Darlene knows enough not to be scammed by Nigerian princes, the claim fees for vast winnings in lotteries she didn’t enter and the widows of wealthy bankers who need her help to access a fortune in which she can then share.
But a soulmate threatened by pirates was new to her.
He humiliated her and took her for $1,460.
She wants to hurt him back.
Alerting women to his scam seems the most practical way to do it.
Darlene, 59, and her late husband, a disabled veteran, were married for 36 years and raised three daughters. Darlene, who asked that The News Tribune not print her last name, shares her Tacoma home with her sister and his mother, both of whom have disabilities.
“I generally do things for everybody else and not myself,” she said. “I haven’t dated since my husband passed away.”
She does enjoy her Facebook, however, and she identified herself as a widow on her status.
On March 21, she got a message from an alleged Scott Brown.
“Hi, Darlene, how are you today? You look so beautiful, and you seem to have a way with smiles,” he wrote. “Remain beautiful, and please drop me a line. Cheers.”
He said he was a widower, 58, of Cold Springs, N.Y. He was director of operations for a cargo shipping company, liked movies, dancing and swimming and hoped to find happiness with another person again. He attached a photo of one handsome dude.
“Where do I know you from, or have we never met?” Darlene asked.
A few days went by, and he thanked her for her response.
“Scott, I married my high school sweetheart. He was my one and only,” she typed back. “I wish you much happiness on your journey to find your partner.”
Three or four days later he asked for her email address so he could send her a longer letter. She gave it to him.
That slow start relaxed her. He didn’t seem pushy, just persistent.
“I thought maybe he really did care about me,” Darlene said. “I’d never had this happen before.”
By phone and email, he courted her with promises of friendship that accelerated into unexpected romance, then professions of a love unlike he had ever experienced.
“I will always love you, Darlene,” he wrote. “My wedding vows to you today. I am blessed to have you as my life partner. Honey, you are the apple of my eye.”
That set the hook for his scam.
Darlene was no longer a practical, pragmatic woman.
“I was like a schoolgirl,” she said. “I was giddy. I couldn’t sleep.”
She showed his photo to her friends at work. They were happy to see her radiant.
Her family was suspicious.
“Scott Brown” called her often, and sent her love songs by Celine Dion and Garth Brooks.
“I was on top of the world. My god, this is a dream come true,” she said.
In mid-April he said he was on a company ship bound for Australia via the Indian Ocean.
Cue the peril.
He called her to tell her there was engine trouble. She overheard someone knocking. He had to go, he said. The captain needed him.
Three hours later, he called back. Pirates were steaming toward them. The ship was limping. They’d called for rescue. Oh, and he’d put all his money, $1.75 million, in his cabin safe, so he could invest it in silica oil.
Darlene was frantic.
Next she heard, they were in Kuala Lumpur, and he was shipping the safe to her. Could she wire $1,460 to Allen Dennis at Contract Links Security Services to send it, then reimburse herself when it arrived?
Of course she would, and did.
Cue more peril.
Soon Customs had seized the safe!
It would cost $16,000 to get it on its way. There were emails and unintelligible phone calls from a woman at Contract Links.
The light went on in Darlene’s head. The love went out in her heart. She’d been had.
She sent “Scott Brown” a satisfying, but unprintable, email. She contacted Facebook, police and the FBI and saved her copious documentation.
But she knows the money is gone for good.
She wants to vaccinate other women against the “Scott Brown and The Pirates” scam.
“They are hunting out widows,” she said.
She’s followed a Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy’s advice and removed “widow” from her Facebook status. She’s come to terms with being taken. “I thought I would be really upset and embarrassed,” she said. “I’m not. I’m human like everybody else. If I can stop this from happening to one person out there, that would make me feel good.”
Listen to Darlene. File Scott Brown next to the Nigerian princes in your scam index.Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/street