Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Hello! My Name is Heather . . . “

Every now and then, one of my readers writes to me. Most of the time, it is on an issue, and behind the blog we have a great conversation. (I learn so much from you, my readers.) :-)

Occasionally, I will get one that makes the little hairs on the back of my neck rise up. I wish I had saved the one I got that started “Hello! My name is Heather (last name) and I live in (small-town) Iowa, and I would like your permission to share your (wonderful) blog with my friends.”

She went on to tell me a little about herself. I don’t know why – there was something about the letter that made me uncomfortable, and I have learned to trust those feelings.

I wrote to her and told her she was welcome to share my site, that anyone could visit, they were welcome. I didn’t share any personal details in return.

Her next e-mail coming back told me a whole lot about her life, and . . . it didn’t ring true. I don’t know why. When your instincts are telling you something is not right, you just MUST listen.

At the end, she asked who I really was, and where I was from and more oh-now-that-we’re-such-good-friends kinds of questions. Bingo. It felt like the whole thing had been set up to ask me that very question. I wrote back, as I always do, that I blog as Intlxpatr for a reason, and that I protect my anonymity.

Funny. I never heard from “her” again. I don’t believe a word she said, including I don’t know that I was corresponding with a woman, much less a woman named Heather.

Why on earth would anyone target me?

My friends, there are crazy people out there, people who think differently from you and me. No matter how good someone sounds, no matter how trustworthy, this is a virtual world, not a real world, and if you gut tells you to beware – then listen. Listen to that gut feeling, listen to the hairs on the back of your neck, and listen to that uneasiness . . . something is not right.

Given enough time, most scams and cons just can’t keep up the deception.

I once worked for an organization which would give emergency loans. I was pretty good, and pretty fast at putting a loan together, and verifying that the loan was needed. One day, a man came in with a serious problem, and with him was his boss, verifying his need. He had all the right papers, too. I made the loan.

Not two months later his boss came in to me with a hangdog look and said “I have to tell you about (so-and-so).”

He had been dealing drugs and had serious problems. His boss had vouched for him. The guy was clean cut and articulate and knew how to present himself. He had all the right papers – and both his boss and I were totally fooled. The boss brought the guy in to apologize to me – he was on his way to jail and he would never repay the loan; I had to write it off. The con-man looked at me and apologized sincerely, and gave me one piece of really really great advice:

“The reason they call us con-men is because we are really good at what we do. We make you believe us.”

Con-men fail in many other areas of their lives – anything that requires consistency and a long term commitment. They can’t perform under scrutiny over time – it’s mostly wires and mirrors and smoke, and it all falls apart when it is examined too closely.

Con-men also create drama that make you feel YOU have to commit now. They have deadlines, and terrible consequences. When you feel that happening in your life, take a deep breath. Slow things down. When you feel unduly rushed, when someone is pushing you for a quick decision on a major issue – that is the time to SLOW WAY DOWN, to examine closely, to give a situation some time. There are con-men and con-women in every culture.

“Heather” – or whoever “she” really was – has agendas you and I can’t begin to imagine. She/He may need money (they often do!) or your connections. He or she may just like messing with people’s lives.

Listen to your instincts, and take your time. Take a deep breath, relax – YOU set your own timeline. Ask around, ask if anyone you know has had experience with a similar approach, especially on the internet. Protect yourself. Protect yourself. Protect yourself.

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January 29, 2008 - Posted by | Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships | , , ,

14 Comments »

  1. Too creepy!

    Comment by momcat | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  2. Morning, Momcat! Yeh, it is creepy. And I have a feeling that the creeps are missing something in their brain that can feel sympathy, or compassion, or empathy, that they are unable to think of the feelings of others, only their own needs/feelings/wants, etc. Not just creepy, also scary and dangerous.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  3. You’re so right. I had one person who commented all the time, generally very nice, but left really negative comments in another nickname. She also e-mailed other commentators as if she knew me, and it was almost like she had competition issues with me, even though I didn’t know her virtually or in real life.

