Debby Montgomery fell in love online and ended up losing over $1,000,000. Watch to find out how it happened, how the fraud was revealed and what she’s doing to help others avoid the same fate.
Here’s the Transcript:
Traci Brown: Debby, thank you so much for coming on Fraud Busting!
Debby Montgomery: I’m so excited. This is really fun for me. Thanks for having me.
Traci Brown: You bet. I don’t really know you, so let’s get to know you a little bit. You’re in Florida, right?
Debby Montgomery: I am. I’m in Lake Worth, Florida.
Traci Brown: Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about the pandemic. We had it in the spring, and it died down, and now it’s back again, at least where I am. What’s your pandemic go-to entertainment? What have you been doing?
Debby Montgomery: We’re Netflix bingers.
Traci Brown: Oh!
Debby Montgomery: We are. We can’t watch regular TV anymore because the commercials are excruciating.
Traci Brown: Isn’t it though.
Debby Montgomery: Yea. We do a lot of Netflix. I listen to Audible books. I really like to listen to books a lot on Audible.
Traci Brown: What’s your favorite Netflix that you’ve watched lately?
Debby Montgomery: The Crown, season four. I finished that, and now we’re watching Northern Rescue.
Traci Brown: I haven’t seen that one. Is it good? Are both of those good?
Debby Montgomery: Oh, yea. It’s very good. Different. I mean, The Crown, because I watch the other three seasons, I watched it. My husband wouldn’t watch that. We watch a lot of shows that are out Iceland and Denmark, cop shows, that kind of thing. The best of shows, really fun.
Traci Brown: We watched the Queen’s Gambit.
Debby Montgomery: Did you like it?
Traci Brown: Loved it. We went out. We were out at my husband’s, his family’s place, and they had an extra chess board. We brought it back and learned how to play chess.
Debby Montgomery: Very good.
Traci Brown: It is hard.
Debby Montgomery: Yea. I think my sons probably learned how to do it when they were little, but chess wasn’t my game. But I’m looking forward to it. Someone mentioned that show to me, so I’m looking forward to that one.
Traci Brown: Oh boy. Okay. Let’s jump in. We met from our friend Tim McGuinness, who you’ve been working with for a while. He’s all about socially engineered relationship scams and preventing those. Let’s tell everyone, what’s your connection there? Let’s just jump right in.
Debby Montgomery: I met Tim about three or four years ago. My husband passed away suddenly in 2010. He was 56. I was 52. I jumped into online dating about six months later because my friends decided that I needed a life other than working. I was working a lot. We’ll get into the story, but I met Tim after the fact. I had an article written in the Palm Beach Post, and the reporter said, “You need to get a hold of Dr. McGuinness at SCARS, which is the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams. I think he could help you to move forward or maybe you can help him because you’ve come out with your story.” So, I reached out to Tim, and we’re like Mutt and Jeff right now. We do a lot of things together. He’s Mr. Professor. He knows a lot about the scamming business and what’s happened, and how to help survivors. I’ve basically become the voice of the survivor.
Traci Brown: Got it. Okay. Alright, so let’s jump in. What happened?
Debby Montgomery: What happened is my friends wanted me to get a life. They said get into online dating because at the time I had been married for almost 26 years, and I was really busy. I didn’t really have time or the inclination to go out to look for a date. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t party. I didn’t do those kinds of things, so I was really at home with my youngest son and I needed something that I could do from home. I’d heard really great stories about friends that had met their husbands or their significant others online. Even my mom had a friend who was in her 70s, and she met a wonderful guy, so I thought it would be the safest thing for me to do. I could do it from the security of my home. I dipped my toe in. I went to a couple of faith-based websites, thinking that would be a good place for men that might have the same – not necessarily the same religious inclination, but they would be faith-based men and be kind and nice. I was very surprised at what I found for the 55 to 65 year olds. I was a little disappointed because my husband bold and intelligent. He was an interesting man. I was judging everybody based on what I had with Lou. They couldn’t write worth beans. It was worse than a 5th grader. It was horrible.
Traci Brown: Online men are just . . . um.
Debby Montgomery: It was horrible.
Traci Brown: Oh my gosh, yes.
Debby Montgomery: They showed up with wife beater t-shirts in front of motorcycles, not to say anything about that, but that wasn’t me.
