DEAR CHRISTINE: I fell for online imposter
ALTHOUGH I am a “young” teenager, I never thought I’ll have to write to you for advice. However, I usually read your column and I consider you to be wise in giving guidance.
I just turned 14 – well, about six months ago – and started spending lots of my time meeting people in chat rooms on the Internet. One of those persons was a young man from . . . . We exchanged telephone numbers and would spend time chatting and fooling around online or on WhatsApp.
Some people call this flirting or being a tease, but either way, we started to express feelings for each other, based on thoase things we had in common and supposedly, our interest in various subjects.
This guy told me he was born in the United States but currently lived in . . . with his parents. He also said he was 16 years old, so I thought it was okay to keep him as an “online” friend.
While it is quite easy for him to come to Barbados, he said he would prefer to come when I reached an age of consent (16 years) and that in the meanwhile, we should continue our online “relationship”.
I saw nothing wrong with this but decided that since my father’s sister and my cousins lived in his country, I would ask my dad to allow me to visit them during my holiday; which I did. I was really curious to meet this guy, but got the disappointment of my life when I found him. He was not a student as he admitted, but a young man with two young children – ages three and five years.
Christine, my visit was a surprise one and since I am not some naïve individual, I had taken my older male cousin along with me. This was after we discovered his residence was just 15 minutes’ drive away where my family lived.
Part of my disappointment came from knowing I had shared with this young man, a lot of my personal business, including the fact that I cared for him. The photo he sent me of himself was taken like ten years previously, as I discovered he was now 25 years old. The lies and deception were real and it hurt me a lot. I felt really foolish when I discovered I was talking to a young man, mostly at night, whose girlfriend has a night job at a hotel.
That’s why it was so easy to lead me on and make me think he was a young man with nothing to do at night but enter chat rooms and meet people – if only just to fool them. He talked about his days at school but these were not current as I thought. He had actually left school eight years earlier. There are many other things I could write, but I’ll stop here.
I hope my letter will put other boys, girls, men and women on guard. Meeting and befriending people online can be quite dangerous. I asked myself after I discovered he was faking his identity: what if he was a serial killer, or some type of pervert?
Some people might say I was bold to travel to meet this “boy”. Others may think I took a great risk, but at least I am comfortable in knowing I’ve learnt a valuable lesson when it comes to meeting and “seemingly falling in love” with people via the Internet.
Thanks for printing my letter.
Thanks for taking time to share your experience with readers. I too believe you were bold to have gone through the lengths you took to meet this “online, no-face” individual but you were also wise to take someone along with you.
I know you must still be disappointed but you have indeed learned an invaluable lesson and perhaps will save many others from making the same mistake of chatting with strangers online.
Adults who carry on online romances with young teenaged girls are usually called predators. Stay out of those chat rooms and find something more productive to do with your time. After all, you still have your education, personal growth and development to consider, don’t you?