Online Dating Scam: French Politician Being Used To Trick Women Looking For Love

 As a dating consultant working on behalf of the UK’s Dating Agency Association, I’m regularly contacted by single men and women who feel they have been let down by questionable standards within the dating industry.    Penny, a vibrant and attractive widow in her late fifties, spoke to me recently about the confusion and hurt she suffered as a victim of an online dating scam.  
 
Online Dating ScamWhilst investigating Penny’s case, I discovered that the man she hoped could offer a new beginning was high profile French politician, Frederic Soulier.   I was also to find that Soulier himself is an unwitting victim of online scamming: images of the dignified fifty-one-year-old from Brive-La-Gaillar are being used as bait for lonely, middle aged women desperate for the love of a good man.
 
Penny had lost her husband of twenty-six years and was slowly trying to rebuild her life when she decided to try online dating.  The two years since her husband’s death had been excessively traumatic.  Not only had Penny lost her long-term companion, she’d also suffered financial ruin and been forced to sell her home.  With her beloved daughters studying overseas, Penny felt a deep sense of hopelessness – “During that period of my life, I remember walking to the edge of a cliff and praying for the courage to jump.”
 
As a widow surrounded by couples, Penny felt both excluded and judged by many of her friends.  Feeling sure she would never get used to being alone, she began to explore online ways to meet new people.
 
Match.com’s website inspired confidence: Penny felt that the online dating giant was a reputable organisation.  She also believed that everyone using online dating sites would share her own honest intentions – “When one is feeling so very genuine about the experience, you can’t understand why anyone would waste their time on a dating site unless they are feeling the same way.” 
 
Driven by a dangerous mix of excitement, naivety and desperation, Penny chose to sign up to Matchaffinity.com, an online dating site within the Match.com group.  Matchaffinity clients take an online personality test in order to be ‘matched’ with like-minded singles.  Penny was thrilled to receive contact from a man claiming to be an Irish entrepreneur living in Madrid.  Calling himself ‘Grant West’, Penny’s ‘match’ appeared smart and confident in his photographs.
 
Penny now feels incredibly foolish for immediately allowing ‘Grant West’ to move their conversation from the Matchaffinity site to Whatsapp.  Her conversations with West became unguarded and intimate very quickly – “At my age, the general feeling is ‘it’s now or never’.  Older people want to feel alive…we want to share loving, sexual relationships and we feel no pressure to ‘wait’.”
 
After several days, Penny received a lengthy message from West that tapped into her deepest desires: 
 
 “I would want us to continue with our friendship and see where it goes. The kind of woman I desire is someone who is ready to love again, someone who is caring, loving, honest, affectionate and understanding. I want someone who will be ready to discuss issues with me, always ready to tell me her pain so I can ease her off, someone to share the good times and the bad times with. Am a very romantic man who feels that kissing, cuddling and romantic words are really important in a relationship.”   
 
The excitement of receiving such a message blinded Penny to West’s occasional poor grasp of the English language : he appeared to be everything she longed for within a man.  However, when a young friend pointed out that West’s romantic outpouring appeared to be a generic declaration of intent – perhaps designed to be ‘copy and pasted’ to numerous women – Penny immediately sent him a message, requesting that he speak with her on the telephone to prove he was an Irishman genuinely seeking love.
 
At this point West became defensive.  Whilst Penny pleaded with him to prove he wasn’t a scammer, he abruptly finished the relationship and deleted his online profile.  
 
Penny traced West’s number to the Sudan and contacted the Fraud Squad in the UK.  The Fraud Squad said there was little they could do.  She then contacted Matchaffinity : Penny says her emails to the company were ignored.  
 
Left with a costly reoccurring membership, that, like others who have used Matchaffinity, she found difficult to cancel, Penny was horrified to be contacted just days later by a man claiming to be Icelandic.  Penny feels that this man’s profile had been deliberately created by the scammers to perfectly match her own.  Weeks later, one of her friends alerted her to the fact that her own online photographs had been used to create a fake profile on a dating site called Dating.com.
 
After months of trying to uncover the identity of the man in the images used by West, Penny experienced a sense of disbelief when I told her his name – “The man is Frederic Soulier – he is a well respected French politician.”  I had delivered the final confirmation that the whole affair had been a lie, yet Penny was more concerned for others than for herself – “I want single people who try online dating to realise how important it is to insist on meeting in person, within a safe environment, as soon as possible.  I gave away so much about myself to these scammers because I was lonely, vulnerable and trusting.  I feel sure that requests for money would have started pretty quickly if I hadn’t asked this man to speak with me to prove his authenticity.  And as soon as I caught him out, they tried to con me again.  Now my picture is being used to scam others on Dating.com.  I wanted to find love, but instead I lost my basic trust in human nature.”
 
The Dating Agency Association offers a free downloadable Dating Safely Handbook for single men and women.  Please visit  http://www.datingagencyassociation.org.uk/dating-safely-campaign/ 
If you have been a victim of an online dating scam, we would like to hear from you.
 
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