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Thursday, August 09, 2001

The Paranoid Personals Pawn

I checked out Love@Aol the other day. It's a free-for-all forum like the Yahoo personals, closer in format to Match.com but without advanced search features or subscription fees. I skimmed through a few dozen ads... "I love to party and go dancing. I love to hang out and chill. I love going to t.j. and getting freaky crazy with my friends." You know. A thousand clones of Michelle's cousin, which isn't entirely coincidental since I found the site while looking over her shoulder.

There were a few ads sufficiently vague and/or intelligent as to allow for optimism, so I sent some short notes pointing to my websites. Here's the only reply I got:

Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2001 17:26:15 -0400
From: [Mindy]
To: [Simon]
Subject: Hi from Mindy, mindycity2002

Hi, This is the best email address for me. I can check it almost all the time at work and at home. Thank you for responding to my picture personal it is always flattering to hear from other people that want to get to know you. I've been so busy. Plus, I've had a lot of responses and some of the others seemed really nice and I thought it would be rude not to write them at least once.
Just a little about me, I work full time, have a good job, like to have fun and love to be with friends. Lately it has been a little rough meeting people. But I will go more into that later. Just having moved to Escondido and not knowing the area or anyone here I really need someone to show me around. I am pretty lonely right now. I really just wanted to say hi and ask one question. I am just starting this online thing and I have a few things to get straight before we could meet in person. Are you willing to follow my rules for at least a little while? One of my girlfriends is showing me around the internet and this online dating thing. I only have a minute so I will keep this one short. Let me know, because I would like to continue to get to know you. Write back when you get a chance.
Mindy PS Just in case you forgot who I am, I attached my picture.

Now is it just me, or is this a form letter setup for a scam? Being a "P" type personality, I couldn't bring myself to call it either way...

Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2001 18:19:08 -0700
From: [Simon]
To: [Mindy]
Subject: Re: Hi from Mindy, mindycity2002

>Are you willing to follow my rules for at least a little while?

Depends on what they are.


Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2001 10:32:31 -0400
From: [Mindy]
To: [Simon]
Subject: Me again

Hi, Thanks for getting back to me. I am not bothering you am I? I only have a second. Are you doing anything exciting for the weekend? It is so tough to meet really great people. I would really like to get to know you better. Unfortunately I hate those IM things and enjoy a live voice. I would like to talk to you but as I mentioned earlier, I must confess I am a little leery of talking to people right now. I was talking to a guy a few weeks ago. He was real nice at first and then he turned real weird. I always called him and I finally told him I wasn't going to call anymore. He said no problem but was real mean about it and I got kind of scared. Anyway, I always used star 67 and called him from my cellular phone and from my home phone. Well little did I know you can call the phone company and get the phone numbers of the calls that are blocked that have called your number. This guy shows up at my house and calls all the time. I had to move and change all my numbers. Because of that, I will never again call someone until after I feel comfortable with them. I use a secure service from a dispatch office. Ask for me by giving them my name and email address. They will patch calls to me but it is 1.85 per minute. I understand if you don't feel I am worth it. Its just that I am running scared right now. You understand don't you? I really want someone to show me around and I love to have fun. But I can't at this point. I don't know where to go and don't have anyone to do anything with. I hate to be alone and it scares me to meet new people right now. Should you feel you want to call ask for me. They will take your information then patch you through. Again, I am really sorry it has to happen this way, but it is really scary out there and that guy was really mean. He is a part of the reason I just relocated. I will be available during the day Friday and Monday. I really hope this doesn't put an end to our communication. I really need to know someone before I feel comfortable enough to meet in person, which is I hope the goal? Is it for you? That last guy just made it really weird. It just has to be this way for me to feel safe. I understand if you don't feel I am worth it. I gotta go! Hope to hear from you soon. Woops... almost forgot. The number is [888 number here].

Ok, now are we sure it's a scam? (For someone who "only has a second" that's quite a paragraph!) My red flags are on fire here, but still the P in me wins -- I mean, it could be genuine, couldn't it? (Never mind whether it would be worth my time even if it were -- it's beyond that now: my curiosity is involved. And part of me just doesn't want to believe that the world is this sick and twisted...)

Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2001 10:19:19 -0700
From: [Simon]
To: [Mindy]
Subject: Re: Me again

If you are that worried about being stalked, then why not just continue with email for a while?

And if you *must* talk by voice, then why not just call from a payphone?

You've given no indication in either of your emails that you followed the links I sent you and read anything about me whatsoever. How do I know you haven't just sent me (and everyone else) a couple of form letters designed to get people to call your 1.85/minute for your fun and profit?

If you truly are looking for "really great people", follow the links I sent earlier, and send me some real email, and maybe we can meet for lunch some day on neutral territory where neither of us can stalk the other from -- I don't hand out my own phone number so easily either.

However, I am becoming ever more suspicious that I am just a pawn in someone's game, so I'll be surprised if I hear from you.

Oh, and a word of advice, just in case you are sincere: The more difficult you make it for someone to get to know you, the more you filter for the desperate or deranged. Healthy, productive people aren't going to waste their time with games, but stalkers and losers will follow your carrots all the way to your doorstep.


Anyway, that (Love@Aol) was a short-lived experiment. Serves me right. For what, I'm not sure -- but I feel guilty of some error, whether being too optimistic, too cynical, or just too me. Back to the drawing board.

Where did all the real people go?

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com