Traci Brown: I’ll tell you, I met my husband online. It is the same everywhere. It doesn’t matter what age group. You’re just like, oh my God, are you serious?! Anyway, keep going. You passed the wife-beater guys, and the what happened?
Debby Montgomery: Then I was contacted by a very nice looking man. He was 55. He was from England. He was an international businessman. It just fed right into what I was doing because I owned a company, and I was looking for someone that I could travel with, someone that might have had a family, and he did. He actually was a widower. He had a son who I think Kenny at the time was maybe between eight and 10. He was from London. I thought, this is really cool. It’s international. It’s fun. It turns out he was a contractor for hardwood trees. He didn’t know this, but I did have investments in Costa Rica in hardwood trees.
Traci Brown: Huh.
Debby Montgomery: It was interesting. He was in Houston at the time. I was like, well, maybe we can get together. But in the first couple of weeks he was working on a project that would take him over to Malaysia. He was going to be moving a large amount of trees from Malaysia to India. I did my due diligence, I thought. I looked up the company. I actually called the company and asked if they had a Dr. Eric Hall, and they told me “no”, but in my mind, I’m thinking, well, he’s a contractor, independent, so maybe he’s not listed in the company list. When I would ask Eric questions about what he did and who he worked for, he always had a plausible reason for me not being able to find something. He always had an answer to something, and I trusted him. I had no reason not to trust him. All I had seen was good things online. So that’s how I met him, and he quickly, within probably two weeks, because he was traveling said, “Can we get off the website and go to Yahoo Chat?” This was back in 2010 and Yahoo Chat, I didn’t know anything about it, but when we got on it was cool because I typed rather quickly and it was like instant messaging.
Traci Brown: Oh yea.
Debby Montgomery: It was fun. In the middle of the night I would hear that ding, ding, ding of the chat and I would run out of bed. We’d be online for hours, literally hours. The most amazing thing to me is during the two years that we were in this online relationship I actually copied and pasted every single message, email, whatever that we had between us and I put it in an online journal and I actually have 4,000 pages of printed journal.
Traci Brown: Oh, my goodness.
Debby Montgomery: I haven’t done that since, but it was amazing that I did that because I can look back now and see everything that I wrote to him. It was fun. It was an amazing experience. It was something that was safe enough for me, that put me out of my comfort zone. Not being in a relationship for 20 something years, it was really tough to start dating at 52.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Debby Montgomery: It was tough. I was old enough, but those things that hit you when you were 16 – I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, all those not enough things, for crying out loud, you were an intelligence officer for the Air Force, you were senior bank manager, you’ve had all of these experiences, of course, you’re good enough. But I had to reprogram my mind because I was looking at everybody’s pictures online and you start judging yourself based on everybody else’s pictures.
Traci Brown: Sure, sure.
Debby Montgomery: Ridiculous. It turned out to be a really interesting experience, and I learned a lot about myself because I was able to write to him. I wrote down everything. I told him all my feelings about losing Lou, even how I got angry at him for dying, if you can imagine that.
Traci Brown: I can imagine that. I told my husband, who does some unhealthy things, he eats too much junk, and I told him, “Look, you’re going to have a heart attack, and when you do, I’m going to be mad at you.” So, I get it.
Debby Montgomery: That’s how my husband died. He had a sudden heart attack, and he was dead in half an hour. He was traveling so he left home and he was out overnight, and the next morning I get these phone calls that your husband died. I’m like, “Wait, he just left here.” But he was overweight, and he knew that. He didn’t want anybody telling him what he could and couldn’t eat. I basically stopped. I did not nag. I did nothing. I didn’t expect him to live to 80, but I didn’t think he’d die at 56. The worst part is that two months before he had decided, because he went into a new age group for life insurance, that he would cancel his life insurance.
Traci Brown: Oh boy.
Debby Montgomery: So, he did. After 30 years he cancelled his life insurance and then two months later he dies. That’s what I got mad at because even though I had his company, which I didn’t know how to run and had to figure that out, he left me with four beautiful children, but no life insurance. I’m like, shazam, you know. The lesson there is, don’t leave your spouse without life insurance.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Debby Montgomery: Suck it up. But the premium went from $100 to $500, and he figure we had enough investments and everything else that we wouldn’t need it. Silly us.
