Wham Scam Thank You Ma’am (and Sir!)

boat-207129_640You know, you hear about internet scams alllll the time. And you say… wow, how stupid must that person be to actually have fallen for that!   And you may chuckle a bit, or feel sorry for them because, well, YOU would never have fallen for that! You say, “I am much too smart for that, I would have seen that coming a mile away!”

Well… Guilty!  and… deceived. Nope, it’s seriously NOT something that just happens to young people who are naive in the early years of life, and nope… it doesn’t just happen to the elderly who are not computer savvy. It can happen to anyone.  I have to laugh a little now because I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve told my kids, “that situation doesn’t sound right!” or “that has got to be a scam”, or “watch out for who you trust online, you never know what their intentions are!” – or “that sounds fishy to me”,  or one I’ve said many times… “that guy is probably a 50-year-old woman in curlers and a house coat smoking cigarettes and drinking a beer!”

And yet, here I sit.  Wham scam thank you ma’am!   I, along with a group of at least about a hundred people who I have known for years online, fell for a big ol scam hook, line, and sinker.

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Years ago, we all met with a common interest of helping and supporting others.  Little by little our group had grown. We found genuine friendships, laughter, and many have even met each other in person and welcomed each other into their real lives. My personal story is far too long and complicated but in a nutshell, there were several people in our online group who were quite famous. Their online profiles covered all forms of social media and included tons of personal photos and information that looked to be the real thing. Bonds were formed over many years. One of them lost his wife, leaving two small children behind, and we all mourned with this person, some even sending condolence gifts for his children.  The whole scenario read like a novel, actually.  Complete with savory tales of incredible infidelity, sad and heart-wrenching stories of late-term miscarriages, bizarre deaths, serious diseases, and well the list goes on.

The lady that introduced us to her group of famous friends, (we did not know right away they were famous, it was “mysteriously leaked” that they were – several months after befriending them all), was also very sick with multiple physical “illnesses”. So in addition to the fact that she was our friend, we all also felt a good degree of sympathy for her and all she “dealt with.” She had been a family friend of this famous family for years, and even was in charge of his post office box for his recording studio here in the states. Years of friendship, gifts, and deep heartfelt support were given to this woman, not to mention financial contributions to her gofundme accounts (baited by fake contributions from her fake famous friends).  Things sent from the kindness of hearts even though these people really couldn’t afford to do so. This lady was “dating” one of the famous people (the one who had lost his young wife) and in addition to being a musician, he was also a photographer.  He generously gave permission for many in our group to use his photos in their own online work.  Turns out many who used these images in fact unwittingly committed copyright infringement as the work was not his.  (He was not him… he was her.  The digital work was stolen and passed off as his – as her.)

Fast forward about four years later, and people in our group started comparing stories they had been told by this shady woman and it seems there were a lot of discrepancies. Well, turns out discrepancies were just bold-faced lies.  There was in real life – this famous family, but it was not the people we had been communicating with for years on end.  And all of the incredible personal stories were false.  The intricate details she had on these people’s lives was astounding really and it was shocking she could keep up this charade for so long.  Although many of us, for months, had our suspicions that something wasn’t right here – no one really discussed it with any one else in the group.  Maybe it’s because we were secretly being pitted against each other, perhaps untrusting.  I don’t know.  All sorts of odd little tidbits were thrown out there, and when certain people got close to unraveling things – it seems they, themselves, were woven into a new story entirely.  One that would make the rest of the group not trust them any longer.  Things such as hacking into other members profiles and posting obscene things on the walls of these famous fakes.  It is crazy – the things that people will say and make up.

Some people in our group dug a bit deeper and it seems we were not the first group that was deceived. Nor will we be the last as shortly after she was confronted, she quickly moved on to a new persona – taking along a few of the fake social media profiles that aid in her ability to deceive.

Now the odd thing here is that the majority of the group members were upset (which I believe were the ones deeply affected for many years worth of lies), but there are a few supporting her. They think they can heal her. Remember, I did say we were a group dedicated to helping others.  Of course none are professionally trained to do so which I believe is a very dangerous thing for two reasons: first – if the person is mentally ill they need one-on-one help not people online who hold no degree or education in mental health, and second, it enables the offender to continue this behavior with others (which in this case is evidently happening.)

For the majority of us, we ended up hurt because true to own nature, we are very loving and giving people.  It has nothing to do with the little bits of money we all lost.  It has nothing to do with hoping to one day meet these famous people.  In fact, we never treated them like we were groupies, but more like they were finding the normal they sought in the world, and they found it with our group  We gave of our heart and minds.  We spent countless hours helping this woman.  And just like relationships in real life, it is hurtful when people deceive – and when it’s purposefully done it feels worse.  Being taken advantage of, and being conned is never pleasant.

Anyhow, who knows why people do the things they do.  Whether it’s greed, mental illness, I don’t know.  The explanations some of us have been given by her run the gamut of weirdness from wanting to grow her facebook page, to writing a book, to not having enough friends, to having multiple personalities.  So we will never know what would possess a person to pose as another person and hurt so many.  Much less pose as multiple other people.

At first I was mad at her – and myself for falling for this. But I’ve come to realize what I’ve known all along and just forgotten. Things come into our lives as a lesson. It appears my lesson here has been to trust my intuition. I have learned a great deal from this whole situation. First and foremost is to trust myself and my initial feelings. I have also learned I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. I have also learned a LOT about forgiveness and the importance of it.   I think years ago I may have felt that the world was just a creepy and crazy place.   But after all this, after daily lies and charades for years I amazingly still think the world is mostly a good place – despite these types of people and circumstances.  I have also learned that some people are just really not honest. And that is okay! It is a part of their path.

Maybe they are mentally ill, maybe not. There will be people who enable them, and people who feel they can heal them. Maybe that will become their burden to bear down the line whether in their own personal life or whatever professional path they are on.  But everyone will learn something eventually.  I just pray they do not get hurt in their endeavors, and I also pray they do not do more damage.

For me, I will not stop trying to inspire or help others simply because of one person who was not who she claimed to be. (well, her, the half-dozen profiles she created, plus the four other famous people she was).  I am not going to beat myself up about it, because as so many people have told me, “Some people are master manipulators, and they are good at it!”, and  “Plus, how on earth could you even fathom that a grown woman would pretend to four other people?”  And even as I see this woman online today, and I read things on her page – things about how she hates being pulled into other people’s drama –  you know completely playing the victim.  Even as I see the continued web being weaved – I cannot help but to hope that she gets help.  Legitimate help.

Oh! and I’ve also learned it IS MOST CERTAINLY a federal crime to solicit money falsely online, as well as to solicit gifts through the post office, in the name or pretense, of someone you are not.

So to anyone out there who has been “had” – don’t be too hard on yourself.  I can say unequivocally – it does happen!  And it happens even to those who never in a million years would think it would happen to them!  As you are walking (or running) away… just wish them well and hope they find peace in their life to be a good person and to one day find happiness, and mostly to STOP hurting others.  Even if you are completely upset and pissed. Be kind to yourself.  And please make sure you take something away from your situation that will strengthen YOU.  Continue to do good for others and continue to hug humanity. Don’t stop letting people into your heart, just be careful!

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