Watch Out on Internet Matchmaking Sites
Ghana is a West African country of about 92,000 square miles, with a population of around 23 million. As a British colony, it was known as the Gold Coast. In 1957, it became the first sub-Saharan African colony to achieve independence. Its capital is Accra, and its principal exports are gold, cocoa, timber, and aluminum.
And, if you believe at face value what takes place on Internet matchmaking sites, Ghana has a desperate shortage of men.
The approach is always the same. An instant message arrives. The woman sender’s profile is invisible. Her user information reveals that she’s mid-20s to mid-30s, in a large American city (usually Los Angeles or New York), and in search of “true love.”
At first, I let them talk. My country is already disliked throughout the world for its politics and rude people, and nothing is gained by reinforcing all the negative mental images.
Even though the screen says NY or LA, she reveals that she isn’t there now, and is, in fact, in Ghana. She likes the ocean, mountains, walking on the beach, dining out, quiet evenings at home, and feels as comfortable in fancy clothes as she does in jeans. The usual stuff, copied and pasted from American women’s profiles. Not an original thought in it. Faith will guide her, she states, to the one kind, generous man who can provide a lifetime of love and happiness.
Alarm bells begin to ring.
I point out that even faith will need a boost if the search extends several thousand miles across the Atlantic to a culture about as unlike hers as possible. At the same time, I wonder if people can become that desperate for affection, or if something is up.
Invariably, as described on this web site, a scam is under way, its objective money.
I don’t let them get to the point where they ask. As amazing as the concentration of all this in one small country is the fact that men, lonely and in love with a hot picture, send funds for passports, visas, cell phones, plane tickets to the States, and to cover an assortment of emergencies.
The women might not even be from Ghana, or women.
Ray Davies, lead singer of the Kinks, foresaw the problems the Internet would create in his 1970 song “Lola.” Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, he wrote; it’s a mixed-up, jumbled-up, shook-up world. It really is. Pictures of models can be saved from modeling sites and added to profiles created by men. Anyone can be whomever they want in cyberspace.
How unlike a time in which people over a certain age grew up, when every small town had weekend dances where single men and women could meet others like themselves. People over a certain age who are more likely to accept things as they seem because they learned that’s how the world operated. In an era of cyberscams, they’re the most vulnerable.
The time finally came, despite my country’s tattered reputation, to just say NO to all the international tomfoolery. When the last suspicious IM arrived, I typed “You are from Ghana. Leave me alone” and hit Send. She vanished. That gave me more bandwidth for messages from American girls eager and anxious for me to view them on their Webcams. At least they wouldn’t be hitting on me for plane fare to the States. They’re already here.