Traci Brown: Yea. Oh, my goodness. Oh boy. Okay, okay. So, husband dies. You’re online. You find a guy who’s interesting and bold and what happened?
Debby Montgomery: We started this great online friendship at first. It was interesting because people asked me, you know, was this the first time you did something, sent money or whatever? It really wasn’t for us. It was a friend of his who was an engineer. He was stationed overseas somewhere, and he was having trouble getting onto the website, the dating site. Eric said to me, “Would you mind sending in a check to the dating site to get – whatever his name was, I don’t remember – to get him in?” I’m like, “Oh, sure. We need more men on this dating site.” I sent a check in, which Tim will tell you, that just gave credibility to another scammer. But I just thought I was doing something for Eric.” From there, we talked about business a lot, his business, my business. He wanted to know how I ran my business and all of these kinds of things, and I was interested in his because it was hardwood trees, he was international, he was moving things. Then it turned into there were issues with customs and issues with tariffs, things that were happening, and I got to know his attorney, his sister, and his son. That was the most interesting part of this. I had Yahoo Chat messages up, I had one night three, one from his sister and his son, one from him, and one from his attorney, and I was going back and forth between all of them. It was extraordinary.
Traci Brown: Now wait. Back up. Was it really his sister and his attorney and his son?
Debby Montgomery: I have no idea.
Traci Brown: Okay. Alright.
Debby Montgomery: I thought so. I would ask the sister questions about him to find out about him and his deceased wife. That was when I was trying to investigate him, I guess. I was trying to find out about Eric by the people he was around. Mary, his sister and I, we had extraordinary conversations and then she would be there in England taking care of Kenny because Eric was traveling, and Kenny would get on, and I swear I was talking to a child. He wrote like a child. It was fun. He asked me if he could call me mom after a while, and I said, “Are you sure?” I remember that conversation. We were going back. I felt like I was really talking to multiple people, and I probably was. They don’t work by themselves. I wish I was a fly on the wall to see actually how they did it. But I felt I was getting to know the whole family and that was really important to me because family is really important. I look back, even today, I would do almost anything for my family, and Eric had become part of my family at that point. We were sharing everything from a distance. Again, it was safe because it was from a distance.
Traci Brown: Sure.
Debby Montgomery: But he brought me into his business in such that we had to set up power of attorneys and we had to do this and that.
Traci Brown: Oh.
Debby Montgomery: Yea, and that cost money, and I knew that because I’d been a paralegal when I was young. I just felt it was a little more expensive the way they were doing it, but again it was international, and Peter was a lawyer. I actually wrote to the legal powers that be in London and said, “Is there an attorney by the name of Peter?” – I can’t remember his name right now – and they wrote me a really nice letter back saying, “No. We don’t seem to have somebody by that name.” I asked Eric, I said, “Why is Peter not listed?” Again, he gave me an answer. I don’t remember what it was, but it was plausible. There was always a plausible reason for me getting the answer I didn’t really want. Then I started sending him money. The first time was for a power of attorney.
Traci Brown: How much was that?
Debby Montgomery: It was $2,500.
Traci Brown: Oh, boy. That sounds like a lot for a power of attorney.
Debby Montgomery: It was through Western Union, and I’d never done Western Union. I always had a creepy feeling about that, and I had to go to the grocery store and do it. I was sending it to him. I think he was in Malaysia, but it wasn’t to him. It was to a friend of his who was going to pick it up because Eric is not from there, but his friend lived there. Well, I’ve learned a lot about Western Union since then. They’ve had a huge lawsuit.
Traci Brown: Oh yea. Don’t they now train the frontline to ask the questions and refuse?
Debby Montgomery: Yea. This was back in 2010 before the lawsuit. Now they’re much more skilled, although things still happen, but they can shut people down much faster than they would back then.
Traci Brown: Okay. So, you sent in the $2,500, power of attorney. What’s next?
Debby Montgomery: It went on from there. At one point, I’ve got to preface this by saying I’m one of those damn yankees, very frugal, I didn’t give money to many people, and so it was so out of character for me, but again at that point, Eric had become my life. I felt like I was helping him because the sooner we got his job done, the sooner he would be coming home, and that was the goal was to get him home to me for the holidays. And that didn’t happen. That was the first disappointment. We had made plans for his sister and son to come over, and he was going come over, and at the last minute we had to cancel.
