Kayla and the Adopted Puppy Scam

With an estimated worth of $12 billion world wide, and around 25 million swiping singles in the US alone last year, dating apps have quickly become both a cash cow and the mainstream way of meeting that special someone.

And while app developers strain their backs trying to carry all that money to the bank, there’s another group of individuals running to get in on the seemingly endless cash flow — internet scammers preying on those blinded by love.

These scammers create fake profiles using photos they steal from others social media accounts and swipe “yes” on everyone, just hoping to match with someone who will be an easy victim. 

I’ve crossed paths with a few scammers as I’ve causally used dating apps in the past and can usually pick them out by their poorly worded bios (like my previous scam story), but sometimes it’s not until we start chatting that I realize they’re a fake. This was the case with my latest scammer, whom I knew wasn’t real by her 3rd message. 

So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Kayla Manthey, who was brave enough to message me first once we matched.

Let’s jump right into the messages…

Am thinking Kayla might be new here…

It took no time at all for Kayla to request we take our conversation from the dating app to Google Hangouts. This was fine with me, seeing how she had access to my real first name and a handful of photos on the app. I quickly created a fake Gmail account I could chat with her from, sent her a message, and deleted her from the dating app so she couldn’t go back and see my profile. As far as she was concerned I had always been my new persona, Braden O’Henry. 

I always like prodding my scammers to see how little they know about the country they’re trying to convince me they live in, so thought I’d try to pass Salt Lake off as the state and Utah as the city in which I lived, inspired by the 2001 quote from Dallas Maverick’s great Dirk Nowitzki saying that “Utah is a bad city.”

This was a make-or-break moment in the scam. I wasn’t about to send Kayla real photos of myself so I needed a mask for this scam. She’d already seen what I look like before I deleted her from the app, so I needed to find someone who fit my general description: white male, mid-30’s, with a beard. I ended up going with professional basketball player and NBA Champion, Kevin Love.

There’s very little resemblance between Kevin and me in my mind, but something told me Kayla wouldn’t know the difference. I quickly Googled a picture of Kevin and sent it to her…

Kayla sent me a picture of whomever’s profile she’d stolen from for her scam. I did a reverse image search hoping to figure out who the girl pictured really was, but had no luck.

Kayla sent another stolen photo…

Kayla denying my request for a date made me feel right at home with my other dating app conversations. 

I Googled another picture of Kevin and sent it to her…  

One of my favorite part of messaging scammers is seeing how many backhanded compliments I can give them and subtle jabs I can take before they call me out for being mean. I typically get away with quite a bit as they’re willing to sit and take it if it means they still have a chance at scamming me. 

Kayla messaged me bright and early the next morning…

The scam Kayla was running is based on the premise that we’d fall madly in love so I’ll send her money, and yet here she was putting me in the friend zone. Props to her for not rushing into our pretend relationship… 

I was over the mindless chit-chat and just wanted Kayla to get to the part where she asked for money, but she was determined to build a solid foundation of our forthcoming relationship.

Props to anyone who picked up on the irony of me saying I was babysitting my kids. It’s a big pet peeve of mine when I hear men say they’re “watching their kids” like it’s a chore. This was all part of my plan to make myself sound like a dirtbag and further fuel Kayla’s desire to scam me… 

Shout out to beautiful Logan Canyon in Northern Utah for providing Kayla’s new lock screen wallpaper.

Looking good Kevin… err… Braden.

I was pretty surprised Kayla tried video calling me. Who would I have seen on the other end of that call? Part of me wishes I would have answered and part of me is glad I didn’t so this game could continue…

The small talk was wearing thin and I was starting to question if Kayla was actually just some lonely catfish looking for a distraction from her sad life, when she sent me a picture out of the blue and our conversation got interesting… 

FINALLY — We’d arrived at the scam. Kayla wanted me to send her a Google Play gift card so she could transfer the balance to another card and disappear forever. 

Oh, and I meant that literally, Kayla. Let the games begin.

Kayla was very short with me, thinking I was playing games with her, which I absolutely was doing.

