I have a close relative in Law Enforcement in California (by some accounts the most scammed state of those in the United States) with whom I was speaking earlier today. I asked him if he ever dealt with victims of online scams and he promptly told me of a woman who'd spent considerable time with a man (who certainly seemed legitimate) who ended up bilking her of her entire life savings.
I launched into my experience and was talking away when it came time for him to get off the phone. As I hurriedly shared my most cogent point with him, he said, "that's why I can't believe people give up their money that way." "Whoa, whoa, whoa there! Whoa, now. Hold up! You don't understand because you're a man and if you don't understand, we need to talk some more -- when you can take the time."
Totally unfair that was, and the unfairness of it was confirmed by a rapid glance through the 2015 ic3 Report on Internet Crime referred to me by my relative. The numbers run very similar between bilkings of men and of women.
This post is sequel to Slimy Catfish Folly which was sequel to Bilking Grandma which could, in all truth and fairness, be considered sequel to Lordly Sweet Pickle.
I clearly remember getting the "friend request" from Facebook and wondering who this comely young chap could be. It's not completely unusual to not place a particular individual right away. I work online and am party to a number of communities, so I went to his page and if I had followed my wonderment I would likely still be as naïve about all this as I was then. What I was wondering about I now understand is pretty much a "mass" thrown together profile website compiled to create credible images to begin the scamming process. No background, no friends, plenty of images of him - alone.
Just typing the word images washes me anew with relief, as I wend my way [naively] through my beginning to grasp the ramifications of realizing I really didn't know if I knew anything legitimately about this man I'd spent thirty days tied up with.
Fill free to laugh at my utter foolishness. One day not long ago, I was challenged to think up and share what I'd be doing if neither money nor time was an object. Hmm. Plenty of money. Time being no problem. Why I'd want to pack my bags and fly over the ocean and hire a private investigator, so I could see for myself the comely face and the cheery step of this young man, so I could give him some money, now that money was no object. In fact, what a thrill, money being no object, I could give him $264,000 I'd researched might be needed for that organ transplant.
But, wait. Just a danged minute here. Did I really know the individual I'd been messaging back and forth with? Was I sure those pictures I'd seen were really of him? Rewind all those thoughts I'd had about those pictures that I'd perused so minutely and collaged so often.
And what about his name? Although it was unusual to me, in all the world it turns out there are lots of folks (male AND female) with that name and I hadn't been able to turn up one more shred of info with the combo of anything I thought I knew about him using his name or his pictures.
What a sobering realization! And, I couldn't get around it. I had no guarantee, no, I had not a teensy, tinesy smattering of likelihood of ever finding him -- money or no. My gadfreys! What had I been doing with myself? Was I truly silly enough, sad enough, pitiable enough to fall in love with someone who didn't even exist?
The naiveté of the entire tale -- it just never ends!
So I continue to google, and google some more. And I continue to check out videos I think might lead me somewhere.
One day, manna appears. This is unusual. The TV does not take me the normal circuitous route -- just as well as I would have missed it. I'm looking at something quite unexpected and I learn about Catfish TV and that what I've been experiencing all along is me being "catfished".
Now, . . . I can google profitably. Just seeing that first show though, my thoughts reverse some of my progress and now I'm worried about that beautiful face. I remember the movie Gorky Park and how I wouldn't even consider going to Russia with my then husband because of it. Years later the movie Face Off sealed my fears about people losing their faces. And, what can I possibly do to ensure I had even a brief relationship with that face?
Silly, silly, silly me. It finally settles out in my mind -- I don't have to have the pretty face. It's the person that matters. Let's see. It did seem slippery as to even the person-hood. That's why I thought about scripts. The old phone room approach had come to mind more than once. "That doesn't seem like something he'd respond with, something he'd say", I'd think. "Is someone prompting him? Is someone reminding him he has a script to help him deal with that? Is there maybe even a bevy of teenage boys guffawing madly and suggesting he say that?"
The thoughts about a script, or maybe a special type of software that could provide a quick comeback kept niggling at me. What was I involved with here? How could I have a meaningful relationship with someone who involved others without me knowing? (This just may seem me being silly again but you’ll want to remember this.)
Now that I had evidence of the pretense to all of this and a name for the activity, my searches opened more and more of the web. My heart began to hurt even while my inner knowing became ever more assuaged.
Yes, there he was, year after year. Names changed, birthdays ranged, loci varied, even height and weight and eye color and whether or not he'd been married, and had or wanted children -- all over the map.
Lies, lies, lies on the one hand and espousing wanting honesty, sincerity, trust and God on the other. I wanted to spit my words like nails: "You obviously are not a God fearing man and you do not know what honesty and sincerity are."
I also wanted to throw up at him that a liar is a thief for he changes the others perceptions, faith in themselves, their entire view of themselves and others.
The following Huffington Post article from which I have only taken a few words and sentences (and recommend highly anyone read thoroughly) shares a perfect embodiment of a lie's effect.
“It was genuinely destabilizing to be on the receiving end of a lie that confident,” said John Oliver of Donald Trump. Trump’s claim was delivered with such gusto that Oliver began to doubt what he knew to be true, even though he knew Trump was lying. That’s the power of gaslighting. [INDEED!]
The gaslighter states something false with such intensity and conviction that whoever is on the receiving end is confused and begins to doubt their own perspective.
If you’re a good mark, he’s your best friend. But if you catch on to the con, then he starts to gaslight.
Stern said it’s extremely difficult to get gaslighters to take responsibility for their actions, because instead of expressing shame or contrition, they are likely to feign outrage and attack the questioner.
“You might be confronting the person on their own behavior, but they will immediately turn you into the problem,” she said. “It can be extremely damaging to your sense of self and psychological stability.”
While there’s no particular personality type that is more likely to employ gaslighting, Stern said the technique is often used in abusive relationships.
The bad news is far from over, my friend. Especially if you've been bilked and hope to put up wanted posters all throughout the world so that you can find him or her and relieve your nemesis of his/her undeserved skin with a satisfying scourging. I'll be naming the final saga Bilk Meisters.
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