Traci Brown: Now, had you done a video chat with this guy? Or was it all text?
Debby Montgomery: It was all through emails and through Yahoo Chat.
Traci Brown: Oh boy.
Debby Montgomery: There was no Facetime and that kind of stuff back then. When I asked him about Skype, again he was in Malaysia, he was in Hong Kong, he was in places that when he told me he didn’t have good internet service, I had to believe him. I had no reason not to. I found out a lot since then that they have very good internet service. No, I never actually saw him online except for writing, and I never saw him in person because he hadn’t gotten here yet. That was the goal, was to get him here. This was for two years. Yea, I had the ups and downs of the emotions of, why aren’t you here? This is ridiculous. It’s getting so long. Things just kept coming up. Not enough for me to say, I’m done, because by then I was so emotionally involved and financially involved. I kept thinking, one more time, just one last time, and we’ll get him here. Because if I were to walk away, at one point I was like, well, I’ve got so much invested in him, I want to make sure I get it back. I didn’t want to leave him on the last rung, so I kept going. It was extraordinary, up and down, and one day it just came crashing and burning.
Traci Brown: What was the tip for the crashing and burning?
Debby Montgomery: He actually came online, and it was September 10, 2012. We were almost two years into it. I remember he woke me up early and he started a conversation: How do you feel about forgiveness?
Traci Brown: Oh. That’s not the greatest way to start a conversation.
Debby Montgomery: It was very interesting because we went for hours. I was very spiritual, and I put on – I told him it was my forgiveness hat – and I started talking to him for hours about how I felt about forgiveness and what we needed to do. Then all of a sudden, we get disconnected. I said that was par for the course. It usually happened when we were talking. He came back on a little while later and he said, “Do you remember what we were talking about earlier?” and we re-hashed it. At one point I said to him, “Have I done something? Why are we talking about this?” He said, “No.” He goes, “I need to know that you can forgive me because what I’m going to say to you is going to hurt you.” I was like, “You don’t really have to tell me that if it’s going to hurt.” He goes, “I have a confession to make.” I’m like, oh my gosh, I have a heard a confession once in my life, and it wasn’t a good thing. I said, “Are you sure?” He said, “Yes.” So, he came out and confessed. He said, “Deb, this has all been a scam.”
Traci Brown: He just told you!
Debby Montgomery: He told me. I’m like, “No. There’s something wrong. Are you sick?” Because he’d been ill. He had certain illnesses throughout the two years. I said, “Something is wrong.” He goes, “No. I’m sorry, but this has been a scam.” At that point I’m like, “Now, you’re lying. You have to prove to me that it’s a scam.” He said on Yahoo Chat, which I didn’t know, there is a camera function. He said, “I’m going to come on live and I will show you who I really am.” I’m like holy moly. I’m looking at my computer screen. I’ve got dual screens, and I’m looking at my handsome Brit, my picture of my handsome Brit.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Debby Montgomery: Then, up pops this little camera and now I’m looking at this dark haired, dark eyed, dark skinned young man with a huge smile on his face. I’m thinking, oh my gosh, what has happened here? It turns out to not be Eric. His name is Joseph. Joseph is probably 35 years old from Nigeria and he proceeds to say, “Can we keep this going?” I’m like, “Not on your life.” He says, “Is it because I’m young and black?” I’m thinking, well no, not really, maybe, but I said, “You have lied to me for two years. You have taken over $1 million from me.”
Traci Brown: A million! Oh, my goodness.
Debby Montgomery: And I didn’t have a million. I found it. As I said, I would do anything for family. I found it. I sold jewelry. I cashed in my retirement accounts. I had some silver. I sold my silver. I did everything I could to help him to get home to me, and he promised all along that he was going to repay and that we would be fine, and he was going to get a large amount of money for this job. When that all came crashing and burning, I’m sitting here with my phone and I actually was able to take a picture of the real guy, one picture. I ended up writing a book. It’s in my book. It was such an unusual thing because scammers don’t usually confess.
