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How Career Con Artists Take Risks With Your Career, Reputation, and Resources

Editor’s note: The following story was contributed by the Lovefraud reader “Abbie123.” Names have been changed.

A while ago, I was going through a difficult break up when an acquaintance friend of mine named “George” invited me to “get away from it all” at a conference held on an exclusive resort island, no strings attached. Although George and I had only known each other a few weeks, I was vulnerable and the rare opportunity to boost my own spirits and career by spending a weekend mingling with an elite group of international business leaders in my professional field in the lap of luxury so far from my painful reality seemed irresistible. But that was not what happened in reality.

As if from nowhere, George appeared in my life as an attractive and friendly guy with an exotic accent who told gregarious tales about his career as a butler and chef to the rich and famous. From the beginning, something about his over the top style put me off. The first red flag was that the waitresses at the restaurants we went to could not stand him. What George perceived harmlessly flirting with the staff was perceived by those targets as inappropriate harassment, and their attempts to shut him down just made him more determined to pursue their adoration. George’s credit cards were also routinely rejected by the hotels and restaurants we went to, and he had no known fixed address I was able to learn. In the end, I found out that George was probably a career criminal who had been fired from many jobs for theft and arrested multiple times for burglary.

At the time I met George, my recent breakup left me feeling lonely, insecure, unattractive, and probably in need of a little extra personal validation. I’ve always been a woman of my word, as well as trusting of others and the overall benevolent nature of most human intentions. In fact, my professional notoriety and success has come as a result of the satisfaction I get from using my skills to nurture and take care of victims and people in need. According to Donna Andersen’s website, these same admirable traits may have made me fit the profile for the sociopath’s perfect target.

Although the roller coaster ride with George appears to be over, there could in fact still be huge repercussions  to my safety, my family and my career.  What makes me most angry and disappointed in myself is the fact that I knew better, and that’s the price I’m going to have to pay for not doing my homework before embarking on this adventure with George. So I’ve written this story for you to convince you not to make the same mistake.

Spotting a con artist

While I am not a doctor or qualified to clinically diagnose George or anyone else with a psychiatric disorder, I am an avid reader of Donna Andersen’s Love Fraud blog which is dedicated to educating the public about sociopaths. According to Andersen, “Sociopaths are people who have no heart, no conscience and no remorse. They don’t worry about paying bills. They think nothing of lying, cheating and stealing. In extreme cases, sociopaths can be serial rapists and serial killers.”

Again, I do not have any solid proof that George is a sociopath, and I’m not trying to convince you that he is. But as you read this story, I want you to consider whether the following list of sociopathic traits from the DSM IV listed on Andersen’s website might apply to this story:

  • Failure to conform to lawful social norms
  • Deceitfulness
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicted by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent about having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another

Over the weekend, several red flags arose that lead me to believe that George at the very least has sociopathic tendencies:

(1) Using gifts, lavish flattery to get me to drop my guard

Andersen says to be leery if someone you’ve just met overwhelms you with praise, attention and concern- especially if you’re lonely and looking for love—because con artists know exactly how to play that tune. Sociopaths often put a lot of effort into getting you to drop your guard by initially honoring their commitments, and may sometimes even appear to be unselfishly helping other people.

The conference invite came after I’d ignored George’s texts for a couple weeks, and when I accepted it I made it clear I had no intention of being romantic or intimate with him. No money to pay my own way? No problem. George assured me that there would be no strings attached, he would pay for the accommodations and arrange for my conference passes. But that’s not what happened.

George also engaged in nonstop “love bombing” by showering me with over the top (and unwarranted) adoration, compliments and advances. A normal gentleman, when made aware, would cease any inappropriate advances that make others uncomfortable or alienate them from women they care about. Yet George refused to accept any implicit or explicit rebuffs of his inappropriate sexual advances, be it with me or the wait staff in the restaurants we ate in. Asking him to stop just made him turn up the heat.

Also in attendance at the conference were the CEO’s who actually own my employer, which made me nervous, and their immense influence over my career should have been reason alone for George to be on his best behavior. It was entirely inappropriate for George to constantly drop me inappropriate notes, forcibly grope me or hold me, and make inappropriate sexual innuendos for the purpose of others overhearing him in such a professional setting. Instead of the high-fives George probably expected, other attendees began to avoid him.

George may have explained that he thought he was doing me a favor by “flattering me,” but the truth was that this was about George gaining power over me by attempting to force me to physically gratify him (which I did not.) The truth was that this was no favor, George desperately wanted potential future clients to believe that I was his beautiful, successful girlfriend. (Making him trustworthy?) Instead of building a solid reputation in the business through years of honest hard work and good references, George may have been trying to cut corners by riding the wave of my accomplishments instead of his own.

