Why I decided to stay with my boyfriend after finding out he's a scammer, plus expert advice

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An illustration. Photo by Getty Images
An illustration. Photo by Getty Images
  • Most 22-year-olds are either still in university, worrying about submitting their assignments or are new entrants in the workforce. Yet, for 22-year-old Erica, jet setting and buying designer items on a regular is what she says is pretty much a day in her life.
  • The aspiring social media influencer met her boyfriend two years ago in a club.
  • She later found out that he is a scammer and her life has never been the same since.
  • This is her story.

I don't believe in coincidences. I believe the universe pays attention and gives you what you desire the most. I've always loved the finer things in life but I couldn't afford most of them until I met Mike* when I was 20 years old.

We met at a club in Cape Town and he approached me and invited my friends and I to join his table. I didn't think much of it at that time because I was used to men buying my friends and I champagne in clubs and inviting us to the VIP section.

He hardly spoke to me when we moved to their table; he was always on his phone and looked quite serious. There was a mystery to him and I think that's what attracted me to him.

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When the night ended, he asked to please book us an Uber back home, which I thought was sweet. He even insisted that I book it from my phone in case I don't feel comfortable with him knowing my address.

As we were about to leave, he asked for my number and I gave it to him. I was intrigued by him and the way he carried himself. The following day he called to ask if he could take me out for brunch. I accepted the brunch invitation and he came to pick me up in a Bentley.

I was shocked but tried to act calm and everyday when I entered the car. He was as quiet as the night before and was such a gentleman. As first dates go, you get to know the person- what they do, how old they are and where they're from. Mike told me that he is a Bitcoin investor and is also in property.

I never questioned him or had my suspicions; I just thought he was successful.

After our date, he dropped me off home and asked to take me out for dinner the following day. He suggested a restaurant and when we arrived the restaurant was empty and I even said they're probably closing, but to my surprise, he had booked out the entire restaurant for him and me.

I was impressed and thought to myself, 'this is the soft life I've been dreaming of'

READ MORE | 'I’m a lawyer and money isn't everything to me, so I prefer dating broke men, here’s why'

On our 1-month anniversary, Mike booked us a trip to Dubai. He told me that he would be spending most of his time working that side but I could explore the city by myself and buy whatever I want. I was now accustomed to a life of just walking into a designer store on a random Tuesday in Cape Town and spending close to R200 000.

As we continued dating Mike bought me my own apartment in Camps Bay and bought me a Porsche Cayenne. I had never questioned how he makes so much money to splurge on me like this until I one day came across a suspicious email on his laptop.

When I first read the email, I thought he was cheating on me but I calmed down and read the email thread and discovered that he was an Internet romance scammer. He is in a fake online relationship with this woman, and I found that she had sent him 100 000 dollars  (about R1,5million)on the day before. I was in total shock and decided to snoop around more but couldn't find anything except his bitcoin business dealings. I confronted him later that day, and he didn't even deny it. He told me that he is also involved in crypto fraud. 

When I found out, I didn't even think of breaking up with him.

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He is not on social media, and he is not a famous person. I decided to continue my relationship because I genuinely love Mike and what he does is not my concern. The past two years have been good. I only stress about what I'm going to wear to dinner or what I'm going to post on Instagram.

I won't lie and say that his wealth didn't make it easier for me to love him. 

According to Odwa Gogo, a registered clinical psychologist and mental health specialist, there are numerous reasons people opt to be in these types of relationships where one partner chooses to overlook the other's criminal and improper conduct.

"I can't make an assumption or speak on Erica's behalf, but in most cases, people are in these types of relationships because they are transactional," Odwa says, explaining that a transactional relationship is focused on benefits and is results-oriented.

"They are functional and economical. When you are in such a relationship, you are emotionally detached, and you are in it for the benefits and not for love (though you might think it's love at the time). We don't know much about Erica's family system or background. Still, in some cases, people choose to be in such relationships because of their relationship with others, or even with money. Your background and past experiences can affect the way you view relationships and this can be entirely subconscious."

Odwa adds that being in this type of relationship has provided Erica with security. "However, the instant gratification could possibly make her entitled and blind her moral compass."

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* Names changed

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