By Mark Taylor
With Internet romance having rapidly become one of the most likely ways to meet a future partner there are of course those people out there who are willing to use and abuse such things. Those who meet via the Internet, particularly in long distance relationships with those from distinctly different cultures, need to take that extra bit of care in protecting themselves from the very small minority that are abusing it.

A very sad case of this in Brazil recently hit international headlines. A US musician, Raymond Merrill, had got in contact with a Brazilian woman, Regina Rachid living in São Jose dos Campos in São Paulo state, via an undisclosed Internet dating site. Merrill had already visited Rachid in Brazil several times, lavishing gifts on her including a car, and back in April came for another trip after being begged to return by Rachid. Unbeknownst to Merrill, Rachid had been planning to rob and murder him, with the help of her actual boyfriend. Rachid managed to obtain the PIN numbers to Merrill’s credit cards after drugging him for several days, then strangled him to death with a cable. Rachid and her boyfriend then dumped the body and burned it, in an attempt at disguising the crime.

Merrill’s sister alerted US police after a month of frantic communication attempts with her brother, but although an investigation was launched and Merrill’s bank accounts were found to be drained, neither the body was linked to the crime or Rachid was identified. Purely by luck Rachid was apprehended in São Paulo when committing another robbery in June, and Merrell’s credit card was found on her. Fortunately Brazilian police made the connection and she was arrested for the murder, and the body was exhumed for DNA tests.

Of course Internet dating scams are nothing particularly new, nor are romance related scams full stop. Rio de Janeiro is one area in Brazil, particularly in places like Ipanema and some particular bars/clubs there, where garotas de programa (prostitutes) scam arguably naive foreign men who come to Brazil for work or tourism. Although the scam is well known to Brazilians, it’s not known at all to the foreign men who often frequent the areas. Typically the prostitutes come from poor areas of Brazil, and are desperate to escape their lifestyle. Unlike traditional methods of prostitution they will try and spend as much time with the men, being wined and dined, and then eventually suggest they get engaged, meet their family etc. The women can often be doing this between normal prostitution work, as well as meeting up with other foreigners. Of course most single men can find it hard to resist the charms of a young attractive Brazilian girl, and no doubt often can’t believe their luck.

In terms of advice on avoiding problems, the golden rule to remember is to use common sense. If you travel to Brazil make sure friends and family know where you are and arrange to contact them regularly. Make sure they know where you are staying, and get the address and contact details of the person you’ve arranged to meet. If they’re less than forthcoming that should already be a warning sign. If friends and family don’t speak Portuguese, try and find someone else in the area they can contact who speaks a suitable language as a backup. Even arrange to meet up with other foreigners so you have contacts in the local area should they be needed. Make sure you have backup plans on where to stay if there are relationship problems, and that banks and credit card companies are advised of any withdrawal limits while you’re away. With Internet based relationships, keep an eye out for other warning signs as well, such as requests for money and gifts, or erratic and volatile behaviour. Although it can be difficult in the initial throes of a relationship, try and take a step back and think about whether you feel things are making sense.

Readers comments:

I just read your article about Regina Rachid. I deal with cases of gringo men who suffer golpes” from Brazilian girls, as well as Brazilian girls who go to the UK and suffer at the hands of English men. But nothing like this!

You might be interested to know that I met Regina Filomena Crasovich Rachid one Friday morning last November while having morning coffee at a São Paulo shopping center. She is an incredibly beautiful woman in her forties and surprised me by coming on very strong to me. She was with her daughter, also beautiful and also mentioned in the press. She gave me her phone and e-mail. We exchanged e-mails – hence I know her full name and can confirm she is the same person – and arranged to meet the following week, again for coffee at the shopping center. When I am meeting with a woman I do not know and know nothing about, I always arrange to meet in public places. A standard security precaution for a single man.

At the second meeting, she give me a very convoluted story about her own personal and professional life that made little sense, so I was on guard. I started to think it could be a set-up, due to other ongoing issues I was having.

I told her about my profession and her body language changed noticeably as I described my activities. After we said goodbye, she never contacted me again.

— Anon

(Note: the above comment has been edited)

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Previous articles by Mark:

Brazil: The House of Coffee Comes Home
Brazil: Film Review
Brazil: The Portuguese Language Museum
Brazil: Election Time! Part 2
Brazil: Election Time! Part 1
Brazil: Torrent TV
Brazil: Book Review
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 2
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 1
The PCC Shows a New Level of Organisation
Brazil: Metr-ettiquette
Brazil: Trading Places
Brazil: São Paulo’s Pinacoteca
Brazil: Don’t Forget, You’re in Another Country!
Brazil: PCC Violence Returns to São Paulo
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 5
Brazil’s World Cup Defeat Party
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 4
Brazil: Japanese Standard Chosen for Digital TV
Brazil: NET Petition Feedback
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 3
Brazil: Football Love
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 2
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 1
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 3
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 1
GPS in Brazil
Brazil: PCC Attacks in São Paulo
Brazil: Tips on Buying or Renting an Apartment or House
Brazil: A Critical Sensitivity
Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness
Brazil: Manners
Brazil: No Change, No Sale
Brazilian TV
Brazil: Ubatuba
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman’s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Termites
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Piracy
Brazil: Gestures
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN

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