Traci Brown: Yea. Oh, my gosh.
Debby Montgomery: They certainly don’t do it in person. But you know the greatest thing about that is that in an instant I was able to separate the story from my heart and from my brain because I saw him and then all of the training I had had in my work experience came kicking in. I’m like, okay, so what do I do? Because I watch a lot of shows with the FBI, right, what can I do to catch him now? Keep him engaged because then we can catch him. Maybe they can get the IP addresses or whatever. I had all this information. He wanted to keep it going because he said to me that he had developed feelings for me. I was like, you know what, if he had been honest about the whole thing from the very beginning that he needed help with his siblings, or whatever the story, his real life was, I’m a nice person. I probably could have helped him, not for $1 million, but I said, “You have ripped out my heart, and you’ve completely ruined my finances.” The worst part is I involved my mother and father. I had asked them to help me with $100,000 and bless their hearts, they did.
Traci Brown: Oh.
Debby Montgomery: Now I’m thinking, how can I get my parents’ money back? How do I get the money back? I kept in touch with him at that point. Because he said, “You can turn me in. You can get the police to do whatever they need to do.” I’m like, “No.” I didn’t tell him what I was going to do. But the next day I did call my parents right away, and they came over. For me, it was actually worse than the day Lou died because now I was involved in it, and I had given away all this money to someone that I didn’t know. I thought I knew him. I didn’t. And I involved my mom and dad. We went to the FBI the next day with my 4,000 pages of journal and my three-ring binder of meticulous financial records. I told the whole story. The first thing he said was, “In Palm Beach County, more men get taken for over $1 million in online scams than women, but they’ll never tell you.”
Traci Brown: Wow.
Debby Montgomery: Unless he’s here in the United States, we can’t get him.
Traci Brown: Ugh.
Debby Montgomery: At that point, I’m like, I’m done. I just closed up. My book is called The Woman Behind the Smile, and I became the woman behind the smile. I didn’t tell anybody what happened. I made up a story that it just didn’t work out. You’re like, what? In two years, what are you talking about?
Traci Brown: Yea.
Debby Montgomery: I just was so embarrassed, so feeling so guilty about what I had done. It was just devastating. I’m like, I’m going to hide now. I’m not going to tell anybody about this. I was so well trained. It should never have happened to me.
Traci Brown: You just got sucked in. Your heard let you in. What was the biggest chunk of money you sent?
Debby Montgomery: Over two years, it was $1 million. Probably $100,000 at a time, wired. Again, I found it because he had a reason for me to find it. When we got to the point where . . . I didn’t know it was that much until the very end when I added it up. Things happened. I had all the records, but it was always, I had to do it quickly, and that was the thing, he was always, “We’ve got to do it today. We’ve got to do it today. Go to the bank right now. If you have any problems, text me, or call me, or whatever.” I think I talked with him probably two or three times through the whole time. He did have a British accent.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Debby Montgomery: The one time that I talked to him, one of my boys had intercepted. He was here visiting. He had intercepted one of our Yahoo messages. My son came unglued. He just ripping blue this guy apart. I got so embarrassed at what my son had said to this man, I really got on my son, and basically said, “Get out of the house. Go take a walk.” I said, “I didn’t teach you to be that unkind to people.” Boy, did I eat humble pie later on. I had to really apologize to my son. But I called Eric up at that point and I could here just upset. I was trying to say, “I’m so sorry about what my son just said.” He at that point, not only then, but all the time, kept, I think, trying to isolate me from family and friends. They don’t want you to listen to anybody but them. You get sucked into it. Again, I was at home. I was working for the school district as a treasurer at the time that Lou died, and then when Lou died, I did that plus I ran his company. After a while I realized I would do better just working the company, so I stayed home. So, visualize me at home alone. My three older kids were gone. My youngest was playing football. He was always out of the house. Eric became my lifeline. He could get a hold of me anytime of the day, and it was just so exciting, all those endorphins and the emotions.
Traci Brown: Yea, yea.
