Is He Real, A Troll, A Lurker, A Perv???
You need to listen carefully and keep your eyes open. Details count!
Over the course of a couple of months I have been watching what is going on on Facebook and Twitter in terms of gay themed sites and posts. All those people, there’s no way to even know if they are men or women, or whatever, posting with obviously fake names, profile pictures that are obviously professional models or people whom the poster finds attractive but are not the poster, posts that are transparently a load of crapola. In short, I was not only unimpressed with what I was seeing, I was getting really annoyed. Annoyed not only with the liars and the frauds, but with the people who were responding with likes, friend requests, and comments! I thought to myself, “Has the world gone stupid all around me?”
A couple of invitations caught my interest. They were invitations to gay dating sites posted on Facebook. My first inclination was to ignore them and move on. But then, the researcher and investigator in me woke up and said, “Hell NO! You’ve got a gem of a project here! Go for it!” And so I did.
I thought about what I wanted to achieve and then figured out how to do it. If it didn’t work out, I would have found a couple of new friends in my area, but if my hypothesis were true, and my suspicions correct, I may be able to prove a point and help a lot of people while I’m at it. Here’s what I did:
Organize and systematize to get results. I started out realistically. I’m a mature man and I’m not a fool. I’m realistic. I’m a mature male who would be kind of silly going to a twink site or to a 20-something site, a bear site or a fat site, and convincingly posting that I am looking for a relationship with the sort of person (1) who would simply think me crazy or ridiculous (a twink site or 20-something site), (2) or who would catch on that I know little or nothing of their gay culture (bears, fats, leather, S&M), or (3) if I could manage to be convincing as something I’m not, what would I do then? I figured it would be best to just be what I am and do a mature man site and run with it. I started out with DaddyHunt and it proved to be a gold mine.
DaddyHunt is a site for mature men or youngish men looking for relationships with mature men or youngish men wanting relationships with mature men. So far, so good.
So I posted, rather I published a profile and started getting responses from a range of individuals along the age and interest spectrum I put in my public profile. No problem. Just what I expected.
One or two people in the week or so I was on the site contacted me and wanted more intense interaction. Some of them fizzled out for one reason or another, probably because I didn’t pursue the bait. But one stood out as particularly aggressive and persistent. I had a shark on the line, I could just feel it.
The guy (I’ll call the person a guy but, honestly, I have no idea what his gender, age, etc. are in reality) called himself Mr X, which may be his name or may not be his name. Problem No. 1: The name thing wasn’t a big deal but it became a big deal when he started adding other details (see below).
He initially said he lived on the West Coast, and his telephone area code appearing on the subsequent chats was in fact for the San Joaquin, Ca., area but as we all know, the number could be a California number, but the caller could be anywhere! And the phone could be a prepaid or something. In fact, he later gave me another Mid-west address. Now my online paramour did say that his “uncle owned the property” that had belonged to his mother. Giving Mr X the benefit of doubt, this might be true. Problem No. 2: The telephone number doesn’t give much to go on, but can be useful in association with other details (see below).back
Normally, if you have a telephone number and given the unlimited free calls and texting that go along with your phone account, and the free long distance calling, you’d expect to have a voice conversation at some point or another. And I asked for that right at the start. But Mr X was reluctant to take my calls or to call me. Problem No. 3: Mr X doesn’t want me to hear his voice? Why would that be? Why waste time chatting when you can expedite the information sharing using voice communications? Something is rotten in Fresno!
Mr X shared that he was in the hospitality business, traveled for his business, and gave a somewhat confused biography of multinational background and a tragic childhood. He was from Spain, his father died when he was young, he is an only child, and the story went on and on. The details were complex, sometimes confusing, and became contradictory as I posed some leading questions. Problem No. 4: Oh those details! Liars should write everything down and read from a script; that’s the only way to keep the facts consistent. Mr X is a really lousy liar but what’s worse, he doesn’t know it. But I am listening.
I asked Mr X about some details about his life and he obligingly sent me an email with details. It was a hodgepodge of the tragic life of a lonely child, who lost his parents when he was young, taken in by grandparents, etc., etc. The stuff of a melodramatic child’s morality narrative but there was no morality in Mr X’s story. If I were not the detail oriented scholar with a great memory and a penchant for saving data, sparse details from the extensive chat sessions and the email biography might have at least superficially corroborated with one another. But they didn’t and there were glaring inconsistencies that could not be resolved by simple excuses or carelessness. For example, Mr X originally claimed to be in his mid 30s. In telling me about his deceased father, and when asked how old he was when he lost his father, Mr X responded 16 years old. When a couple of lines later in the chat, I asked how long ago his father had died, he responded 27 years ago. That would, by my math, make Mr X 43 years old. Liars can’t do math. Problem No. 5: Mr X can’t do math, and can’t keep facts straight.