Kayla tried video calling me and not two minutes after denying her call, she tried again…

Kayla appeared very frustrated and rattled off eight quick messages in a row, followed by another video call, and three more messages…

I felt like Kaya was about to give up on me so hurried and sent her a picture of the Google Play card I bought…

I thought Jigsaw from the SAW movies was a nice touch, seeing how his catchphrase is “I want to play a game” and Kayla and I had just started the ultimate game.

Before I could send Kayla a picture of the back of the Google Game Card she sent two examples, as if the concept of front vs. back was lost on me… 

Kayla wasn’t convinced the card I bought was legit so asked for a close up so she could read the fine print…

I waited for the keyboard warrior to finish her frantic messaging and sent a picture of the back of the card…

“Please understand me very well…” 

Kayla’s demeanor went from cold & short to overly friendly & understanding once she saw the photoshopped card and realized that I wasn’t playing games with her (I really was) and that I was going to send her money (I really wasn’t). 

“Am very angry with the card right now…” 

“You are giving me a doubting on mind right now” is a phrase I’m incorporating into my everyday vocabulary.

A few hours went by and I didn’t reply to Kayla, so she randomly sent me another stolen picture…

I didn’t reply to Kayla’s picture that night so she messaged me first thing in the morning…

Kayla seemed pumped to play Oregon Trail with me so I figured why buy a regular Amazon gift card when I could surprise her with something special instead?

I sent Kayla a picture of the scratched card, which just so happened to be the exact same picture she sent me of the card a few minutes earlier, with the Oregon Trail Card photoshopped over the top, but I was confident she wouldn’t recognize her own hand…

I listed the address for the Salt Lake City Police Department on the Amazon receipt and a phone number for the all-time Tommy Tutone classic 867-5309, which has been featured in several of my scams and would make several more appearances in this one. Just try and listen to this song without singing the backup vocals “EIGHT-SIX-SEVEN-FIVE-THREE-OHHH-NI-EEEE-INNNE!” you can’t do it!

The 16-digit number on the back of the card spells out “I KNOW THIS IS A SCAM” if you were to type it on your phone, but I knew Kayla wouldn’t pick up on that in a million years.

She had all the info she needed to steal my money but still wasn’t convinced…

I sent Kayla a picture of Amazon employee Donald Mitchelson, played by none other than Utah Jazz phenom Donovan Mitchell.

Donovan’s “YOU DID THIS. IT’S YOUR FAULT.” moment is one of my favorites so far in his young career. For those not familiar, you can watch it here.

Now back to Kayla trying to sort out the Amazon gift card mishap…

Kayla was not a fan of Donald…

I sent Kayla a picture of Amazon Manager Michael Scarn, a fictional character created by Michael Scott, a fictional character played by Steve Carell in the TV series The Office.

“The guy and the manager wrong you babe…” 

Kayla wasn’t convinced I’d get the right card so sent another example while I was pedaling to PetSmart…

The “buy a dog for $5 and get a $100 Amazon gift card free” promo at PetSmart is rare, so you have to jump on it when it comes. I sent Kayla a picture as proof once I arrived at the store…

And just like that Kayla agreed that I should purchase a living, breathing animal that would need to be cared for everyday for the rest of its life, just so she could get a $100 Amazon card.

Dwigt was not my typo, but rather Michael Scott’s typo when he wrote his screenplay Threat Level Midnight. Again, if you’re not familiar with this episode of The Office you really should check it out.

I sent Kayla a copy of the Pet Adoption Application that she needed to fill out before I could buy a dog so she could get the Amazon gift card.

Kayla wanted nothing to do with the application so I sent her a picture of the back of the Amazon card to entice her to fill it out…

Kayla couldn’t wrap her head around this seemingly normal promotion so I sent her a picture of Dwigt, played by Rainn Wilson, in hopes it would help…

I literally laughed out loud when I saw Kayla’s screenshot with her Google search “Salt Lake Utah PetSmart sells Amazon gift card cards.”  

