I have been online dating for a while since my last serious relationship ended back in 2016. I was at my wit’s end when I thought maybe let me try Plenty of Fish. I had known friends to have found their now husbands, on this site.

In  March 2020, Alex was probably the 4th/5th profile I came across, and I instantly felt a connection to his profile. His description of himself as being laid back and just wanting to be treated right spoke to me. He had been through just as much heartache me. Like we lived the same life of always being the one to love and hope too soon, to have it snatched away or be unreciprocated. And I thought maybe he’s the kind to treat others as he wants to be treated. Like he lived by the “golden rule.” So I swiped right. And he messaged me. We exchanged a couple of messages on PoF before he asked to move it to WhatsApp.

From there, I had a couple of red flags. Why is his grammar so bad? Why are his emojis black? Four days into messaging with each other, he was already professing his love to me. I’d raise my concern about being catfished, and he would pull me back in with a video chat so I can see I wasn’t being catfished. I would be relieved even if the video chat lasted only a couple of seconds, enough for me to see his face and match it to the pictures he’d sent. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a fake video.

A couple of other flags: he would get angry every time I’d ask for a picture or come up with an excuse about not being able to send one. He’d mix up his name, his sister’s name, his mom’s name, and get angry at me for doubting he knew his own or his family’s name.

Every time I’d show signs of mistrust, he’d say I didn’t love him. Say that after all he’s done (send pictures, chat, etc.) risking his military job, what proof did I have not to trust him? He’d talk out the problem with me. Something I had always wished my exes would have done whenever we got into an argument.

He asked for an iCloud Gift card of $20, which was not much for him to purchase music that would help him relax his thoughts after getting off duty. I agreed, thinking I can spare $20.

Then came the, “I’m coming home from deployment” promise. Another $20 to get his documents. Then the day he was to get news of his leave being approved, he receives the news that a case against him for losing a weapon in his custody was opened, and he needed to pay for the gun before he could leave. At the time, I couldn’t help. He said he could transfer money to me, and I could send it back in the form of Sephora gift cards. Of course, the money wasn’t “approved,” but it was available on my CC for enough time to purchase Sephora gift cards in the amount of 3,000, and I got into CC debt. The bank has since closed those CCs due to being compromised by my situation.

Of course, that flag was quickly put out by Alex’s commander, e-mailing me with reassuring words that the money will be approved.

Then the day I waited for came. He called to say he was finally coming home. His flight was at 8 am on May 1st from Cairo, and would arrive in NJ at 2 pm. We agreed to video chat at 6 pm. 6 pm came and went. I emailed his commander, the “agents” that help transfer money to him. No one responded. The next afternoon I finally get a response. His plane had to do an emergency landing, and he was stranded in Panama City with an expired passport.

Another $500 to renew his passport. But this time, his flight would only bring him to Chicago. Stranded in Chicago, he tells me he slept in the gutters and hadn’t eaten anything in days. I cry myself to sleep, feeling helpless. I apply for a loan and send another $400 for transportation to get closer to Jersey City. But again, it only was enough to get him to D.C.

At D.C., he promises to repay me after he “unfreezes his bank account.” I wait and am disappointed to feel that the army would make things so difficult for their soldiers to get home. $3,000 in to help unfreeze his account and “get documents needed to do that,” and then I finally receive a clear sign from God that I had been desperately asking for days. An agent had sent me a screenshot of the transaction I had previously sent to help with Alex’s account. And in that screenshot, I see a name I did not recognize and the conversion of my USD 500 to Nigerian currency.

Finally, at the end of June, I blocked and deleted him, after losing $7,000. But my heartache, shame, and anxiety remain—the loan and CC payments eating away at my hard-earned money are a constant reminder of my stupidity.