Grifting Hasn’t Gone Away. Goalposts Have Moved Responding to Social Media, Society… Little Work Is Now Required to Bring in Record Scores


It used to be somewhat of a joke, grifting.

There was even a wildly popular Scorsese classic, starring that 80’s guy we all loved secretly, John Cusack, being as bad as he could pull off and make us pay to watch.

The GriftersstarringCusack and Anjelica Huston, pulled back the curtain somewhat on the seamy underbelly of con artists and the people they defraud.

Pre Internet, anyway.


Wikipedia poster for theatrical film used under Fair Use

The word “grift” is a catchy word.

NYT bestselling author Maria Konnikova maintains a podcast where she discusses con artists/ thieves and the lives they destroy with their cons. Name?

The Grift.


from the podcast “The Grift” accessed by author 2.2.2019


There is a fascination with this kind of thing. Why?

It’s so audacious.

We as a society devour the shows on ID Channel Investigation Discovery (ID), Nat Geo, Tru TV showcasing the incredible ways certain individuals decide to “eke through life”.

A man successfully impersonating a member of the Rockefeller family for years….

I watched a couple of times, amazed.

What about the small timers?

The “little grifters”?

We have all brushed up against them in the digital age.

On the street.

Maybe even been had ourselves. I won’t lie, I thought I was savvy and wise, but I was had this year. 

It happens… they sneak up on a person. Especially in the Internet age. 

Hell, I bought the grifter that “got” me a Medium membership, so hopefully that individual will make some money here and stop ripping people off, even if that person rips my content off to make money.

The “New” Grift

Yeah, let’s talk about those other kinds…

The so-called “really good friend” you have that always seems to be on the verge of eviction?

Having their electric shut off?

Buying their dinner at the corner convenience store…

What about those ones?

These are the kinds of people who are extremely good at finding nice, giving people to give them money.

Or “stuff”.

They are indeed grifters.

Just much more prudent and a lot more savvy in how they choose and maintain their patsy.

We hear these stories and comment under them, making tons of presumptions.

Tons of character judgements — usually of the victim and their intelligence.

Why?

Because deep down inside we are grateful it wasn’t us.

It is never clear to the victim until after all is said and done just how bad they were conned.

Usually, it is done in a way the victim is utterly helpless to get any recourse, too.

Gen Xers, by and large when struck by the bug of a beloved “brand”, love their shoes — Malonos/ Louboutins; certain particular lines, Chanel Fall runway; Chloë Cruise wear, Moschino (just plain, not cheap n chic). 

It gets complex, but a dedicated person will navigate like a hunter understands hunting and fishing routes.

Their children are more drawn to makeup brands. Jeffrey Starr, Urban Decay.

Jeffrey Starr’s “Blood Sugar” eyeshadow palette, for example, is a white whale for many people, some who sit poised at their computer for hours before a release, hoping to purchase one.

Yes, they sell out that fast.

A grifter looks at these kinds of things as a dream come true.

One could sell knock offs as the real thing… and make a killing?

Or… one could strategically get themselves in with a patsy to buy them a palette — then sell it themselves for a huge profit.

Scam opportunities are endless.

My best friend was grifted this year as well. 

Hence, the impetus for this article. 

I wanted to talk about the world of grift in 2019, and how it has changed, with the dawn of the Internet.

How anyone can be a victim, and how you can guard against it.


Photo by Sarah Comeau on Unsplash


Anyone Can Be a Victim- You Aren’t Immune

Miranda is a beautiful and successful public speaker for a non-profit.

She is well read, travels, and has many friends.

She is well liked in her career, and by her neighbors.

Her husband is a successful broker. They just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary and are very devoted to one another.

She relates a story to me that is unbelievable to hear, coming from someone “like her”.

It illustrates to me that just about anyone at all could be conned.

Miranda is a smart, well off, attractive woman… taken for a ride.

I meet so many people speaking for my boss. I met Valerie this way, online. She commented on one of my video presentations and we started to email. It blossomed into a real friendship.

Valerie was blind since birth and she didn’t have any money. I was so impressed with how smart she seemed. I felt sad that she was resigned to that life. She video chatted with me, so I could see she actually existed as she presented (I wasn’t being “Catfished”, right?).

Miranda laughs a slight bitterness. Her eyes flash with a fire behind them and then she covers her face with her hands.

I just feel so stupid when I look back on this.

But she knew what she was doing. She never once outright asked me for a dime.

But it was the “things” she said, and the “particular way” she said those things, how she framed them… that is how I knew she needed money and stuff and offered to help out.

I sent her things too, along with money. I sent her designer shoes, makeup (it never even occurred to me to think about how a blind person would wear it), jewelry… because I wanted her to enjoy nice things.

I even sent her a set of Braille books and software specifically for the blind with a special keyboard from a vendor I knew.

She sold all of it. Had to have! I am such an idiot. She wasn’t even blind. Lies, all lies.

How did Miranda “wake up”? Find out?

