deal better than others, some of us don’t internalize. I’ve always been the type of person to internalize. I would always ask myself what I did to make that person treat me that way? It took many repeated situations to learn that sometimes all you can do or need to do is leave a situation and it has nothing to do with you. This world is full of people who will use and abuse you and not think twice about it.

 

Even a couple months ago, I experienced another situation where a women with a local shop ended up using me for my creative and business help and then attempted to copy my art when I pulled out. In her case I’d say it was more for creative attention than financial gain. I also had intuitive nudges there and should’ve walked away from the business partnership much sooner. I tend to give people second chances, give them the benefit of the doubt, even doubt and judge myself as being negative when my own gut tells me to stay away from them.

 

 

Never again. I’ve now learned to trust myself ALWAYS! I want to inspire you to do the same. We seek answers and validation outside of ourselves but its really unnecessary. Intuition is a muscle you need to exercise regularly. Its your strongest guide and ally. Then you can never resent anyone for giving you bad advice after you make decisions based on their tips. It all comes down to you. I personally was never big on online dating and I don’t intend to scare anyone off it, this isn’t about becoming fearful or paranoid. But be aware that there are tons of fake profiles and that your photos can be used falsely as well. It’s the reality of this online world we now live in. The varieties of online scams are also multiplying.

 

Even writing this has taken a huge weight off my shoulders. Its my dark secret that is now in full light. Because that is what I intend to do from now on, design lights and shed light! Sending you off with massive love! Know that the biggest love scam out there is thinking that you need to search anywhere but within yourself for it! <3

 

 

HELP

- If you or anyone you know has experienced any level of online fraud and want someone to talk to about it, you are welcome to reach out to me email me: aga@agaazra.com  or call: 647 459 1452 (Toronto)

- There are many online resources for victims of online frauds; websites and even facebook groups. I personally contacted a women in Australia who had a website dedicated to her experience and helping others. It really helped to talk to someone who had experienced something similar.

 

*NOTE: Names mentioned above are used with respective permission.

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