Debby Montgomery: He was my life. Looking back on it, I was just like, how in the world could you do that? But they are so skilled at the manipulation and drawing you in, and that’s what the FBI said. You know, you’re a victim of manipulation and whatever. I was like, “I’m not going to be a victim. I refuse to be a victim for this.” I always say that my last suit has no pockets. I can’t take the money with me. It would be nice to have it in the bank right now. But I was not going to let him and the actions of him suck me to nothing and get angry. I’ve lived with people that were angry around me at times, and it just hurt them. It didn’t hurt me. I mean, it did hurt me, but I didn’t let it. I was like, I’m not going to get revenge on him, although every man in my life wanted to fly to Nigeria and just get him.
Traci Brown: Yea. Oh, my goodness.
Debby Montgomery: From my dad, to my sons, to my husband’s best friend. I’m like, you know what, I can’t do that. I just feel like what goes around, comes around, and I had to take the upper hand in this just to make myself feel better so that I could move on. I knew I was not going to get the money back. Even though at one point he promised he would get it to me someday, and I’m like, I’m not holding my breath.
Traci Brown: Yea. Oh my gosh. Then, tell us how did you evolve into doing what you’re doing now? You went from hiding to really activism, I guess, in a sense. How does that come together?
Debby Montgomery: I belong to a women’s group called Women’s Prosperity Network. I’d gone to one of our Business of Speaking conferences down in Ft. Lauderdale, and at lunch I was sitting with a couple of girlfriends and one of them mentioned online dating. She tells me that I rolled my eyes at her, and I don’t usually do that. She said, “What gives? Tell me what just happened here.” So, I said, “Okay, I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told anybody before” and I told her what happened. She said, “You have to tell your story.” I’m like, “No. I can’t tell that story.” Another friend of ours that was sitting there, she said, “You need to tell your story because my mom was taken for $80,000.”
Traci Brown: Oh, okay.
Debby Montgomery: Then somebody else came over and said, “I was in a Ponzi scheme not once, but twice.” I kept getting all these really intelligent entrepreneurial women telling me how they’ve been scammed and how none of them wanted to speak up. Over that weekend I crafted the end of my talk which was basically, I’m inviting everybody to the world premier of the woman behind the smile. They were speechless. They were like, when is the movie coming out? When is the book coming out? I was like, I just made that up. They said: No. You have got to do this. You have got to write your book. You’ve got to get this out because we have to warn people that this is happening, and it’s happening to very well trained, intelligent, financially well off men and women, and they’re not talking about it. I was like, if someone had mentioned to me that there were scams online, I would have listened a little bit better than I did.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Debby Montgomery: But this was in 2010 to 2012. This is 2020. I still get letters and emails from women. I got one the other day from a doctor in North Carolina. She said, “Deb, thank you for telling your story. I wish I had heard it before I went into online dating.” She lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Traci Brown: Oh, boy.
Debby Montgomery: Another woman in Austin, Texas, she was single at 67. She was a very well-rounded person, had retired from business, and was finally at a point, she was like, I’m ready to find love, I’m ready to travel and do all this stuff. She contacted me. She had been taken for $2.5 million.
Traci Brown: Oh, my gosh. Okay. Okay. So, you wrote the book. What are the main tips? If we could leave people here with a couple tips on how to spot these scams before things really hit the pocketbook, what are the big top three?
Debby Montgomery: There are a lot of tips. There are a lot of things to look for. The first thing I would really encourage people to do is if you are going into online dating, don’t ever tell them that you’re a widow or that you’re divorced. If you’re online dating, you ought to be single. Don’t put that in your profile. Don’t talk about a business that you own. Have a dating buddy. I think we need to have dating buddies, someone that can be a little more objective and calm your emotions down. It’s that shiny object syndrome. We see something really good looking, and we’re like, oh, this is the one! Well, if they’re in a military uniform, it’s a scammer. If their pictures are too good to be true, do a google search on them and find out if that picture’s been used before because a lot of really good looking men, they might be businessmen, they might be actors, or whatever, their pictures are being used. Military is definitely a scammer. Do not do that. If someone moves you quickly into or off of the dating site, and the dating sites, they say not to do it, but they are not . . . I think every dating site for people over 50 ought to have public service announcements. Be careful of scammers. Be careful of pictures. Don’t go off the dating site, and if you do, just be careful and don’t send money. Because the scammers want you off the dating site. The dating sites will say: We told you. I’m like, but you didn’t tell us.
Traci Brown: Right, right.
