‘A Date at the Royal Opera’

January 19, 2013 1:10 pm

This was the headline of a rather unusual posting on Craigslist a couple of weeks ago. The first words read, ‘I love culture!’, and it then went on to describe how this young woman would really love to go to the opera but can’t seem to find anyone to go with her. So she resorted to Craiglist. She also hinted towards the fact that she might even be up for a date—if the chemistry was right.

Sherlock Holmes

As a journalist I love to expose scams. It can be rather tricky because, despite the fact that some scams seem pretty obvious, it is difficult to obtain a shred of evidence to prove that they are in fact scams.

This particular post was interesting, and so I replied, not entirely sure at the time whether it was actually a scam at all. I wrote back saying that I must be dreaming because I was also looking for somebody to go to the opera with. The reply came very swiftly, very polite, and in well-written English. A 24-year-old Finnish woman named Emilia told me that I wasn’t dreaming at all and that she would in fact, really, really, like to go to the opera with me. We continued to exchange a couple of e-mails about classical music and opera. I am a great lover of the opera and I know a fair bit about it (although not as much as I would like to know). Emilia also seemed to be fairly knowledgeable, but in the age of Wikipedia everybody can be knowledgeable about anything within a matter of seconds, as long as the conversation is conducted via e-mail. She also sent me a picture of herself to prove she was indeed young and beautiful, just like her ad had promised.

L'Elisir D'Amore’

I then purchased a couple of tickets for ‘L’Elisir D’Amore’, by Donizetti, at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. They were rather expensive but I was curious as to what would happen next—and I wanted to see the opera myself. Emilia seemed impressed with my choice and wrote that she was very much looking forward to it. What can I say? I was looking forward to it too, albeit for altogether different reasons: a) I wasn’t entirely sure whether this was a scam or not b) If it wasn’t a scam, why would a young woman post an ad like that, after all opera is not very popular among young people c) If it was in fact a scam, to what end?

We met a couple of days later at the steps of the Royal Opera House. I had decided not to wear a suit, despite her asking me to. She was on time and impressed me even more in the flesh than she did in the picture. She was tall and blonde, resembling Kim Basinger, but with very bad skin, which made me slightly suspicious. I worked for a local newspaper a long time ago and in the course of my duties as a roving reporter, I had to visit a local drug rehab centre occasionally. What stuck in my mind after the visits was that all the ex-junkies had very bad skin. Emilia’s skin reminded me of this.

Hugh Hefner

The Finnish beauty was visibly disappointed that I wasn’t wearing a suit, which I found very odd. Why would anyone be disappointed with an opera date not wearing a suit? It then dawned on me that I probably wasn’t what she was hoping for. I think it was pretty obvious by now that I wasn’t wealthy, whereas the opera was filled to the brink with wealthy old guys. She was also a little frosty and detached and claimed to be a student of German in London, yet at the same time complained about Germans being rude, stating that she didn’t enjoy living in Germany. Strange, I thought, why would anyone study a language of a country that they don’t like?

The opera was absolutely wonderful and I enjoyed every minute of it. Emilia was visibly fidgety and couldn’t relax. By now I assumed that she was thinking of this evening as a wasted opportunity. However, she had to keep going along for the scam not to be exposed. She was rather moany during the performance, but she very cleverly talked me into buying her drinks and something to eat during the break in a somewhat professional manner. She was constantly taking pictures of the performance and the Opera House—proof that she had actually been there?

After the performance Emilia almost ran off. If I hadn’t been quickly walking alongside her she would have just left me at the steps of the Opera House. At the tube station she hastily said good-bye and encouraged me to get in touch if I wanted to go the opera again. That confused me a little because if I wasn’t in her target group, why would she want to spend another evening with me?

A couple of days later I wrote her an email. To spice things up a bit, I told her I thought she would sleep with me because I had paid for the rather expensive opera tickets—this wasn’t the truth, but I was trying to figure out ways for her to trip up and expose herself as a scammer. Her reply was one to be expected; she got very angry and asked me whether I was nuts, and so forth.

Kim Basinger

I waited a couple more days and apologized for my rudeness. I then asked her whether she wanted to go to the opera with me again. She gladly agreed and when I suggested that it was her turn to pay for the tickets, I received the following response: “Hahaha, that’s never going to happen. Ever!” I replied, saying that I found her response slightly odd and that it would be perfectly reasonable for her to pay for the tickets this time. That’s when she (or whoever wrote these e-mails) started to crack. She got very aggressive and basically told me to f*ck off, so I got straight in there with another provocative reply: “Let me explain to you how this works: People get invited to the opera if they’re nice, friendly and appreciative; you are neither off those.” Her response was as follows: “You disgust me you lowlife and if you don’t apologize I will publish all your e-mails on the Internet. I bet your wife would like that.” To which I replied: “My wife already knows that I have been to the opera with you so go ahead and publish!” After a couple of days I received the following reply: “Never ever contact me again. If you fail to do so I will report you to the police.”

By now somebody had flagged her as a scammer on Craigslist and she had to scare me off to make sure I wouldn’t take this matter any further. I thought it was time to put an end to all this, after all, I am not Veronica Guerin. Shame, though, that I never found out who she actually was or who she was working for. Maybe I’ll be more successful with the next scammer… I’ll keep you posted.

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