People Using Fake Sickness or Hardship To Con People Out Of Their Money, Attention, or Empathy
I came across this headline the other day in my Twitter feed:
Excerpts from that article:
June 25, 2022
by S. Johnson
A woman claimed she was bedridden to con more than £620,000 from a council which she then used to pay for luxury holidays to America.
Frances Noble, 66, fooled social workers to commit what is suspected to be one of the largest fraud cases of its type to ever come before the English courts.
Between 2005 and 2018, Noble convinced Hertfordshire County Council she needed intensive round-the-clock home care.
— end —
I’ve seen similar news stories in the past several years – someone will claim to have cancer, or some other kind of hardship, but they are lying about it, and the reason they’re lying is to obtain monetary donations from the public.
Here’s another example (I may edit this post in the future to include more examples):
I’ve written other posts about how I (Link): spent over three decades as a codependent.
What I learned when I began getting over codependency, what I had my eyes opened to, is that there are people out there, whether legitimate victims or legitimately wounded in life,
or people who “play” at being a victim (some of these individuals may be (Link): Covert Narcissists) who will manipulate you, who will intentionally play on your pity and your heart strings or your guilt or sense of duty,
to get you to donate money to them, or to do things like listen to them complain weekly or monthly with compassion (ie, provide them with (Link): emotional labor), as they reiterate the same complaints repeatedly.
If you believe you may be a codependent, an empath with poor boundaries (which is essentially what a codependent is, but some people do not like the label “codependent”), or if you’re a people pleaser, I’d like for you to really get serious about not allowing your sense of compassion or empathy to sway you or to control every decision in your life.
Please stop automatically caving in and sending people money – because they ask you to, or you find out they’re going through a tough time, or because they look or sound sad.
Please stop feeling as though it’s your obligation or duty to rescue other people or do favors for them.
If you have a hard time saying “no” to people – out of fear of angering them, disappointing them, coming across as “selfish,” and/or from a fear of abandonment (i.e., “this person won’t stay in a relationship with me unless I keep doing favors for her”), please start researching the topic of people pleasing, boundaries, and codependency online if you cannot afford to see a therapist who specializes in the issue.
If you’d ever like to give empathy to people, which may come in the form of your time, attention, favors, or money (or some combination of any or all of those), please start practicing discernment if you do practice empathy.
Please also get comfortable learning to turn people down, tolerate any emotional outbursts they direct at you (whether tears, sadness, or anger), if you choose to turn them down.
Please begin thinking about when, if, or who, or how much, you help a person and under what conditions.
Please have criteria.
Especially if you are a Christian, please learn to practice discernment and stop giving your time, affection, attention, and/or money away indiscriminately to any and all who ask, or who don’t ask but who appear to you to be in need (ie, your first instinct is to pity people and run over to start throwing money at them).
Christians in particular are IN THE WRONG to keep depicting life as a situation where you’re always under obligation to indefinitely meet another person’s (or group of person’s) needs – the Bible does not teach this!
But so many Christians fall prey to this bogus theology, and they feel guilty if they don’t give of themselves (or their money) to every “sad sack,” down- on-their- luck person they run into.
I’m willing to guess that Christians most vulnerable to lacking boundaries, and to feeling obligated to jump into a care-giver role,
are ones who (Link): were raised gender complementarian (women are especially vulnerable to this, as complementarians brain wash Christian girls and women to think it’s wrong for women to be assertive, get their own needs met, or to have boundaries),
or people raised by a codependent parent (codependency is often passed down in families), or raised by an abusive or narcissistic parent.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten into middle age is to recognize that even people who are legitimately hurting, wounded, and victimized in life are not my responsibility to fix, nor can I fix them; I must put limits even on them.
For a few people in my life (one of them a family member) who had actually been hurt in life (they were not pretending to be victims or wallowing in (Link): victimhood mentality), I allowed my pity and compassion to dictate my response to these people who were sincerely hurting – which sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s not.
I ended up wasting YEARS trying to fix, rescue, and cheer these actual victims up, but no matter how much time and affection I gave them, they remained deeply depressed, or mired in low self esteem or whatever issues they had going on.
I ended up exhausting myself for nothing, and these people I tried helping for years either didn’t notice the help I’d been giving all along, or they took it for granted.
One of my big life lessons learned, which didn’t hit me until middle age (I wish I had known this in my teens and 20s):
You cannot and should not allow pity and compassion without reason and discernment to direct your actions.