(2) Stories that don’t add up

Andersen says that sociopaths sometimes manufacture crisis that require imminent resolution to avert a lost opportunity. The reason for this is to deprive you (the victim) of the time required to think, research or ask for advice which might lead you to understand the nature of the scam before the con artist has fully finished exploiting you. (See How to spot a con artist on Lovefraud.com)

For three days, George made sure I was oblivious to the fact that I was an imposter at risk of being thrown out of the conference. In my book, crashing events like this is tantamount to stealing, which is why I would never knowingly do this and was horrified to find out what George had done.

You see, George never paid my conference fees, he merely paid his own fee and smuggled me into the conference as his unofficial “guest.” While George told me that he had cleared this arrangement with the conference organizers, this was a bold faced lie.

On the first day, George pretended he just hadn’t had time to collect my pass, and told me to “fake it until you make it” when security asked questions. On the second day, I pressed the issue and George contacted the organizers (via email) and requested a pass for me. The organizers responded that they had no record of George’s request to bring a guest or payment for my entry fees. At this point, George tried to convince them they’d lost the emails containing this information, and stormed out of the hotel in a dust bowl of (feigned?) rage, supposedly to go to the office to “take care of the problem” once and for all.

But the problem was never resolved, not even on the last day I was there.

On the third day of the conference, I demanded an explanation and learned that the organizers explicitly turned down George’s request to bring me, and so I was stuck there for two more days and I could not afford the $3,500 fee. Luckily, I knew some of the other conference attendees who were also friends with the organizers prior to the conference, who then helped me gain legitimate access on the third day.

My guess is that the reason why the organizers ejected other conference crashers and not me from the conference because they had “Googled” me and were not willing to take the risk. Whatever their reasons, George could not have known them. George had made this gamble knowing full well that it would have disastrous lasting effects on my reputation and career if I had been arrested or thrown out of the conference as a consequence of his massive deception.

Apparently, the direct benefits to George to breaking the rules outweighed the potential risks to his own reputation because he had a pass and I did not, and thus he technically had done nothing wrong but tell a little white lie to get me into the conference. In his mind, he was doing me a “favor” and I owed him for this plunder.

After the conference, I made a conceited effort to make amends with the organizers by TRULY attempting to repay the organizers for their (involuntary) generosity with good old fashioned elbow grease. In turn, they sought me out to thank me and tell me how impressed they were with my work. But it very easily could have gone the other way and I could have been ruined.

(3) Multiple Online Dating Profiles

During the time when George was on his computer corresponding via email with the organizers about my conference pass, I happened to look over his shoulder and notice that he had several online dating profiles. While it may not be unusual for a bachelor to market himself on multiple websites, I found it odd that George’s profiles appeared to be set up in multiple cities and dedicated to seducing both women and men.

While George’s intentions may have been benevolent, Andersen says that predators often exploit the anonymity of the internet by creating dishonest identities for the purpose of engaging in multiple exploitative relationships simultaneously. ” They are fishing for someone who will give them what they want, which is usually sex or money. They play the part of the smitten suitor just to make a score. They often succeed—sometimes with tragic consequences for the victim,” says Andersen. (See Online Seduction on Lovefraud.com.)

(4) Fabricated Credentials

Con artists may “prove” themselves by namedropping or volunteering detailed resumes or credentials, but Andersen that if you’re at all suspicious, check their references. Here’s why. (See How to spot a con on Lovefraud.com)

George was at the conference marketing his skills as a property manager, but over the weekend, he told me many stories about all the rich and famous people he’d worked for over the years as a butler or chef (two entirely distinct trades.) This seemed odd to me because although George had no known formal education in either trade, he seemed to switch careers and employers frequently. Perhaps these career moves were in fact legitimate, but George also explained that he’d been fired from several jobs after being “falsely accused” of stealing from his employer, and in the 20+ years I’ve been in the active labor force, no employer has ever accused me of theft.

After the conference, I googled George and found all the mug shots where he had been arrested for burglary over the years, which identified his true occupation as a “tent builder.” Apparently, at one point, he was also an inmate.

(5) Dividing people into two groups: predator and prey

Andersen says that sociopaths divide the world into two groups of people: predators and prey.

“They are the predators; everyone else is prey,” says Andersen.  “There are no rules of engagement. There is no compassion for the vulnerable, no sympathy for the bereaved, no mercy for the innocent. Your weakness is their opportunity.” (See Preferred prey on Lovefraud.com)

On the second to last day of the conference, we were riding our rented bikes through a nice neighborhood of vacation homes when George decided to get off his bike to explore inside the gates of other people’s private properties. Since trespassing is not just wrong but possibly illegal, I refused to join him. At the very least, George’s prowling made us appear suspicious to anyone who falsely assumed that we were casing these homes.

