All she wanted was a little love and friendship.
So she joined a dating website and accepted friend requests from strange men on Facebook, scores of whom declared their love for her. But these cyber suitors wanted to steal more than just her heart . . .
Sharron Jarvis (67) from Alberton hasn’t been targeted just once by con-men who declared their eternal love for her, but a staggering 18 times . . .
The problem is once they’d told her how much, they started asking for help: everything from money for their sick kids or food to paying import tax on diamonds . . . one weird request after another.
And she admits she fell for all of their advances in the hope they would have a rosy future together. But she never paid any of them money – and they simply disappeared.
Sharron has a neat, purple-dyed hairstyle and is well made-up. And she’s lonely -- which is why she will continue to accept friend requests from strange men and chat to them. “There must be an honourable man out there somewhere,” she explains.
“Perhaps it’s just as well I have to live on a state pension, otherwise I would have been just another fraud statistic,” says Sharron, who never had a profession in her youth.
Her husband Malcolm died of a heart attack in 2001. They were married for 30 years and Sharron still describes him as the love of her life. But she was lonely and just couldn’t meet the right man. So in February this year she decided, to hell with it, and joined a dating site.
“I had a whole load of messages within a day,” Sharron says. “And their profiles were so great!” Their motives, however, were less so.
Sharron pages through the black notebook on her lap in which she’s recorded her online experiences. All the correspondence was in English and many of the 18 men who tried their luck claimed to live overseas.
“The first guy was from Canada. After two weeks he told me he wanted to move to South Africa to be near me and in the meantime was sending over a container with some of his possessions. We had a nice chat and a few days later he asked me to put money in his account to cover the customs duty. I immediately refused and he disappeared just as quickly.”
Sharron continues to page. “This one was the most original,” she jokes. She can laugh about it today but at the time she was concerned he was in mortal danger, she admits.
He was apparently from England and said he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. But they first had to go to America, where he had to close a deal to trade in palm oil.
“After that he said he said he’d travelled to Morocco in his own ship to deliver the oil,” she says. “About week later I got a message saying he was afraid for his life and was in hiding in the ship after pirates had hijacked it and shot dead two crewmen. But some of his security guards had managed to flee with a safe full of cash and diamonds which would be sent to me.”
And, yes, she’d even believed that story, she admits. “Well, I did know there were pirates round there . . . ”
Two weeks later she got an email from someone in Canada who said the safe was with him and he would ensure she got it, but she first had to pay a registration fee of R5 000. “After I’d told him I didn’t have that sort of money he and the guy on the ship suddenly just disappeared.”
Some communications lasted for weeks before any money was asked for; others had the cheek to ask within two days, she says.
Another man, apparently also from England, wanted to send her a package of diamonds and cash after falling “madly in love” with her. After that he would come to visit and buy them a house, he promised.
“’A few days later I got a call from someone who said they worked at O.R. Tambo airport and that my package was there. All I had to do was pay R3 800 at Shoprite and it would be delivered.”
But Sharron decided to go to the airport in person, and once there the customs officials wasted no time in telling her she’d been conned.
Then there was the soldier from Afghanistan who she really liked. She even believed his promises that they would marry once he was back in the country. But once she’d told him she didn’t have R15 000 to give to “his mother in Cape Town, this suitor also disappeared.
She continues to page through her notebook, pausing to describe one case after another. She says a lot of these “love-struck” men cursed her when they discovered she had no money. One even threatened to distribute naked photographs of her on the internet. “Not that I ever sent anyone naked photographs! But these days they can do anything with a computer.”
On Sharron’s CD rack there’s a compilation album called Broken Hearted between Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night and ABBA’s Name of the Game.
Her four children support her in her efforts to find friendship and don’t mind her making mistakes, Sharron says, but she wouldn’t consider joining a social club because she prefers to chat on email or Facebook first. “I also just want to find love and acceptance. Someone I can talk to and listen to music with.”
When her cellphone sounds beside her she smiles shyly before looking at the screen. It’s the man she started chatting to the night before, she says. He’s from Britain but is doing contract work in Durban.
“I know it was God’s will to make our paths cross so we can build a rosy future together,” he wrote in English, then added: “I have to phone a few people in China. Could you help me out with R150 for air time?”
Wow, this guy’s fast, says Sharron with a laugh before deleting the message.
More cyber suitors’ weird requests
- She had to pay about R4 350 for a Dutch man’s son’s birthday and deposit it in his carer’s account – he couldn’t do it himself as he was at sea.
- A Cape Town man asked her for R2 000 to pay for his birthday party. It would show his friends “she cared for him”.
- Money for a sick grandchild in The Netherlands.
- The “soldier in Nairobi” who asked her for money to buy himself out of his service contract so they could start a life together.
- The “Cape businessman” who wanted to marry her but she would first have to give him R6 000 so he could pay customs duty on goods from Italy.
- The potential husband from Texas who asked for money for food.