    I used to post pictures of my son when he was a baby and got recognized in public because of it. Not all people play with a full deck. Be wary.

    Comment by Stinni | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  4. Forgot to mention: there has been at least one blog from Kuwait where the blogger was male but pretended to be female.

    Comment by Stinni | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  5. yeah i think ‘heather’ wanted something from u, but quit when she/he/it realized u were not one to be easily fooled.
    im interested in the anonymity issue…i too would like to remain anonymous, but would u decline an invitation to meet other bloggers as well for the sake of ur anonymity?

    Comment by Mrm | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  6. Stinni – Yep! There’s a part of me that wonders “what are they thinking???” And I am glad you are not putting any more photos of your son in the blog for that very reason. However . . . I think it IS time for some more recipes (hint hint)

    Really?? A guy pretending to be a girl? How long were they able to keep up the pretense?

    Mrm – Yes. I decline all the time, and it is people whose blogs I really really like and respect. There is a part of me which would dearly love to meet some of the bloggers, and another part that won’t take that risk. Here is my concern – where do you draw the line? How do you know who to trust? How do you know who would not use that information for a few minutes of self-importance? Or who might in all innocence betray me to someone with evil intentions?

    But I lfind myself looking for you all the time. I see you out and about, and I wonder “is she one of the bloggers?” :-) I see you at the vet clinics, and I wonder “do we know each other?” It’s kind of fun for me.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  7. Yeah, I went through something similar two or three years ago. They try to connect with you but then you quickly realize they’re trying to use you or get something from you because you supposedly owe them their friendship?

    Comment by 3baid | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  8. yuck yuck yuck khalti and even worse that she would pretend to be from Iowa! Good for you for trusting your instinct!

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  9. How can you tell about someone’s insincere intentions if you don’t have those “feelings”?

    Comment by jewaira | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  10. crazy people out there, I’m reading Lolita at the moment and it’s making not trust anyone! It’s a horrible feeling!

    Comment by Elijah | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  11. 3baid, you are right, it just doesn’t feel right, it feels rushed.

    Little Diamond – I know! From Iowa! Go figure!

    Jewaira – THAT is a BIG problem. The really really good con men / women are very very good at building trust. They take their time, they find out where you are most vulnerable, and they use your best qualities to capture you.

    There are some signs. At some point in the relationship, they tell you not to talk about “this” (whatever this is) to other people, they isolate you, make it special, just between you and them. Another is cutting you off from your family members, friends, isolating you. Then, third, is there is usually a deadline, something that must be done by this date/time and ONLY YOU CAN DO IT!

    Any or all of those behaviors, as well as questions that push beyond your comfort zone, should set off warning bells.

    No matter how smart you are, these con people know how to suck you in. Usually, however, they can’t maintain the deception for too long – time is on your side. I was lucky with “Heather;” she wasn’t one of the brighter ones.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  12. WOOOOO HOOOOOOO, Elijah! I am dancing for joy! I am so happy to see you again! WooOOOOO HOOOOOOOOO!

    Lolita is heavy going, and I always found Nabakov SLIMY! I have a friend who finds him fascinating, and I learn a lot from her, but . . . I don’t like the guy. Are you reading Lolita for a class, or . .. .for “fun?”

    Love you, dear one. We are missing you on the Kuwait blog scene.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  13. yaaaaaaay thanx for the welcoming party :) I’m actually reading it cuz i heard so much about “Reading Lolita in Tehran” I was interested in finding out how bad it was to be banned in our side of the world, and I guess I did find out why. It’s insane. I was looking at some boys playing a soccer game and I wanted to take a picture but was horrified they’d think I was a pedophile!!

    Comment by Elijah | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  14. Elijah! LLOOOLLLLLLL!

    Comment by Intlxpatr | January 31, 2008 | Reply


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