What Showtime’s 'Love Fraud' Gets Right & Wrong About Con Men

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Love Fraud, Showtime's riveting new documentary tells the story of a prolific romance scammer, Richard Scott Smith, who swindled an unknown number of women whom he met online.

If you're looking for love, especially on dating sites, I recommend that you educate yourself by watching this show.

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Love Fraud is totally accurate.

I know, because I lived it.

My ex-husband was one of the pioneers of online romance scams — he started looking for targets (make no mistake, that's what you are) long before Google, Facebook, and Match.com.

He took $227,000 from me, $100,000 from the mistress he kept while married to me, $200,000 from the wife before me who died, $200,000 from the wife before her, and $200,000 to $300,000 from a previous girlfriend — and those were just the victims who testified at my divorce.

There were more.

Because of my experience, I launched Lovefraud.com to educate people about sociopaths — that's what romance scammers are. I also wrote a book entitled Love Fraud, published in 2010, which reads much like the Showtime TV show.

Thousands of people have contacted me to tell me their heartbreaking stories, many of them worse than mine.

If you watch Love Fraud and have a hard time believing it — trust me, everything in the show is typical of romance scammers. Here are 10 strange-but-true details mentioned in the show, and one scary fallacy.

Here are 10 things Showtime's Love Fraud got right about romance con men.

1. Scammers don't sleep at night.

Sociopaths frequently have extremely high levels of energy, short attention spans, and a need for excitement. As a result, many of them require very little sleep.

While you sleep, they're online looking for more victims.

2. They like TV shows and movies about sociopaths.

Richard Scott Smith, the Love Fraud scammer, liked to watch American Greed and Lifetime TV shows in which husbands stalked their wives, according to one of the victims. This is typical — sociopaths like to watch predators.

Other favorites include American Psycho and Silence of the Lambs.

3. Their eyes didn't look right.

Intense eye contact is one of the warning signs that I include in my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud — 10 signs you're dating a sociopath. Call it the predatory stare.

Or sometimes the eyes seem empty, like no one is home inside — because no one is.

4. They rush the wedding.

This is another warning sign in my Red Flags of Love Fraud book, scammers "move fast to hook up."

Sociopaths typically want to get their hooks into you before you figure out what's going on and escape. That's why they sweep you off your feet in the whirlwind romance.

But don't think that you can avoid con artists simply by taking things slowly — plenty of scammers patiently implement the long con.

RELATED: 10 Major, Can't-Miss-It Signs You're Dating A Complete Sociopath

5. They're control freaks.

"You've been a control freak since day one," accused one of Smith's victims in a recorded phone call. Bingo.

The reason why sociopaths engage in relationships is to exert power and control over others. That is their only motivation.

They are totally incapable of love, so the only thing that gives them personal satisfaction is domination.

6. They up the monetary pressure after marriage.

"I was married to him for nine months and I lost everything," said one of the victims in the Love Fraud show. Think that's unrealistic? Actually, it happens all the time.

Romance scammers usually start asking for financial "help" early on — as soon as they think the target is ripe.

Once they're married, the pressure accelerates. They push for joint accounts, credit cards, car leases, and home equity loans. Spouses are broke before they know what happened.

7. They'll always have a sob story.

"I never really fit in," Smith said in another recorded phone call, lamenting his lack of friends and relationships. Cue the crocodile tears. This is a typical sociopathic strategy (also described in my Red Flags of Love Fraud book) called the "pity play." 

The sociopath's objective is to make you feel sorry for him (or her), so that you're more likely to give him what he wants. It's a powerful appeal, and often works.

8. There are usually multiple unsuspecting girlfriends or boyfriends.

"He thought it would be cool to see how many girls he could date at the same time and not get caught," said Smith's friend from junior high and high school.

My con man ex-husband did exactly the same thing in high school, although the girls found out about each other and busted him. He was still doing it at 55 years old.

While engaged to me, he invited his long-time girlfriend to stay with him in his dead wife's townhouse, then took the girlfriend's car to visit me for a romp in the bedroom.

9. They strategically plan every move.

"He strategically plans every move he makes on every woman," said Carla, the bounty hunter in Love Fraud who's helping Smith's victims track him down. She is absolutely correct.

Here's what sociopaths do when they meet you:

  • Find out if you have anything they want.
  • Figure out your vulnerabilities.
  • Use your vulnerabilities to get you to give them what they want.

I know of many victims who were married for years. Suddenly, the sociopath left them, and they discovered that their bank accounts were empty, the mortgage was in default, and multiple credit cards were opened in their names.

10. They believe marriage means what's yours is his.

"If he marries them, then it's his," Carla explained, "community property." Sociopaths know this.

My ex-husband ran up my credit cards. One of our frequent arguments about money went like this:

Me: "The debts are yours! You ran up the charges."

Him: "We're married. My debts are your debts."

I was shocked. Later, I learned that it was true. Even though the judge in my divorce said my ex-husband was responsible, the credit-card companies didn't care and demanded payment from me. I ended up bankrupt.

At one point in the Love Fraud episode, Richard Scott Smith's high-school friend said, "I don't think he knows the difference between right and wrong anymore."

This is not true. Sociopaths know right from wrong — they just don't care.

RELATED: 14 Warning Signs Your Prince Charming Is Actually A Catfish & Scammer

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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.