Yet George told me not to worry, he’d done it hundreds of times because “an unlocked gate is practically an invitation.”

In fact, George said on several occasions he’d broken into other people’s vacation homes and lived in them for long periods of time.

To a normal person, we would never break into someone’s home because we understand this is felony burglary, but also because we would not want the victim to suffer emotional damage as a result of this terrifying violation of their personal space and security. We are right to feel scared given that career criminals and burglars (like Josh Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes who raped and murdered the Petit family in Connecticut) sometimes escalate their criminal escapades and become violent during such home invasions.

But in George’s mind, there was nothing wrong with his living on other people’s property without their permission. In fact, since George did landscaping and cleaned up their yards, he told me he was doing them a favor. When the neighbors asked who he was, George said he introduced himself as the gardener. When the owners came home with the burglary still in progress, George said he freely admitted staying in their homes and said “you’re welcome for my services looking after the place while you were gone.”

(6) The Pity Play

Even when he was probably terrorizing families in their own homes and spending other people’s hard earned resources that he had plundered without their permission to his own advantage, George always insisted he was doing the victims a favor. If you called George out on his own personal misconduct, he would respond by pretending to be the innocent victim of a vicious attack by an ungrateful beneficiary of his so-called favors.

Martha Stout, Ph.D., author of The Sociopath Next Door*, (per Andersen’s website) says that the closest thing to a warning you’ll ever get that you are being manipulated by a sociopath is a consistent pattern of bad or inadequate behavior combined with frequent “pity plays.” (see The pity play on Lovefraud.com)

“The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness,” Stout says. “It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.”

George was no stranger to the pity play, and although the burglary stories really scared me and although my instincts told me to go home, I did not have money for the pre-paid fare.

So I resolved to avoid George on the last day of the conference.

The second to last day was different because the friends I’d made that week provided me with a legitimate invitation to the formal dinner. After the dinner, some of the sponsors introduced themselves to me and invited me to a small private gathering.

But George was already gone.

Earlier in the day, George had rented a showy convertible and rode around the quiet seaside town with club music blasting from the stereo, which I found quite embarrassing. After dinner, George took off for a ride with some of the younger volunteers without telling me, then shut off his phone the rest of the night. George also took the room keys with him and failed to respond to my numerous messages, meaning I was left out in the cold.

This may have been a gift in disguise because some of the conference sponsors invited me to a private event after the dinner, but later admitted they found George to be a suspicious character and  were not keen on him joining us as well. Thankfully, one of the sponsors and their family graciously allowed me to stay in their guest home just outside of town.

By 6:00 a.m. the following morning, George was incessantly ringing my phone, wrongfully accusing me of ditching him at the event. So where had George been all night? He said as the “victim of my disappearing act,” he spent the night waiting at the hotel with champagne and strawberries (all by his lonesome) for me to return. So why hadn’t he returned my messages? George said he forgot his phone at the event, but somehow managed to retrieve it in the early morning hours (long after the venue had closed.)

I was in utter disbelief that George actually expected me to feel sorry for his choice to ditch me with no resources, but also that he then insisted that I should awaken my gracious hosts in the main house before dawn to demand they take me into town to watch the sun rise with him “to make up for all the time and money he wasted on me.” I refused and got a ride into town with everyone else at 8:00 am.

After all George had put me through, I wanted so badly to tell him off and get the heck out of Dodge. Yet I was also scared to stand up for myself because I was afraid he would retaliate and run off with my computer and all my belongings, which were still back at the room. When I did get back to the hotel, George was on his way out the door to the airport and had already packed up (and probably inventoried) my things. I immediately grabbed my things and my tickets home, and went to the ferry station.

While I was waiting for the boat, George called and accused me of causing him to miss his plane, then asked if he could come with me back to my place? Thankfully, there was no room left on the boat, and I was full of relief to be free of George’s craziness; at least for a while.

Ridding myself of a sociopath’s fixation

In the following weeks, George continued to contact me repeatedly, and I ignored him. Usually, George wanted to know if he could come and visit me, to which I responded with the lie that I was dying of cancer, and it was not a good time now or ever for me to “hang out” or accept guests.

When I didn’t respond favorably to his visit request, George again went over the top and invited me to join him on a trip to Tuscany, and confided that he’d stolen a beautiful new dress out of my suitcase so that he could “see how beautiful I looked wearing it for him in Italy.”  

