It’s been a long time since a post was written on Sparrow Chat. On April 11th 2021 I wrote an article entitled, “When The Tears Have Dried,” following the loss of my wife to cancer. I did try to keep the blog going, but when grief is paramount everything I would normally consider writing about seemed somehow trivial and not worthy of effort.
I really wanted to write about the loss of my wife, but it was impossible. To try was to induce a flood of tears, and even now I cannot find the stamina to keep them at bay long enough to write even these two short paragraphs.
So, a change of subject is required, and I found it in today’s Guardian newspaper. It appears that Mastercard has been fined £31.5 million for price fixing with other companies involved in running and distributing pre-paid debit cards.
I’d not had much to do with pre-paid plastic cards, but after twelve months on my own in a foreign country with no friends and only one neighbour who speaks an unintelligible amalgam of Breton French, I was in desperate need of some company, preferably of the female variety. As I live in the wilds of Brittany and the only females around, apart from cows, are farmer’s wives I turned somewhat reluctantly to the internet chat and dating sites.
My late wife and I met on a dating site. She was in America and I was in Wales in the UK, and the site was Yahoo’s “Find a Friend.” Totally free, with no adverts, and even a box to tick for “Pen Pals Only,” it bore no relation to the highly commercialized, advert-ridden, glossy, expensive, caricatures pervading this genre today.
I rapidly learned that ‘Free’ meant you didn’t pay an exorbitant fee to become a member. That came later, after going to much trouble to input a ton of information on yourself that took a good hour or more. The relief of completion and the exhilaration of expecting at any moment a bevy of suitable ladies to be paraded before one’s eyes, rapidly dwindled when the resulting next page was a price list of what was available for a considerable sum of money.
Having just expended all that energy setting up my ‘profile’ I muttered a few well chosen expletives at what I perceived to be the gang of crooks who ran the site, then did what I imagine most fellows did at this point, begrudgingly coughed up the minimum sum required.
Finally, the ladies began to show themselves. It wasn’t long before I was selecting likely females and offering myself as the answer to these maiden’s prayers. After a goodly selection, I settled back and waited for the responses to come flooding in. Needless to say, there weren’t any. Not one of my selected ladies bothered to show any response, least of all swooning at my photos or pledging undying love.
Meanwhile, my ‘profile’ had gone live, and messages began to appear in my site ‘Inbox’. Oh dear, now I’m no spring chicken, but it was obvious these were ladies of very advanced years. It saddened me that loneliness drove them to expose themselves in this way, but they were not for me.
Eventually, I cancelled my subscription and a friend suggested I try a site called Mingle2. In hindsight I’m not sure I should call him a friend.
“Oh, yes,” he enthused, “there’s great girls on Mingle2!“
Yes, there are great girls on Mingle2. It also houses probably the greatest collection of scammers, fraudsters, and general criminals of any dating site online.
At first glance, many of the photos could have come straight from Vogue. I’m sure many of them did. I was inundated with offers of lifelong love from ladies young enough to not just be my daughter, but my grand-daughter. Their persistence, assurances that “age means nothing in love,” and even offers to move in with me right away, were at first an effective boost to my ego, until I learned a new phrase that rapidly took some of that shine away.
“I need a recharge.”
The first time I heard it, from a young woman in her thirties, left me scratching my head. Was this some new sexual proposition I’d not heard before? It certainly conjured up a myriad of possibilities in my fertile imagination. I asked, as delicately as I could manage, for clarification.
“A recharge,” was the response, “I need a recharge on my PCS card. Are you going to help me out?”
Okay, I was now beginning to comprehend that this wasn’t some new method of engaging in any romantic activity. Further investigation revealed that the lady in question held a pre-paid debit card issued by Mastercard. In order to use it, she – or more likely, me – would go to a website online that sold ‘codes’, colloquially known as ‘coupons’, and for a fee it was possible to buy one of these codes, with a value ranging from 50€ to 250€, present the code to the lady who would then upload it to her PCS card, which she could then use to purchase anything that could be purchased using a credit card such as Mastercard.
After explaining that I never gave money to someone I hadn’t met, and was not going to make an exception for her, I rapidly found myself no longer chatting with the lady. Oh well, better luck next time.
No, there was no better luck, although some women would happily keep up a conversation for weeks before raising the subject. It was lulling the unfortunate male into a false sense of security.
I soon came to realize that Mingle2 was awash with women whose only reason for being there was to make a dishonest living. If they had no joy with one man, they simply moved on to another.
It was prostitution without sex. I’m quite sure some of these ‘girls’ were actually men who downloaded photos of beautiful women and used them to entrap their victims. One I encountered, used images of an America porn star. Google ‘Lens’ brought that to light, though it’s not such a good tool since Google has discovered they make a lot of money from it by using it to sell stuff.
There are some genuine ladies on Mingle2, but they’re hard to find. Usually, like me, they’ve been directed there by an ill-informed friend.
Mastercard’s large £31.5 million fine, as reported in the Guardian today, was not specifically about PCS cards, but there is no doubt much of the business they make from such cards is through their use for fraudulent scamming on the internet. I’m sure Mingle2 isn’t the only site where it’s prevalent. From my experience, it’s obvious that there’s a whole host of women, mainly French on Mingle2, making a good living by offering their love and affection to men in return for a ‘coupon’. Once the man has made the mistake of coughing up the money, they find their loved-one either disappears, or stays until that particular well runs dry, before moving on to their next victim.
As for Mastercard, they’ll always make a profit. A fine of £31.5 million is a drop in the ocean to them.
Meanwhile their product is a great tool for the anonymous scammers and fraudsters who prey on lonely men.