Sociopaths love credit cards—especially when they are in someone else’s name. Lovefraud recently received an e-mail from a woman whose daughter is married to a sociopath. “How do they do it?” she asked. “How do they get you to put credit cards in your name that they will use?”
Our daughter has now procured a card, ugh, (only found out since the billing came here) and I know this is for HIS use and he will be the one using it, burying her in debt that she will never get out of and do you think for a minute HE will pay this debt?? Ha! He does NOT have credit cards (I often wonder why)? Refuses to get one, why? But it’s okay to use hers??
I can relate to this experience, because it happened to me. One of the hallmarks of this disorder is lack of responsibility. Sociopaths do not believe in paying bills, particularly bills that they’ve convinced someone else to incur.
There was a time when my ex-husband, James Montgomery, had his own American Express card, but Amex cancelled the card and sued him for not paying his bills at least three years before I met him. After that, Montgomery learned it was much better to sweet talk women into providing him with access to their credit than to try to get his own card. So, based on what Montgomery did to me and several other women, here are observations I can make:
1. Sociopaths specifically go after people with money and/or credit. The first step, of course, is to pick the right target. If sociopaths are looking for a sugar daddy or sugar momma, they first need to make sure sugar is available.
Now, this doesn’t mean the target must have millions in accessible cash, although I do know of one case in which that was a requirement. A sociopath will target someone who has:
- a job
- access to credit
- a home, which can be tapped for a home equity loan
- retirement savings
- family members with money
My ex-husband actually ran credit reports on women he met. If sociopaths have access to credit reports, they won’t be deterred by the mere fact that pulling a credit report without the subject’s permission is illegal.
2. Sociopaths initially create an impression of substance, success and financial responsibility. When I first met my ex, he did not tell me that he was flat broke. He talked about his business successes of the past—apparently with at least some truth—and his big plans for the future.
He exuded absolute confidence in his ability to make his dreams come true, and I believed him. I thought I was becoming involved with a “mover and shaker,” a captain of industry, a master of the universe. I didn’t know he was a con artist.
3. Sociopaths quickly create bonds of trust with the target. That’s where the word “con” comes from—the sociopaths are running a con game, or confidence game, establishing confidence in the target. This can be done several ways, depending on the nature of the relationship.
Sweetheart scams are probably the easiest. The sociopath love bombs the target, with flowery language, gifts and constant attention. When the target falls for it, he or she feels both love and trust—how could you not trust someone that you love? If the two people are intimate, chemical changes in the brain make the trust bond grow even stronger. (See last week’s article, Getting over that amazing ‘chemistry.’)
Sometimes sociopaths borrow trust through association. For example, they may join a religious community, and present themselves as a solid member of the group, or even a spiritual leader. Thousands of wannabes fraudulently claim to be military heroes, and trade off the high esteem with which most people hold those who serve in the military. My ex-husband claimed that he served 35 years in the military, which made him seem honorable. He never served a day.
4. Sociopaths promise to pay, and sometimes they actually do pay, at least in the beginning. My ex-husband invited me to go with him to Australia, and then asked me to put the charges on my credit card, assuring me that he’d pay off the charges as soon as the bills came in. Some con artists pay off initial small loans, or small credit card charges, to make the targets believe they are trustworthy.
Sociopaths do not hint that they won’t pay the expenses that they convince the target to incur. They continue making promises to pay as long as targets still have money or credit available to bleed.
If sociopaths perceive that there is nothing left to take, at that point they may quit the charade and say, “F*** you, the debts are in your name, you deal with them.” Of course, by that point, the sociopaths already have their next targets lined up.
5. Sociopaths create a crisis, and need action right away. They will claim that they must answer immediately, they have to act now or the opportunity will be lost, they’re up against a deadline. Sociopaths do not want their targets to have a chance to think about whether the request makes any sense.
6. Sociopaths use the targets’ own good natures against them. If targets are generous, sociopaths will use the pity play to prey on their generosity. If targets are responsible, the sociopaths will get them to clean up the messes that they create. If targets are skilled in business, the sociopaths will enlist them to join the entrepreneurial dream, be members of the team, until they are carrying the full financial burden.
Whatever qualities and vulnerabilities target have, the sociopaths find ways to exploit them.
7. Sociopaths badger the targets into giving them what they want. My ex-husband did not come out and ask me to give him a credit card until long after we were married. Even then, I resisted for months.
But he wore me down. He said he was an entrepreneur, entrepreneurs always have terrible credit, and if I helped him, I would be helping our success. He pointed out that he needed a credit card when he travelled—conveniently neglecting to mention that his trips included seeing other women.
He explained. He nudged. He pleaded. Eventually, I just caved and made him an authorized user on one of my credit cards. When the card arrived in the mail, Montgomery acted like he received a windfall of cash. It was maxed out within a few months.
8. Sociopaths dig the targets into such deep holes that the only possible escape is through the sociopaths. Before long, my once-pristine credit was shot. I was carrying more debt than I ever had in my life. My only hope was that Montgomery would succeed with his plans, as he continued to assure me he would.
So every time Montgomery told me that he “needed” something, or “had to” travel somewhere, I approved the charges, hoping desperately that it would be the final step that would start to turn everything around. But that never happened.
9. Sociopaths know the rules. One day, as I was ranting about the oppressive credit card balances, I yelled that my husband had occurred the debts, and he had to pay them. Montgomery shockingly informed me that, since we were married, his debts were my debts. He was right.
Montgomery was also well aware of the fact that since all the credit cards were in my name, and I gave him permission to use them, I was responsible for his charges. Even when the judge in my divorce determined that my ex-husband had defrauded me, and Montgomery was responsible for the debts, the credit card companies didn’t care. They came after me.