For some reason, George genuinely believed that he was better equipped to safeguard my own belongings than I was, and that he had done me a favor by stealing my own clothes from me! When I said the theft was troubling, he played the victim and accused me of exploiting him for the $4,500 he spent (prior to when I met him) to attend the conference!

Exasperated, I contacted Donna Andersen and asked her how to get George off my back safely. After hearing my story and reviewing the published mug shots, Donna was genuinely concerned and felt that even if George was not a sociopath, I had definitely dodged a major bullet. She gave me a few pointers and said that I needed to tell George one time in writing, unequivocally, that I was not interested in him and to leave me alone. That after that, I should not respond to any of George’s communications because responding would only establish a threshold for whatever number of attempts it would take in the future to gain my attention, and that he would keep coming back.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear George,

The term “borrow” implies the explicit voluntary consent of the item’s owner. The term “borrow” does not apply to the instant situation with you taking my dress for multiple reasons.

This has everything to do with trust, not the cost of replacing the item in my wardrobe or the relative expense of the conference that you had purchased before you met me for business reasons. I’m a big fan of honesty and it would never occur to me to take anything from you without your permission. You are not entitled to reallocate other people’s resources unless you have their permission, no matter how small and no matter how many favors you do them or whether or not you think it should or will be missed by the true owner.

Again, stealing violates people on multiple levels regardless of your intent. Please keep the dress and underwear because I’m sure it wouldn’t be coming back in the same condition it was stolen in. From my experience, when a guy genuinely wants you to look good the next time you see him, he goes out and buys you a nice outfit that’s never been seen before. It’s also been my experience that when men steal a dress, a pair of underwear, and a bra from you that they intend to wear it themselves. So you can go ahead and keep those.

I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever.

I am sure I never will.

Put your attentions elsewhere, because that’s what I intend to do.

Do not contact me ever again.

Judging from my own personal observations, some sociopaths will deliberately seek out victims who are scrupulously honest and may have an “over developed” sense of justice. The purpose of this selection is that the sociopath fully understands that this type of victim will provide them with endless fun as they futilely attempt to right the wrongs that the sociopath perpetrates against them. Because con artists are often far more experienced with the system than victims, they understand that this type of victim will often discredit themselves by contacting authorities multiple times over what the cops or the justice system may perceive to be a relatively minor slight. The perpetrator in turn, gets to benefit from the misperception that they are the innocent victim of the Looney Tunes accuser (who is the real victim). Maybe they get a rush from the power trip of “fooling” the authorities and getting away with the crime.

In addition, the relative cost to the sociopath of exploiting such a situation for a protracted period of time is relatively less than the perceived benefits of the resulting power trip and the predator’s access to the ill gotten resources.

Perhaps George assumed that the dress would serve as collateral to ensure that I would continue to stay in contact with him and ensnared in his web trying to retrieve what was rightfully my property. Even if George had returned the dress to me, that meant I would have had to either see him or provide him with my address, and my sanity and safety are worth a heck of a lot more than a $40 dress that is now out of season. Even if the dress were worth $500, I didn’t want it back because who knows what George had done in/with it after he stole it from me. Best just to cut my losses there and buy a new dress.

What really transpired at the conference is that George unilaterally decided to take a potentially disastrous risk with my career, my professional reputation, and resources without asking me first or allowing me the opportunity to do the right thing. Judging from his own conduct that weekend and the extensive collection of his mug shots I later obtained, George was a career con artist who was well known to law enforcement. George’s true intention may have been to exploit my good name to help him gain access to his next wealthy victim.

George was just like Peter Pan because he was obsessed with getting rich quickly. When we were at the conference and in the nice neighborhoods, George repeatedly told me “I come to places like this and all I see is money laying around.” The inference being that some people were so wealthy or careless with their money that George would be justified in “obtaining” it. It didn’t matter to George that it takes people decades of hard work to earn their riches, or that people who don’t want their money don’t leave it out for thieves  they give it away deliberately. George always made statements which assumed that he was a better judge of who deserved to keep their money and who didn’t, even though none of these resources were his to give or take. And George had big plans for other people’s money too, businesses, homes, planes, boats he was going to buy, but he never understood that someone wasn’t just standing around their whole lives waiting for him to come along and take their riches off their hands so he could buy stuff for himself with their money.

And that’s one of the hallmarks of a sociopath. They are great at spending other people’s money, they lie, and they are thieves.
Who was George really? Was he a drifter living on the couches of the women he met on dating websites? Where did he get the money to attend the conference? Was he going to come after me and retaliate?

Maybe. I’m not about to stick around and find out.