Miranda tells me a story straight from TruTV.

Almost a year into a really meaningful (to her) friendship, Miranda is given tickets by an appreciative client to a concert in the very town Valerie lives in. It is a music artist Valerie loves. Of course, Miranda cannot wait to be able to give those tickets to her friend over a state away.

Valerie is beside herself with excitement, but it quickly evaporates.

“I can’t go, Miranda. I don’t have a thing to wear,” she says sadly. “No money.”

“Not to worry”, says Miranda. “I will send a dress. A perfect one, I only wore it once. It’s black with gold beading.”

A long pause. “Well… I hate to be that girl, says Valerie. “I don’t think I want to wear a used dress. I’m sorry, Panda.”

Miranda immediately feels horrible, guilty.,

“How about gift VISA card and you could pick out whatever?” Miranda suggests.

“Do you think so?” says Valerie excitedly. “Wow! Thank you so much!”

The women stay on video chat for hours, planning Valerie’s outfit.

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

The week before the concert, Valerie asks how she plans on getting Valerie there.

Miranda is taken aback.

“Oh, I must have missed something. I thought you would have that covered,” Miranda says, surprised.

“I don’t see how you could have thought that, Miranda. I don’t have a car,” pouts Valerie. “We walk to the store, or you know, Steve, he guides me with the cane.”

Miranda is completely caught off guard. “Don’t you have a friend or something who can drop you off?”

Valerie laughs. “No. Most of our friends don’t have cars. The ones who do wouldn’t be able to take me.”

A long pause stretches.

Miranda is bewildered. “How do you do anything, Valerie? Do you just never go anywhere?”

Valerie is defensive. “No. It’s not that tragic, gosh, you make it sound so pathetic and needy.”

Miranda has to get off the video chat because she is working from home. She tells Valerie she will figure something out.

A seed is planted in her mind though and insistently puts out roots.

Miranda gets an email that night from Ticketmaster stating the concert was cancelled. No explanation. Artists rarely give one, do they?

Valerie loses it.

“They have to accommodate me! Do you hear me, Miranda? I am blind! They have to!” Valerie shrieks.

Miranda is shocked at her irrational overreaction.

“What are you even talking about Val? They aren’t coming. It’s done. I am sorry, but they cancelled the whole thing. I will forward this to you, but it’s all over the Internet too.”

Silence.

Miranda tried again. “I know you were excited.” She laughs to lighten the mood. “I was too and I wasn’t even going, because you were so happy.”

Valerie is silent. She seems expectant. At last, she speaks.

“Can’t you think of something we can do?”

Miranda has no idea what Valerie is expecting and asks her exactly that, irritated now.

“Nothing. Just never mind. This is stupid.” Valerie hangs up abruptly.

She hears nothing from Valerie. She didn’t realize how much they texted and talked until it was abruptly over. She keeps checking her phone like a teenager.

Later that night, she talks with her husband about the entire situation.

He is distressed for Miranda, because he loves her.

Not directly involved, he is able to look at the whole relationship with a clear eye.

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

“Look honey, I have been very uneasy about this friendship. You have been happy, it hasn’t affected us negatively, so I haven’t said anything. But this crosses the line,” he begins.

“You were expected to not only give her tickets, but I assume pay for all her stuff while there?” Miranda nods and shrugs. “And pay her way home?” Another nod. “Then she suddenly wanted you to get her from her house to the concert where she lives? That doesn’t make any sense,” he concludes. “You are not stupid, Mir. Just very giving and sweet to your friends.”

Miranda hangs her head.

“I wonder if she needed quick cash for something.” He muses.

Miranda looks up sharply. “What do you mean?”

“Obviously you were supposed to offer her cash for an Uber or taxi,” he explains patiently. “She would have pocketed it and gotten there somehow.” He rubs his chin thoughtfully and adds, “I just wonder if you would have sent enough or she would have worked you for more…”

Miranda opens her mouth to defend her friend, but instead closes it and thinks.

Thinks back.

Her husband watches her. “Mir, may I ask you something?”

She looks at him, knowing what.

She flushes bright red and tears stream down her cheeks. She shakes her head.

“Oh, I don’t know how I….. what…” she cries, mortified.

Her husband holds her and she grieves for a friendship that only existed to her. For a friendship that was a one way street, from Miranda’s heart and wallet into Valerie’s pocket.

Miranda says she gave Valerie well over $7000 in cash and presents. She did it with a happy giving heart. She doesn’t want anything back.

Her husband was less forgiving. He wanted to know who this person was. He hired a PI and uncovered a damning life of a small-time con. One who struggled with SUD- substance abuse disorder.

A person who wasn’t even blind.

Her husband is so grateful the venue cancelled the concert because God knows how much longer “Valerie” would have continued to exist. It took too long for this to out itself as it was. He carries guilt for not saying anything about his own uneasiness.

A part of Miranda missed Valerie for a while, even though she knew it was all fake. She never heard from her again after that last call, either. It was as though Miranda ceased to exist, once Valerie wasn’t able to manipulate her exactly how she wanted to.

