Ashley Badison

I heard about this new romance scam—well, not so new, at its heart, but they’ve slapped some fresh paint on it, and here’s how it goes:

The Setup

They slap together a dating site, indistinguishable from the rest but for two minor details: first, clients are charged by the message, not by the month, and second, it’s marketed to cheaters. Ashley Madison, sort of thing*. They put up their ads and the blokes all come running, but it’s all blokes. No women. That’s what they want. That’s who they’re counting on.

The Seduction

At first blush, everything seems fine. You sign up and see real-looking women, fat and skinny, young and old, filtered and unfiltered. There are awkward nudes, mirror shots, pics with the faces blurred out. There are long, rambling profiles and ones that get straight to the point. You can see who’s online and who’s checking you out, or so you might think. Really, there’s no-one. It’s all automated.

Still, you can talk to them. You can send messages and get replies, sweet ones and dirty ones, and they’ll come from real people. Swear at them, they’ll get cross (but not too cross. They’ll never cut you off). Say something strange, they’ll get confused. Ask them out, and they’re busy, always busy. They can’t meet you. They’re ghosts.

You can test them, ask them anything, and they’ll convince you they’re local. Everything Google knows, so do they. You’ve got to be clever if you want to trip them up, like this fucking rain, right? Only, you say that when it’s sunny. Odds are they won’t check, and you’ll know them for liars.

The Tug-of-War

You want to get laid. They want to get paid. That’s where the tug-of-war starts, and that’s why they use cheating sites. You’re Lancelot courting Guinevere. It’s high drama, the hero, the maid, and the jealous spouse. It’s exciting. It’s forbidden. It’s the perfect ruse to string you along forever.

Call you? I’d love to, but my husband’s in the other room. I’m lying here in my panties and he’s ignoring me. You’d never do that, would you?

I’d love to slip away. It breaks my heart to know you’re alone, but Bluebeard is guarding the door. Still, one day, I’ll be free. Tell me again how our life will be.

The music festival? OMG, I’m facepalming so hard right now! My husband has this gala, and I’m his reluctant arm candy. Next time, maybe!

It really is operatic. But you’re Rigoletto, not the Duke.

The Truth

Who are you talking to? Desperate women, mostly disabled ones and stay-at-home mums, pecking out messages for a few cents a pop. They might be in your building. They might be on the other side of the world. Either way, they don’t want you. You probably gross them out. They can totally see you telling ten women they’re each your one and only. (Hell, they all kind of are. They’re the same virtual call centre.)

Who profits? Not the women, not really. They earn gas money, pay a few bills. Don’t hate them too much. They’re worse off than you are. The bulk of your cash feeds a small group of scammers. Oh, and porn sites, ’cause that’s where they advertise.

Signs You’re Being Scammed

  1. Real women rarely respond to a dick pic or “DTF?”. Scam sites return a high response rate, up to 90%, no matter what you say. (The 10% that won’t respond, that’s to make it believable. No-one would buy 100% success.)
  2. Real women will block your ass if you piss them off. Think about it. Would you spend hours placating some asshole, or trying to convince him you’re not a catfish? Well, neither would anyone else.
  3. Does your sweetheart always follow up within, say, eight hours of your last message? Fake sites send out timed teasers to draw you back in. They’ll always hit your inbox at roughly the same intervals.
  4. Did you find the site you’re using through an ad on Pornhub, or on any site geared towards middle-aged men? That’s not an accident. These guys don’t pitch to women.
  5. Does your darling recall every detail of your past conversations, even the meaningless ones? Yeah. They keep notes on you.
  6. Does the conversation somehow turn dirty every time you try to set up a date? Come on, dude. Nobody gets so horny they forget they’re trying to get laid.
  7. Trust your instincts. Does the conversation you’re having feel real? Someone who’s interested in you will want to share themselves with you. They’ll cough up the minutiae of their lives unsolicited. They’ll tell little stories, describe their homes and friends and frustrations. Scammers won’t do that. Their profit depends on volume. There’s no time to embellish.

That said…

…if you’ve joined a cheating site, you might deserve a good fleecing. Get a divorce, already! Don’t be a wanker.

* I don’t believe the actual Ashley Madison went so far as to respond to users from fake profiles, but they certainly padded the ranks. (

** I stand corrected—Ashley Madison did exactly as described, short of hiring real people to chat up their customers. They used bots instead: