I just turned in an Instagram site and an email for phishing and fraud. It is embarrassing to have responded to this one as long as I did, keeping the fantasy going. These scammers are very sophisticated, and I am human.
Background. I filed for divorce last month from my wife of 25.5 years. We had grown apart anyway, but then there was the lockdown and COVID. I moved home to continue my practice on the Internet and she had just retired and was planning on getting a part time job and reconnecting with friends. As so many couples were “stress tested” by COVID, we were also. And we determined it is time to go our separate ways.
Needless to say, that is never an easy decision for anyone, and I went/go through the wringer with my anger, hurt, resentment, blame, sadness, grief and loss. I know I share equal blame in the decline of our relationship. I won’t go into details: privacy. However, being a former Hospice bereavement coordinator, I know releasing grief is important. Last month I stumbled on YouTube songs of FM radio from 1978 (college). I heard Queen, a band I loved in High School (I even managed to get a bootleg copy of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at 15 years old). I have not followed popular music much for decades, but started listening to Queen as I prepared my taxes for the accountant appointment 3 weeks ago.
So many songs spoke to me and released my grief: “Love of My Life” and Brian May’s cascading guitar riffs in “These Are The Days of Our Lives” were a balm to my broken heart, opening me to finally wail and release. And healing is beginning.
Queen songs brought me back to a part of myself I lost touch with. I was a full person with a full life for 36 years before I met my wife. The memories of prior experiences, friendships and living through the scourge of AIDS, reconnected me to my younger self. This month, I immersed myself in the “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie, watched countless Queen concerts and music videos. And the emotions that surfaced made me particularly vulnerable.
I rejoined Instagram, in order to follow Sir Dr. Brian May. Lo and behold, his “son” Jimmy contacted me on Instagram last night, promising to have an avid fan like me actually talk to Sir Brian himself. Yes, I wondered why on earth this son would be trolling the Internet for fans of his dad’s music. But it was such beautiful attention and thrilled me to my core. (See, I told myself, I am appreciated!). We texted back and forth and eventually he said his dad would contact me today. I awoke at 5 am and discovered that indeed! Brian May had texted me on Instagram 2 hours earlier.
Yes, I am ashamed to say I took the bait. The next 2 hours were a flurry of texts and attempted phone calls and video calls. (Oddly, my phone would not connect to the network this morning). I saw Brian May’s blurry but familiar face, mouth moving, but the audio was “not working.” I suggested he accept my invitation to my doxy.me confidential platform through which I meet with my clients. Twice I sent the invite. He never responded to those. “He” became pushy, urging me to reserve a time to “meet and greet in person” no passport needed, and it would only cost me 3, 4 or 5,000 English Pounds. Right now. However, that process was slow and no dates were ever suggested. Finally I got an email explaining how to pay: GIFT CARDS!
Scam over. I fell for one of those scams on eBay last year. The next solution, after I “offended him” by calling him a scammer, he wanted “instant transfer of funds.” Link helpfully provided. Of course “Brian” was deeply offended by my calling him a scam. He eventually voice called on Instagram. This time I heard “Brian’s” voice: with a German accent! And the English syntax was sketchy, as it had been through texting. I forgave that as I am less than accurate in texting. I forgave too much.
So, I put an end to it all and reported the Instagram and Google addresses they used, then blocked them on my end.
I felt stupid. Who wouldn’t? I have fallen for a gift card scam before. But I realized,
1) This was a very sophisticated scam and caught me in a vulnerable space. I loved the fantasy of texting with someone I admire, believing I was important enough to be acknowledged. It was thrilling, though completely unrealistic.
2) The power of the mind is amazing. Having wallowed in grief and sadness, the thought that someone I admire would be gracious enough to contact me is powerful. It turns out, the only interaction I had was in my own head. All of this comes down to my thoughts. And thoughts affect how I feel. What I focus on is powerful. I can create thoughts of love and appreciation or I can dwell in thoughts of hurt and sadness.
We all are still vulnerable to the ravages of COVID the past 3 years. Being isolated from one another and losing the ability to hug or meet face to face has taken a toll on everyone around the world. So, Pride Season is almost here. Look for me at various Prides! Let’s have coffee at Hazel Perks, let’s chat about the weather! If you are vaxxed and masked, let’s share a hug! How about a bite to eat at Pronto?
And just like me, your thoughts create your reality. In one sense, I created this whole incident. I wanted so badly to be loved, recognized, appreciated that I fell for crumbs of a fake interaction. I can direct my own thoughts to connect with the real heroes, friends and neighbors in my community. Whatever you think, you can create!
And as I reread this post before sending it to GOAL, I just got 2 more pings from two separate “Brian May Harold” on Instagram. They just never quit!