“It was difficult to turn off my feelings because I had been in a friendship for almost a year with this person. Even though it was all a lie, it took a bit for my mind and heart to align on it,” she sighs. “I saw a therapist for a little while to work through this.”

She smiles. “In the end, “Valerie” did me a favor. I was able to confront why I would even become friends and stay in a friendship with a person that gave so little back to me. What I was missing and looking for in her. Why I needed to be a ‘savior’ to someone and how arrogant that really is when one thinks about it. It really was a learning experience and I am a much better person because of it.”

Moving Forward after Grifting

What can we learn from Miranda’s story?

How many similar stories have we heard? Every day, it seems, the Internet serves up one for consumption, in some fashion. We read them and breathe a sigh of relief.

That could never happen to us, correct?

Partly because we think we are too poor to be sending cash, jewelry, makeup, designer shoes to people.

Haha! The joke’s on any grifter who tries to pull a con like that on me, right?

Think again.

The emotional grifter is as bad as the material grifter — and everyone has dealt with these ones, too.

We call them different things…

· Buzz killers

· Energy vampires

· Energy leech

· Souls suckers

Same principles remain, though.

They steal.

They steal, instead of money, all the sunlight out of the room. The joy, hope, love and warmth of the day. It’s gone.

Their bitter, incessant whining and complaining about life gets on your last nerve.

The dark cloud over their head engulfs you, too, when they are around… even virtually.

Many times a material grifter is also an emotional grifter.

These people need to be handled the same, regardless.

· Be aware. Very aware.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, it isn’t. many times, the grifter, as an accomplished liar they are, will parlay their excellent skills of charm and ass kissing into making you feel as though you are king or queen of the world.

At first.

This is their hook. They are pro fishers of men. 

Someone new in your life who is overly complimentary of you should be side eyed with caution. Sorry, but you aren’t that great. No, really. You aren’t. 

Emotional grifters really are experts at picking out, even virtually online, people with low confidence who need validation. Low hanging fruit. They zero in like sharks. 

Effusively praising you over all your actions, comments, always backing you up, and being your sidekick- especially unasked, is a red flag.

Proceed with caution and pay close attention. Care must be made with these people until you can rule out whether or not they are grifters.


DanaTentis on Pixabay


· Guard your Online ID jealously (and your friend’s too!!)

Be really careful with giving out any personal information to people on the Internet. Again, a no brainer, right? Yet, I am amazed at the amount of people who have other people’s info. I am downright SHOCKED at who gives out other people’s information to virtual friends they have never met in person — simply because they have been “Twitter” friends for a time and that person (grifter) is “nice” and supposedly “well-liked”.

Tip: If someone actually trusted you enough to give you their cell phone number, why in God’s name would you ever think it okay to pass it off to someone else without asking first? This actually has happened to me, personally, and my number was given to a psychopath. 

Said psychopath was “charming and oh so nice on ‘Twitter’”. Gee, really?

A very painful lesson for me to learn. Don’t make the mistakes I made. 

I am willing to eat the humiliation of revealing my ignorance here to save someone the horror of that. Just give a virtual number from an app if you want to share any numbers unless you have met and really trust the people.

· Don’t Bother Calling Out a Grifter

Grifters are like roaches. They never really go away. 

Furthermore, if you have attracted a hybrid grifter (an emotional/material one) chances are they have a couple of people so successfully brainwashed in your “online friend group” you will wind up being the one cast out.

That is just the way of the road.

Disengage and walk away. That is the most mentally healthy advice. 

If you are unable to even be around this person whatsoever because the injustice eats at you too much (which is fair! I am not here to say it isn’t), a break from social media may be exactly what you need. 

Most grifters aren’t like Miranda’s. They don’t totally go away.

I hope in this I have helped you identify and learn some tips on the new ways of the online grifter and how to deal with one if you become their target.

Remember, “no” is a complete sentence. 

You are allowed to tell someone no. Even someone on Twitter or someone from the Internet who you “like”. 

You should never be gaslighted or guilt-tripped into doing things you know arent “right” or walking away from truth.

I always felt guilty when I bought myself anything new. Like I didn’t deserve it or hadn’t worked hard enough for it,” says Miranda, thinking back over her year as Valerie’s friend. “I learned that I either had to buy a duplicate of it for Valerie and ship it to her or just never say a word. Because she actively ruined anything for me otherwise. Where is the friendship, the affection in that?”

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash


Related.

Heather Wargo has been writing since she was eleven years old. She is a fiction and nonfiction writer who has published in The Western Journal, Lifesite News, The Ascent, and the Writer’s Cooperative. She is also an advocate for incurable painful disease patients and physicians.
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Heather Wargo has been writing since she was eleven years old. She is a fiction and nonfiction writer who has published in The Western Journal, Lifesite News, The Ascent, and the Writer’s Cooperative. She is also an advocate for incurable painful disease patients and physicians.
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