I have traveled extensively and have lived in several European countries. I speak several European languages. Since Mr X claimed to be in the country only 2 years, and his English was a bit fractured, and given the fact that he claimed to be born in Barcelona, Spain, his father from the UK and his mother French, I was ready to converse in French or Spanish to facilitate matters. Given Mr X’s obvious aversion to voice communications, I almost thought that he was unsure of his spoken English, a real possibility, but he insisted on communicating in English, indicating to me that he might not speak French. Problem No. 6: Mr X’s English is fractured but inconsistently so. Mr X insists on chat and on English. Can it be that Mr X doesn’t want a voice communication because he can’t do the appropriate accent and doesn’t speak the language(s) I suggested? Wouldn’t the communication and the sharing be best served if done in a language both communicants are comfortable with? I became convinced that Mr X’s language issues were not entirely credible.
Mr X started sending me photos, and I sent him some of me (real current photos). I am obviously not a spring chicken but I am attractive and I am fit, but Mr X’s insistence that I am “handsome” (maybe), but beautiful (NOT!), and that age did not matter, raised red flags. I’m not into flattery and I am fully aware of who I am; I don’t need an ego boost, that’s for certain, and don’t try to convince me you’re blind as a damned bat. That’s only going to piss me off. But let Mr X taken enough rope for now. Problem No. 7: This guy is either desperate, blind or a real con artist! Get your eyes examined, Mr X!
The chats go on for about a week and they get better and better, at least in terms of the fiction. I’m feeding my pet shark and he’s regurgitating shark shit. We are confessing “love forever,” “You’re mine!,” “Lover,” “Adorable,” “Handsome” (Mr X had not apparently read this blog or he would have certainly picked up on “warrior” or “tiger”). Mr X was interested in marriage and I, of course, agreed that it may be a possibility. Isn’t love wonderful, guys? Problem No. 7: This guy is moving too fast for me!
Back to the photos Mr X is sending. Something appeared not to be right with them. Some too fuzzy (edited?), others too posed (professional, not spontaneous?) despite the fact that Mr X was telling me he “just took the picture” for me. Examining the pictures for details, I pick up some particulars such as logos and labels appearing in several of the pictures and followed them up. Problem No. 6: Does Mr X have an obsession with men’s underwear, it seems he likes labels a lot. Using the image quality, the image details, I researched what I had. I came up with Phil Fusco a lifestyle coach and underwear entrepreneur! Mr X was lifting the photos from Phil’s Instagram site! The labels, the t-shirt logo, even the gold chain and cross were a perfect match, just like Mr X likes to say! Gotcha!
So, my dear friends, my project seems to have proved a number of things that distill into a shortlist of caveats for anyone on the dating scene. Thanks to our little fraud, “Mr X” , or whoever s/he really — and we may yet find out — I can provide some tips on how to provide yourself with some dating site security:
- Find a reputable dating site, if possible. Do your homework, ask around, and save yourself a lot of grief. One of the reasons for my project was what I see on Facebook! If that kind of deception and fraud occurs in the wide open social media scene, I imagined it could really get dirty on a lazy lonely souls site like a dating site. Guess What? It does! Facebook is not reputable, by the way, and it doesn’t take a critical investigator to know that fact. So what do you expect from one of the hundreds or thousands of dating sites out there? Be sensible, be smart!
• Make lots of friends on a site and share insights and experiences. You may find that there’s a troll or a lurker hitting a number of people on the site. Once you help to identify the malevolent activity, you can get together to track the freak down, perhaps the site owner will get into the act and help in the investigation.
- If possible stay local. If your intentions are good and you are not trying to get a bit on the side, stay local, or at least select a locale that you can verify. As in our case, someone halfway across the globe is not a feasible candidate for dating or for a relationship. Besides if they have to find a date on the other side of the world, something’s gotta be wrong.
- If you get a contact, get as much verifiable information as possible; if they don’t want to share it, they are not sincere. Keep looking.
- Be critical. Look at what your Mr X is saying, how he’s saying it, do the details add up? Is there anything that makes you uneasy? If there is, investigate. Ask him directly Why?
- Chat is great because it requires a telephone number and a telephone number can be linked with a real person, if not a physical location. If something goes awry, you have that for investigation purposes.
- Email is idiotic. Don’t think for a minute that you can trace someone with an email! I created at least 3 different emails in the course of this project. None of them can be traced to an ISP number. Great for scams.
- Beware Facebook pages or other social media as trustworthy in terms of verification; just look at some of the account names and some of the profile pics. Do I have to say more?
