At one time or another we have all wondered if the person we are speaking with is on the level. Some of us are good at spotting fakes and cons, while others get scammed repeatedly--financially, emotionally, in life and love.
Why? Is there’s a way to reduce the possibility of it happening again? And, when faced with stories or explanations for behavior that we just know on a gut level can’t be so, why do some people still persist is believing them?
New York journalist Abbey Ellin asked herself those same questions after discovering the man she had been engaged to was a con, spinning exciting tales of danger and mystery, spanning the globe where he always saved the day.
She turned this experience into a virtual handbook on how not to get taken. Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married takes readers through the emotional highs and lows Ellin experienced and holds nothing back.
I had the pleasure of speaking with her recently, finding the same degree of honesty and openness during our conversation as she revealed in the book.
A nerdy, asthmatic, 58 Year-Old, Superhero
In March 2012, Ellin discovered the truth about the Navy doctor she had been engaged to. Meeting “The Commander,” in 2006, she was swept off her feet by this somewhat nerdy, fifty-eight year old guy suffering from numerous health issues with stories that made himself appear to be a real life character out of a spy movie.
“The stories were so ludicrous they had to be true,” she says. “After all, someone has to do these sorts of things, right? Isn’t that what we’ve learned from Homeland and Zero Dark Thirty?”
“Nothing was verifiable. It’s not like I could call up Human Resources at the CIA and ask if he was an employee,” she says. “When you can’t verify what you’ve been told, that’s a huge warning signal.”
“I was trying to throw my natural skepticism aside and not be a journalist in need of answers,” she says. “I wanted to believe him. But how can you have that if you doubt the things the person you love is telling you?
Many of the things he told her were true. He was a doctor in the Navy and worked at the Pentagon. He just wasn’t a war hero who took off for ‘secret missions’ at a moment’s notice.
Sucker Tattooed on a Friend’s Forehead? Give them Duped!
If you want to do something for a friend who has the word Sucker tattooed on their forehead–and no matter what you say, they just won’t listen–give them Ellin’s book.
She learned that a healthy dose of doubt is the safest course to follow until you can verify what you’ve been told.
“The Commander’s” claims of having once treated Osama bin Laden combined with receiving his lovely gift of fake pearls--which he claimed were expensive Mikimotos—only grew her suspicions.
In 2012, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) told her that the “Commander,” had illegally prescribed Vicodin and other drugs, forging her name, his family’s names, along with people he worked with at the Pentagon.
She later discovered that he had been married not once but twice, and that he was actually engaged to another woman while they were engaged! He had never been a Navy SEAL, nor had he worked for the CIA.
He wound up serving 21 months in prison.
Valuable Take-Aways from Duped
Duped takes readers through a history of cons, crooks, spies and morally challenged people from all walks of life. Ellin provides excellent dating advice, and explains why getting physical too quickly is an invitation to heartbreak.
The book is a compelling read--I went through it in a couple of days–and it gets especially useful from page 144 onwards, when the author discusses trust and why it’s potentially dangerous.
That’s right. “Too much trust too early is often a trap,” Ellin says.
So, what are the most critical warning signs of deception to look for in any relationship, personal or business? She has theses recommendations:
(1) If somebody is asking you for money - especially a large sum of money - run!
(2) Endless stories about his heroic adventures, if he’s always off somewhere, saving lives, but you can never find news stories about the event, then it probably never happened.
(3)Your instincts are usually correct but too often we swat those nagging voice inside us away—we don’t really want to see things as they are. Trust your feelings.
Duped just might prevent from ever being duped!