3 Crucial Lessons I Learned From Marrying A Con Artist

Photo: Bill Horin
Donna Andersen and her marriage to a con artist

Showtime premieres its docu-series Love Fraud on Sunday, August 30, 2020. It's the story of a con artist, Richard Scott Smith, who met women over the internet, promised them love and companionship, then took all their money.

When the legal system failed them, his victims banded together and went after him with the help of a tough-talking female bounty hunter.

RELATED: How To Emotionally Protect Yourself From Romance Scams

It's almost the same story that I tell in my book, Love Fraud, published 10 years ago. I don't mind that the show uses the same title — it's legal, and I'm all for anything that brings attention to the millions of heartless exploiters living among us.

Romance scams run by con artists are a huge problem and cost love-lorn people millions every year.

Back in 1996, I met and hastily married an Australian man who told me he was a successful and wealthy Hollywood producer and scriptwriter, and a founder of E! Entertainment television.

He told me he served in the military and won Australia's highest honor for his bravery during the Vietnam War. He told me I was the woman he'd been waiting for all his life, and because we were so compatible, he'd never need to look at another.

Everything was a lie, but I didn't know it until far too late. This man took $227,000 from me, cheated with at least six different women, had a child with one of them, and then 10 days after I left him, married the mother of the child. It was the second time he committed bigamy.

Like the women in the Showtime story, I, too, connected with my husband's other victims. I became best friends with one of my husband's mistresses — he took $100,000 from her while he was swindling me.

We worked together to discover the truth: My husband was a failure in Hollywood — an employee at Movietime, the predecessor of E!, who was fired for drunkenness. He never served in the military — all his so-called service records were forged.

He was involved with 20 or 30 women before and during my marriage — and they were all asking for their money back.

Who — or what — was this man? I couldn't wrap my head around the massive scale of his deception and betrayal.

Many con artists have major personality disorders.

As I told my therapist about his outrageous behavior, she said, "He sounds like a sociopath." A sociopath! What was that?

I did my research and concluded that yes, my con artist husband had a serious personality disorder. I learned that there are multiple disorders in which the affected individuals lie, steal, manipulate, exploit, and cheat — such as antisocial, narcissistic, and psychopathic personality disorders.

I was shocked to learn that millions of people have these disorders; they are essentially human predators, and most of us don't know they exist.

When I filed for divorce, I accused my husband of marriage fraud. Three of the other women testified, plus the parents of the wife before me who died — did I mention that?

The judge ruled that my husband did indeed commit fraud. I was awarded the $227,000 my husband took from me, plus $1 million in punitive damages. I collected a grand total of $517.

Although my husband took more than $1 million from the women I knew about, he blew it all.

RELATED: I Was Catfished — And That Sleazy Con Artist Is Still Out There

I was devastated, but after some time, I recovered. Because of my experience, I wrote my book and founded Lovefraud.com in 2005. My website teaches people how to spot, avoid, and recover from people who have exploitative personality disorders.

What you need to know about romance scams, con artists, and "love frauds" in general.

1. Millions of exploiters live among us.

Approximately 30 million adults in the United States could be diagnosed with antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, and psychopathic personality disorders.

These people are fundamentally different from the rest of us. They are manipulators and exploiters who do not have the ability to authentically love — although they can be very good at faking it.

2. These con artists are easy to spot when you know the warning signs.

When sociopaths are on the prowl, they are usually charismatic and charming. They sweep you off your feet in a whirlwind romance.

They also try to make you feel sorry for them, and they blame others for all their problems. Learn the signs, and you'll be able to spot and avoid exploiters.

3. The best way to protect yourself is to listen to your intuition.

We are all hardwired with an early warning system designed to protect us from predators, including sociopaths, con artists, and other people trying to take advantage of us.

Your body and instincts will tell you when you're in danger through a gut feeling, a chill down your spine, sudden fear, or some other internal nudge.

Unfortunately, you probably were not taught to heed to the warnings, but you can learn to pay attention to them. To protect yourself, all you have to do is listen to instincts and act on the warnings.

RELATED: I Married A Sociopath — And He Stole My Life Savings

Donna Andersen is author of Love Fraud — How Marriage to a Sociopath Fulfilled My Spiritual Plan, and founder of Lovefraud.com. She is an expert on sociopaths in relationships and offers personal consultations.