- Stay factual and be honest, and you won’t get tripped up. Most of the guys handing you a pulp fiction story will trip up on some detail somewhere. Be smart and listen. If you keep your facts straight, you can’t be accused of deception or of scamming, and you’ll be consistent. Fact: Lies always trip the liar up.
- Be careful what you share in terms of pictures. I never share anything more than what you can see in my gym locker room; most of the time I share even less revealing stuff. Don’t “borrow” someone else’s pictures and use them as yourself! They can be traced easily. In my project, I studied the pictures for certain details and went with them. Again, if you’re honest you have nothing to worry about.
- Save your chats. Save any emails. Save any pictures. Get a phone number, if possible. If they are honest and something comes out of the exchange, you have some cute memories to share as your relationship matures. If Mr. X is a fraud, you have all of the material you need to go after him. Protect yourself.
- The bottom line is this: A dating site can be fun if you use it sensibly and critically. It’s also a place where very nasty people might hang out and really hurt someone, maybe you. Some people think it’s a big joke to have a lonely homo on the hook; they may like to watch him squirm and wiggle. Is that what you want? If you use your head and maintain some standards, ask some good questions, you’ll come out on top, or bottom, whichever you prefer. But you’ll likely not get hurt or scammed.
This has nothing to do with taking any higher moral high ground, that is, I’m not trying to persuade anyone that I am at a moral advantage or that I have principles that are better than yours. I’d like to make that statement here because I know someone is going to come back with the accusation that I was just as bad as “Mr X.” Perhaps I was in some weird way, because I was playing a game and there was no informed consent; in other words, if I were doing this as a course paper or for publication, ethics would have required that I fully inform “Mr X” of what I was doing. Correct. But truth be told, I kept everything on the straight and narrow on my side. I was sincere and honest, all of my details were true, all of my exchanges factual and verifiable. It was not a situation where I was luring “Mr X” into a snare for some sort of abuse or entertainment; my purpose was clear but not disclosed.
“Mr X,” on the other hand clearly was dishonest and deceptive. It would have been interesting to have seen how far his game would have gone but enough is enough; I had collected enough evidence and data, enough clear facts to prove my points. Why waste any more time with the perv? The only moral or ethical question that I think should be asked is this: which was the greater evil, my collecting information for the good of preventing abuse, or “Mr X’s” little game and it’s apparent purpose? I think the answer to that question is obvious.
In the meantime, I felt it important to share more specific details of my findings with certain interested parties who may want to investigate in more detail, and they may even positively identify “Mr X,” since Google has his ISP associated with his emails and will provide it in response to official demands (court order, law enforcement). I also have provided his telephone number which is directly linked to the chats. Both are very valuable pieces of evidence, should the parties pursue the matter.
While it may be said that some of “Mr X’s” story might “click” or with a bit of stretching, might be almost credible, what is the story behind sending fake pictures, and isn’t doing that something of a deception? If it’s a deception it is intentionally purposed to mislead, and is therefore a lie. If it’s a lie, what good is carrying on a conversation, especially if there is even a scintilla of sincerity, “Mr X’s” face and body is not that of Phil Fusco, unless he’s a clone.
This is a critical problem on social media generally, so what can we do about it as users, as consumers? Well, the first thing I would recommend is simply to be honest; just don’t use images that are not of you and which are recent. Simply avoid using images of other people unless you make it very clear that it’s not you, and explain why you are using it.
The second thing we can do is police ourselves. If you find that someone is practicing deception and either lying about who or what they are, or if they are posting images that are clearly or obviously not their own, notify the site owner, explain what is happening and tell them who is abusing the site. Naming and shaming does work but it’s important that you provide clear facts and not just speculation.
To their credit, the folks at DaddyHunt are very diligent and investigate any complaints of abuse or deception. My experience with other dating sites is rather limited, so I can’t speak to that subject. It would be helpful if I were to get any feedback from readers who do have personal experience with other dating sites. I’ll be pleased to investigate and post anything I find, if it is worthwhile and relevant.
Finally, if any of my readers are interested in finding out more about this study, please leave a comment on this blog or write to me at Gay Karuna.
Thanks for reading and being a faithful follower of this blog. Thanks also for sharing any experiences you might have with gay dating sites; your shares may help prevent people like “Mr X” from making those sites their playgrounds for their perverse games.
Happy Holidays, and God bless you all!
Postscript: Out of fairness, I have written to “Mr X” advising him that he has been outed, and unless he comes up with an acceptable explanation, this matter is going public. As of this writing, I have counseld Mr X, and have told him in no uncertain terms that he is seriously violating the terms and conditions of the site, and that he is doing himself no favor by attempting to misrepresent himself, and to deceive persons responding to his deceptive profile. He has agreed to stop using the images and to post his own photos. We’ll see.