I did that for years – I allowed my pity, compassion, and feelings of guilt and obligation (hammered into me by a codependent mother and gender complementarian church I was raised in) to make me feel as though I had to rescue other people, no matter how much of my time, energy, or money got sucked up by these people.
There are some people, even those who are genuinely wounded by life, who no amount of you pitying or giving attention or money to, will repair or save.
Your best bet would be to detach from these troubled people, step back, deliberately limit how much time, attention, or money you pour into them, and encourage them to either see a therapist for treatment, or, if they cannot afford one, to at least start using free, online mental health resources.
There are other categories of people out there who may not be “out right” con artists, but because of their psychological hang-ups (such as having (Link): victim mentality) or due to being (Link): Covert (Vulnerable) Narcissists, they will ask, suggest, imply, or hint they need and want your pity, time, attention, money, or compassion.
The reality remains, though, no matter how much of your time, money, attention, or affection you give to this person, it will never be enough.
They will always say out-right, or suggest, that you give them more, more, more.
No amount of you giving them attention, empathy, pity, kindness, or sending them money, will cheer them up, heal them, or fix them. It will never be enough.
You will be WASTING your energy and time (and your money, if you’ve been sending them gifts or money).
You can spend ten years giving a self-pitying, clinically depressed, traumatized, or covert narcissistic family or friend lots and lots of affection, emotional support, pity, time, favors, and money, and their self image and mental health problems will still be just as bad after ten years as it was the first year you met them.
I’ve been down that road many times myself with a few family members and several friends, (Link): including friends I’ve met over the internet in the past 20 years.
And some of these people who I am referring to were legitimate victims who didn’t run around with a “pity me please!” attitude, while others were.
The rest of the people I’ve known who were not legitimately wounded – the rest had deeply entrenched victimhood mentality and would not lift a finger to change anything about their own life or attitude.
They just wanted me to sit and listen to them complain for years about their disappointments in life but not do anything to move forward.
And in that group were people who had probably been hurt early in life (assuming they had been truthful with me about their pasts), but here they were now, at age 40, 50, or 60 or older, still wallowing in past misery, feeling sorry for themselves.
(In other words, it’s possible to have a friend or family member who truly WAS abused in childhood, but now that they are an adult, they refuse to take responsibility for healing and moving forward, they prefer to remain inert and (Link): phone you every month for hours to complain about how unfair their life is, or how unfair God has treated them, etc)
And it was a colossal waste of my time to provide that service to those people – and once I either began limiting my time and pity towards the person, or I went to THEM in my time of need, they turned on me, insulted me, stabbed me in the back.
These days, if I come across a person, an acquaintance I’ve met over the internet, or even a family member, who seems distressed about something, I don’t feel the need to jump in immediately and start offering advice, or asking if I can help them.
I may initially offer a few comforting words and tell them I wish them the best if they approach me to sob on my shoulder about their problems in life, but then I try to change the topic to something neutral or fun and move on.
I don’t feel obligated any more to be a rescuer or “savior” to someone else.
Unfortunately, there are people out there – like con artists or vulnerable (also known as covert) narcissists – who very much want you to view them with pity and as a victim in life.
These are the people who want you to feel sorry for them, because they want you to send them money, or to listen to them complain or cry for months about their problems and give them non-judgmental emotional support, etc.
If you know you have a tendency to feel obligated to rescue every person who comes to you with a sob story, please be aware that not only are there financial con artists who will try to separate your funds from you via their “I’m dying of cancer” type stories, but,
there are also emotionally needy people out there who think of themselves as victims, who want YOU to view them as victims, because they want you to pity them, agree with them that they’re a victim in life.
Such people will end up sucking you dry. You will be emotionally depleted.
Please learn to put limits on your time and attention. Don’t automatically give it away to any and all people you come across in life.
Having limits (boundaries) on your time, attention, and money is not “mean” or selfish, contrary to what your family of origin or Christian faith may have taught you – having boundaries, and not always caving in to run to someone else’s help, is healthy and will protect you quite often..
Below, 15.44 minute long video:
I see more of Emma, an ex-friend I wrote about on this blog in other blog posts, in this (a little over 12 minutes long):
(Link): When You’re in Imbalanced, Unfair Relationships – You’re the Free Therapist, The Supportive, Sounding Board Who Listens to Other People’s Non-Stop Complaining, But They Don’t Listen to You – re: The Toilet Function of Friendship
(Link): Emma Responds – My Comments