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.