Although the roller coaster ride with George appears to be over, there could in fact still be huge repercussions to my safety, my family and my career. What makes me most angry and disappointed in myself is the fact that I knew better, and that’s the price I’m going to have to pay for not doing my homework before embarking on this adventure with George. So I’ve written this story for you to convince you not to make the same mistake.

 



6 Comments on "How Career Con Artists Take Risks With Your Career, Reputation, and Resources"

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  1. LadyA says:

    Hey Abbie123

    Thanks a bunch for this well written article. I really enjoyed reading it. You definitely sound like you dodged a bullet with that one. Good luck and have fun dress shopping!

    LadyA



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  2. onmyown says:

    The ex was also obsessed with get rich quick schemes. I suppose it’s more thrilling to scheme incessantly rather than actually work for what they want. Imagine if they put forth the time and effort into something that might actually be successful.

    I think all sociopaths withhold information so that we can’t make informed decisions and we’re left trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

    Normal people just aren’t this complicated.



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    • Abbie123 says:

      I totally agree with you. Functioning persons go through life working hard, saving, investing, and paying off their debts. They make well thought out gambles with their own resources, and they are careful not to make a mess where they lay because there will be dire, lasting consequences if things don’t pan out and the people around them are hurt.

      Sociopaths constantly borrow and trade other people’s lives, as well has their hard earned resources and success. When one profile starts to crumble, they just steal a new one. They view other peoples lives from the perspective of a crow standing in the middle of a field of moving tin foil, always following the newest, shiniest piece that comes into their purview.

      Even if they retain wealth for a period of time, I suspect that they cannot sustain themselves honestly after the initial theft because they (a) are narcissists who think they are the hardest people in show biz, and the rest of us are schmucks who waste time on things like hard work, (b) are always on the look out for “easy money”, (c ) would miss the thrill of the steal by going legit.



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  3. slimone says:

    Abbie,

    Thank-you for this wonderfully written description of your near disaster. I am really sorry you got drug through the abuse cycle, at the near expense of your reputation, etc.

    I love what you refer to as “victims who are scrupulously honest and may have an “over developed” sense of justice”. I came close to acting out this part of my character, as I was about to lose a pretty large sum of cash, in the process of extricating myself from a lovefraud situation. In the end, and with advice from a trusted friend and her dad who is a judge, I let it go.

    And it was so worth it to completely disengage, and turn my focus on myself, and my own life. I can only imagine, when I look back, what kind of character assasination I would have been subjected to had I decided to put up a righteous fight.

    I was fortunate I could absorb the loss, and that I could have nothing further to do with the situation.

    I am glad you were able to find lovefraud! It seems you used your head and applied what you learned from Donna. I applaud you.



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    • Abbie123 says:

      Your friend the judge was right because you would have spent YEARS in the legal system fighting the thieving sociopath, and for what? Your time is valuable, and instead of paying lawyers and court fees you wisely chose to withdraw yourself from the situation and focus your time and money on the people in your life who actually love you.

      When George stole that dress from me, I knew he did this to keep me on the hook, and maybe that’s how he keeps himself surrounded with people. That people keep in touch with George only because (a) he owes them something and they hope to get it back, or (b) he wants something from them and is buttering them up for the day he cashes in and exploits them.

      I also think George might have taken the dress so that he could feel like he got SOMETHING BACK from me for all his “favors.” Because he probably wrongly expected that in exchange for coming to the conference, I would “pay him back” with sex and being able to draw upon my resources in the future.

      Sounds like you dodged a bullet too. In my opinion, sociopaths have nothing to offer a regular friendship because they are parasites and energy vampires who gain no pleasure from a selfless act of kindness to others. If given the choice, they would give nothing to others and avoid such “time wasting” activities that are required to maintain a friendship, such as calling to find out how someone is (without having a selfish motive), offering to lend a hand, or remembering someone’s birthday.

      There was nothing in my closet worth keeping in touch with him. My time and energy is valuable, and so chasing after George for a $40 dress would have meant passing up thousands in lost wages, more lost resources, and I probably would have needed counseling. My safety would have been at risk and the over all depletion of my creative energy would devalue my worth as a friend and employee.



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  4. Kit says:

    Wow..luckily it was only a dress..could have been something much more important.

    My ex burned our house down killing my 4 dogs. He keep telling me they all got out. Thankfully the neighbor told me a few days later he had borrowed trash bags from her and had told her he had found them in the house and was going to have a friend of his cremate them. The “friend” was the same person who had cremated a previous dog who died from illness a few years before. I emailed her and told her what had happened and that they were my dogs not his so thankfully I got them back. But I know for a fact his plan was to hold them over my head at a later time. .well I outsmarted him and had them back before he knew what hit him!



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