For those not familiar with my previous scams, I always try and get the scammer to fill out an application or answer a series of questions, one of which is always “when was the last time you wet the bed?” I laugh when I imagine the confused look on their faces as they read it, wondering what it has to do with anything. Surprisingly enough, most times they’ll answer it.

Kayla gave me her answers and there was absolutely nothing I could do now to spoil her plans…

On second thought, perhaps there was ONE thing I could do to spoil her plans…

Kayla’s plan to steal my money was … spoiled.

Kayla wasn’t pleased…

I’m quite good at spoiling things, Kayla.

Kayla was trying to see the positive side of things, telling me that I was lucky to get the dogs I didn’t want to begin with.

Kayla threw out a backhanded compliment of her own, saying that she fell in love with me just because she’d been so lonely lately. Touché.

Things weren’t sitting well with her so she sent me message, after message, after message as I made the long journey home on my one-speed bicycle…

Get a grip, Karen.

I knew my joke about Kayla not wearing any bottoms because they were camouflage would be miles over her head, but I made it anyways. It’s always reassuring when someone proves they are who they say they are with a piece of paper from seven years ago. I had no reason to doubt her authenticity now.

The next morning Kayla and I picked up where we left off…

Kayla REALLY didn’t like Donald Mitchelson…

I’d failed several times at sending Kayla gift cards but she truly believed she was sitting on a goldmine with me and decided to go ALL IN on the scam. No more 50$ gift cards — she was playing in the big leagues now, hoping I’d wire her hundreds of dollars so she could fly to the city of Utah to live with me…

Again, going ALL IN hoping for enough money for airfare and a makeover.

I’m assuming the MoneyGram nearest Kayla was closed and that’s why she wanted me to wait until morning to wire the money. She’d steal it tomorrow, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t try and squeeze a little extra cash out of me tonight…

It was a valiant effort, Kayla but that extra 50$ wasn’t going to happen. The next morning she messaged me…

The air quotes on “ran away” should have been concerning to Kayla, but she was only concerned about getting that airfare money wired to her…

$500 for airfare, a passport she should have already had if she flew into Canada, and stamps on her papers. Kayla and I were playing a heated game of Poker and she was ALL. IN.

Kayla was concerned that I couldn’t get her roommates name right. She wouldn’t be able to claim the money if it was addressed to the wrong person.

I quickly looked up this Mazbeen character I was supposed to wire money to and found out that she is indeed a very real person living in Canada, and did not appear to be a con-artist. 

The sad part of these scams is the how many people they effect. There was a good chance that Mazbeen was unknowingly involved in some other scam Kayla was running, with Kayla on the other end telling her “my uncle Braden O’Henry is going to wire you $500 and I need you to send it to me at xxx because I lost my license.” Shuffling money around like this is a common tactic used by scammers because it makes it difficult to track the money and scam source should authorities get involved. 

Why couldn’t her roommate have an easier name to remember like Kayla or Karen?

And a closeup of the boarding pass…

Such a grand gesture! I was sure Kayla would be thrilled that I booked her a seat on the disastrous Oceanic Airlines from the TV show LOST….

I set our wedding date for the day after Kayla would arrive in the city of Utah. I figured that would give us enough time to arrange everything for our basketball arena ceremony.

Kayla was not happy and her rapid-fire messages had me laughing out loud. “Did you smoke marijuana or drugs?” is my new favorite way of asking someone if they’re crazy.

This was no laughing matter though, our relationship was in serious trouble…

I still don’t know what Kayla was getting at saying she was going to book her own flight. Maybe it was an last-ditch attempt to try and get me to cancel the flight I’d booked on a fake airline and wire her the money instead?

Kayla sent me photographic evidence of every instance I’d messed up and caused her to miss out on free money during our tumultuous relationship. The series of rapid-fire messages that followed the images read like the track-listing of some angry rock and roll record.

I wasn’t going to sit back and take Kayla’s verbal abuse when she was just as much in the wrong here, so let her know my feelings too…

By this point I knew what a gift card looked like but Kayla sent another example for good measure…

A short time later I text Kayla, letting her know I had arrived to buy her a Google Play card…

And a close up of the Google Play Gift Certificate.

