It could happen to you
James Rice — otherwise known as James Turner, Jimmy Turner and Jimmi Turner — was perfect on paper (or online, as it were). The 52-year-old from Redondo Beach, Calif. portrayed himself as a diamond broker, an heir and Ted Turner’s nephew (random). He was blue-eyed, blonde-haired, charming and personable. He said he owned boats, played at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge and collected expensive vintage cars. James Rice of the aforementioned attributes is also the same man who conned lonely women looking for love out of $300,000.
KLTA reports that women from the ritzy Southern California coastal towns of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Santa Monica, Hacienda Heights and Beverly Hills as well as the states of Alaska and Alabama fell prey to James’ super convincing con.
The women fit a certain profile: most were middle-aged, vulnerable and ready for love.
And what did Rice do with their trust? He used them, beseeching them to hand over their life savings or children’s college funds when he asked.
One woman even claims he used the line: “You are beautiful, you’re smart, I want to go in business together. My inheritance hasn’t arrived yet — I need a loan.”
In reality, James Rice was a deadbeat methamphetamine user who hadn’t held down a job in years. He is currently serving 16 months in jail for grand theft, but I think he deserves far more. The damage he’s done to women who were ready to trust again, ready to love again, is unspeakable.
Ideally, I want two things to happen here. I want you to not give up on online dating. Just because there’s creeps out there like James, there are also good guys who genuinely want a relationship. 50% of Americans meet their mate online these days. Look at the facts; they speak for themselves.
Another thing I want to happen is for you to BE SMART. Yes, there are certain dangers that accompany online dating, but as long as your head isn’t up your tookus, and you’re employing common sense, you’ll be alright. I believe in you.
And on that note…check out this section below from Internet Dating 101: It’s Complicated….But It Doesn’t Have to Be.
HOW TO SPOT A CRIMINAL
As I’m sure you’re all aware of by now, there are definitely downsides to online dating, just as there are to meeting a partner offline. In addition to worrying about cheaters, liars and players, you also have to also protect yourself against the men that are really dangerous: online predators.
There really is a big cause for concern here. One out of every ten sex offenders use online dat- ing sites to prey on women.19 But don’t let that scare you off. You’ll just have to be extra smart about your dating choices from now on.
One way to completely avoid this issue is to join a site that does background checks, like True.
com.True’s President Ruben Buell, has promised that the site has investigated every single one of its subscribing members since its 2003 launch.
“We wanted to change the way dating sites were perceived and the way people used them so that when someone came online, they had a much better understanding that the person they were talking to was not a convicted felon,” he explained.
Seriously, you need to watch out. If you’re dismissing this section already and saying to yourself, “Well, duh. I think I would know if I was talking to a felon” sorry, but you’re wrong.
Even the big daddy of dating sites, Match. com, has its epic fails. A San Antonio man, who happened to be a convicted murderer, was trolling for dates on the matchmaking site until a local paper revealed his shady past.
Match took down Abraham Fortune’s profile as a way of minimizing the backlash that ensued, but the damage was done. Fortune’s presence on- line alone should be enough to tell you that you need to be vigilant about who you’re meeting and how much you’re revealing about yourself to a complete stranger.
In addition to looking for a site that does background checks like True, you may want to bite the bullet and join a paying site if you’re seri- ous about looking for love online. Sure, the beauty of sites like OKCupid is that they’re free, but that also means that anyone can join.
A scam artist/predator would be more in- clined to go the way of the Craigslist personal ads then slap down his credit card (if he even has one), but then again, you never know who’s re- ally sitting behind the other computer.
You also want to check if the site you’re thinking about joining is a member of the Better Business Bureau.21 The BBB can how many com- plaints have been filed against a particular ser- vice, as well as why the complaint has been filed.
ConsumerAffair.com 22 is another massive database that logs user grievances. If you’re tak- ing the time to actually look on one of these se- curity sites, be thorough. Make sure you read ev- ery bitch and moan instead of simply skimming through quickly.
The most important thing I can tell you is here to use common sense. When you start chat- ting up a guy online, never, ever give him your full name or phone number right away. If he has access to those two very important things, what’s going to prevent him from digging up more dirt online? Much of our personal informa- tion is on the Internet these days, and it won’t take much sleuthing to pull up your Facebook profile, Twitter account or even address using WhitePages.com.
This is what you should create an email ad- dress purely to respond to your online dates; it should be completely separate from the one you use on a daily basis. Never use your real name or anything that could identify you when creating this particular address.
And, as I’m sure you all know, if you do hap- pen to miss the signs that the guy you’re into is secretly bad to the bone, make sure you meet in a public place during the daylight hours.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
ALICIA’S STORY: I’M LUCKY TO BE ALIVE
“I met a guy through Match who told me his name was Chris. He contacted me but didn’t have a picture. I went with it, but this was right when I started online dating and I didn’t know better. I said let’s meet, fine, fantastic, so we met for drinks at a bar and started seeing one another pretty reg- ularly. He always came to my house, or my neigh- borhood. It was very casual. But as our relation- ship progressed, things got weird.
“I never really wondered about where he lived, because my place was more convenient. I was living in downtown Baltimore, while he was south of the city. But eventually I wanted to see his place – and he wouldn’t let me. He always made
excuses. It was getting painted, it wasn’t clean. There was always something. I couldn’t go to his house.
“I think he was married and that he lied about his name. I mean, we were dating for a long time; almost a year. I never knew exactly who he was. He never even paid with a credit card when we went out; he always had cash in hand. I once had the chance to look in his wallet, to look for his li- cense, look for any kind of evidence that he actu- ally was who he claimed to be, but I didn’t take it. I still regret it.
“It began to creep me out. I have a friend whose parents are private detectives, and they ran his plates for me. His number never came up. I be- gan to think he was like the Craigslist killer.
“Every time I’d challenge him, he’d get really, really angry. But I was thinking, ‘This guy knows where I live and I don’t want to cause problems.
“Yes, I had a phone number for the guy, but anyone can get a cell phone. You can also set up an email account with any name you want. You can be whoever you want to be.
“When I switched jobs, he called my new place of work and pretended to be someone else. It was too much for me, and it had gone on for too long. I was getting scared, so I decided to end it. But before I could, out of the blue he decided to move to Chicago.
“After he left, I checked for rapes and mur- ders in my area, just to make sure. I felt so stupid. I had met this very charming person, and every- thing was great, but the outcome was so twisted and weird. To this day it makes me so sick that I didn’t know who he was.
“I met my future husband through Match, and on our very first date I insisted he show me his license. He understood. It was a crazy, dark time for me, but I learned my lesson: Make sure they are who they say they are.”