I admit it – I’m an online scrabble junkie. I’ve been playing Words with Friends (WWF) developed by Zynga, for over eight years. I have many games going with people from around the world.

It keeps my brain active and I love connecting with other like-minded Scrabble nuts. The game is always friendly, competitive, and lots of fun. Unfortunately, it’s also attracting scammers, mostly directed at women.

So Many Rich Handsome Men

Over the past couple of years, the app has changed. Suddenly, I’m inundated with guys wanting to hook up because they have fallen madly in love with me at first sight.

I put my picture on my profile because many people I have known and lost touch with have found me that way. So, the scammers use my photo to choose an age appropriate mate.

The pictures of these handsome older men are often taken on a yacht or in front of a beautiful home with lots of palm trees. Some are wearing decorated army uniforms or doctor scrubs. All stolen pictures I’m sure.

Talk to Me, Baby

The app provides a chat facility, attached to each game, that is activated after each player makes the first move. Here are some of the things these clowns have said to me:

  • “I saw your profile picture cutie one, and just had to say hi. We could hook up and hopefully be wonderful soul mates.” Right!
  • “No man born of a woman will see you and pass you buy without taking a second thought of you. I hope to read from you so we can get to know each other more better.” Spelling and grammar is not his strong suit.
  • “You are the air I breathe, the heat of the sun, the light of the moon. We were meant to be together.” Barf!

Getting Sucked In

There are many stories online about women falling for this routine. They can’t locate you from the WWF app if you haven’t put your full name or personal information there.

So, the scammers start by getting you to join other online chat forums, like Kik App, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, etc., or they ask for your email. That way they can get more personal and the real scuzzy romancing begins.

So Many Sad Stories

Once they have you hooked, they will often ask for iTunes cards or money to pay for surgery for a sick son or daughter. Or they might say they have only a couple months to live with lots of cash to give away. But they need funds from you to activate the dispensing of said estate. (Yes, people do fall for this.)

Many of them are so-called engineers working on an oilrig. I guess that keeps them from being contacted and verified.

I live in Canada, but my profile says I live in the USA. You know when someone says he’s from California and asks, “How’s the weather condition over there,” or “Good morning my sweet Ma,” he’s not from this side of the planet. So, while most players are bona fide, there are many who are not what they seem.

Are They Actually Human?

Often, scammers don’t appear to even read your answers, so sometimes I think it’s a BOT doing this stuff. Here are a few examples:

  • Him: Where are you from? Me: Planet Mars. Him: Great, what’s your email address?
  • Him: What do you do for a living? Me: Catch cockroaches on WWF. Him: I would love to be your best friend and gaze into your beautiful eyes.
  • Him: Are you married? Me: Yes, I have 5 husbands, 9 children, and 3 elephants. Him: We could have a beautiful life together my precious.

10 Ways to Enjoy the Game and Protect Yourself

Here are some strategies that I think will help you not fall into these scam traps:

  • If they get familiar right away, resign the game and block the player. If they have been abusive, report the abuse to Zynga in your settings to get them kicked off.
  • Don’t give any personal information or join them on other apps until you have played a while and are confident the player is real. Even then, be careful.
  • Validate the identity of the player through sites like socialcatfish.com or zyngaplayerforums.com. You will find a list of scammers there.
  • You can also copy and paste the text from the chat line into a search engine. You’ll be surprised to see it’s a standard line they all use.
  • Often, they will change their names and pictures to come at you again, so there are many stolen identities being used.
  • Check out their profile. A low average word count or a brand-new player will probably be a scammer.
  • Be aware that many of these clowns say they are orthodontists, dentists, engineers, or army generals, often widowed with very tragic stories about a dead wife or a sick child. Some say they are on a UN mission in the Middle East.
  • I have seen some scammers choose celebrity names like Simon Cowell, Tony Bennett, Bradley Cooper, etc. And although I’d love to play scrabble with my heartthrob Bradley, and give Lady Gaga some competition, I blocked him anyway.
  • If you believe it’s a scammer, type the letters ALAYE into the chat line. It’s a code word they sometimes use between hustlers to say you are one too, so they will resign.
  • Go to your WWF Privacy settings and block the options “Make me visible on leaderboards” and “I want to play someone new.” That way you will not be visible to strangers and only play with people you know.

So, Scrabble on Ladies!

I hope I haven’t discouraged you from enjoying this fabulous game. These cases are in the minority, so just be careful and don’t let them spoil your fun. Still, you need to be aware of who you meet, on any online forum.

I have made many contacts from around the globe, and I enjoy the occasional chat with my players. Communication and mental exercise in any form is much needed as we age and find ourselves with more free time than usual. In my books, scrabble is like word exercise or callisthenics for the brain.

The Words with Friends app is not a dating site. Nor is it a place where women should be in danger. So, until the game developer, Zynga, gets a handle on these scummy scam artists, we need to be diligent and protect ourselves from them.

I Too Am Playing It Safe

Since writing this post, I have changed my WWF profile picture to a cranky looking ostrich. I wonder how many handsome suitors I’ll get now?

What online games do you play? Do you have any experiences playing Words with Friends you would like to share? Have you encountered scammers? How do you handle them? Please leave your comments below.

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