I sent Kayla a picture of the Walmart employee, Arthur Fleck, the character played by Joaquin Phoenix in Joker.

“Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?” -Arthur Fleck

Kayla was adamant I not scratch something that couldn’t be scratched…

Kayla clearly wasn’t grasping the concept of a gift certificate. They must not be too common in California where she was most definitely from.

“You are the dumbest person I’ve ever met in my entire life.” was the most coherent sentence Kayla had pieced together since we started talking and it was a copy + paste job sent immediately after I sent it to her.

Kayla had told me she was done with my games several times now but all I had to do was dangle the promise of a gift card in front of her and she was right back in, willing to give me ONE more chance…

“Am so much stressed alot today” is a mood we’ve all been able to relate to at one time or another.

A few minutes passed since Kayla and I exchanged insults suited for a six-year old, when she sent me a video. It showed up as a black screen (as seen above) and I was honestly a little scared to open it. Who knew what I was about to see/wouldn’t be able to unsee? I took a deep breath, pressed play, and saw this…

“Sometimes you have to say ‘I’m sorry’ even if you are right.” This was the most non-apology apology I’d ever heard, so instead of accepting it and apologizing back, I laughed it off and told Kayla it was creepy, just to get further under her skin. We were battling it out in the mind game Olympics final and I planned on going home with the Gold.

Kayla was done with my drama for the night and didn’t respond. I think she was too angry with me to sleep so went full internet-detective, trying to figure out what my problem was, which lead her to an alarming discovery…

Still hung up on that Google Gift Certificate…

Kayla tried video calling but I wasn’t about to answer. I wanted to see how this played out in messenger.

I was honestly a little surprised that it was the Jazz poster in the background that tipped Kayla off, not the obviously photoshopped puppies hanging out on the PetSmart counter.

I was floored that Kayla was giving me ONE more chance to come through with a gift card. I quickly snapped a picture of the McDonalds where I was enjoying a meal so she could see we weren’t just running in circles.

“I pity your times” sounds like it could be the title of a bonus track on either of Kayla’s rock and roll albums.

I sent Kayla a picture of all 10 gift cards I bought, as well as the activation code on the back, and the receipt…

Kayla still wasn’t having it. She was mad as ever…

Kayla telling me that I am freaking good at what I do and calling me a mad man was honestly the highlight of this experience. It was nice to get a little recognition for the countless hours I’d wasted leading her on.

“I suppose to block you but I don’t know how to block here…”

Kayla was adamant that I confess I was a fake and reveal my true identity, but that wasn’t going to happen because I have two personal rules that I follow with these scams:

1- I’ll never admit that I’m anyone other than the person I’m pretending to be.
2- I’ll never be the one to stop messaging, and will carry on for months if needed. The scammer has to be the one to cut ties.

I wasn’t sending Kayla any picture’s so she tried video calling me again…

This was actually a real photo on Kevin Love’s Instagram profile but Kayla thought it was another fake…

Kayla didn’t respond so I messaged her again…

An hour went by and she was still MIA, so I sent her a message that was sure to get a response…

And here’s the actual video…

CONCLUSION:

Kayla FINALLY figured out how to block me on Google Hangouts, an act that took me a little under 15 seconds to figure out when I tried. We had a rough go of things from the start and looking back, I’ve realized that there were several red flags from the beginning and we were probably never meant to be together. I don’t even like video games.

Speaking of red flags, now is the time that I share the same thought that I share at the conclusion of all my scam stories: If you find something (or someone) on the internet that seems too good to be true, it probably is and there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a scammer. If a complete stranger asks you to send them money or gift cards, they’re probably a scammer. If your bank, government, hospital, local law enforcement, etc. call out of the blue asking you to verify personal financial information, they’re probably a scammer.

There are a lot of complex scams happening these days (ones that put Kayla’s to shame) so PLEASE be smart with the personal information you put out there and the strangers you talk to online. Think twice anytime your money is involved, and if you find that you are dealing with a scammer — please send them my way so I can introduce them to Braden O’Henry and his adopted dogs.

 

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