Debby Montgomery: I don’t think they do a good enough job of telling. But if they’ll move you quickly into, I guess now it’s probably WhatsApp or even they’ll text. It’s changed a little bit, but it moves very quickly. The first thing Tim would tell you is don’t ever send money. Don’t send money to a stranger. But what happens when they say, don’t send money to a stranger, the guys, the scammers, it’s men and women, they become friends. They become family. At that point that they ask you for money, it’s like I would be giving a friend money. That was something I didn’t know because at that point I felt like I knew him.
Traci Brown: Yea. Yea. The relationship is there. I’ll tell you what’s interesting, because you know I’m a body language expert, I have this little hobby that I help my friends find the right guy online, and they will send me pictures and say, “What do you think of this guy?” I’ll say, okay, great. Here’s his primary response, probably when he gets stressed and I’m like, this guy is good, this guy is not good. Because I know my friend’s personalities and I’m like, no, not him. One of my friends – I don’t know, I might have told you this when we talked on the phone the other day – she sent his pictures. She was like, “What about this guy?” I said, “Under no circumstances are you to go out with this guy.” She starts listening to another friend and she ends up going out, and he ends up being a stalker, stalks her for a couple weeks, I was like, “Look, I told you that this was going to happen. I told you to not do that.” If you’re not going to listen to me, I’m not going to do this anymore because I’m trying to tell you something because for whatever reason, I have the training, or the sixth sense, or the magic, or whatever to tell about these guys and there are a lot of creeps out there. You do have to be careful. Whether they’re hiding behind text chat or they actually show their real picture. You know the ones with the pictures that are just too good looking, like our friend Jeffrey Hayzlett, he gets used all the time in these situations, and he has several – I’m sure 30 to 50 profiles of him out there that aren’t him, and he’ll get contacted for scamming. He’s like, “Sorry, it wasn’t me.”
Debby Montgomery: Exactly. I do have a show called Stand Up and Speak. I’ve interviewed a couple of guys and one is a friend of mine. His name is Brian Denny. He is a retired Army colonel. His picture’s been used by thousands. He cannot get his picture offline. He told me, he said, “Deb, I’m breaking up with women every day.” It’s ruining him because he’s married with a son that’s in college. He didn’t want to retire from the military and be consumed by trying to defend his picture. The thing is, that’s what Tim and I try to do, is that for the women that have been scammed by somebody like that, we have to let them know that he is a victim of impersonation, of identify theft, and not to go stalking him because now you’re the criminal. You have to realize that the pictures that are being taken, that’s identity theft, and there is more than one victim in this scenario. It’s tough. I really feel for the guys and the girls. I had a woman contact me from London a couple weeks ago, and she was sure that this young good-looking soldier, who has since gotten out of the military and living out West, that the Army is saying that he is in Utah or wherever they say he is, because he’s really still overseas and he’s really over there and he’s contacting me and he still wants money. I’m like, he’s not. He’s out of the military. He is living with his family. He is running a company. But I looked at his Instagram and some of his online stuff, and he’s basically baiting the scammers, saying, “Come after me now. Use me.” That’s not the thing to do. You have to recognize that women are falling for you. Put it out there that that is not me. Those are pictures that have been stolen of me. It’s not me. I’m sorry it happened to you, but don’t come after me. It’s tough. We can’t seem to really get a handle on getting those pictures offline because you can report one scammer, and then they’ll put 10 profiles up. It’s not just Facebook and data sites, it’s Words With Friends, it’s any kind of social media.
Traci Brown: Oh, yea.
Debby Montgomery: Full of scammers. Full of scammers. You just have to be aware and beware. Be aware of what they do, what they say, and how they reel you in. There is a science, there is a psychology of a scam. I wish I had known this years ago. But most of us don’t until it’s too late, and then for our women, we’re trying to prevent them from getting scammed. At some point, it’s a tipping point where you get sucked in, you can’t get out until you’re broken, broken.
Traci Brown: Right. Okay. Two questions and then we’ve got to wrap it up here. Are you okay now? Have you recovered financially? You’re not living in an alley by the dumpster? Okay.
Debby Montgomery: No. I actually was very fortunate because I wasn’t going to let this stop me from living my life. I got into dating soon after. Don’t ask me how I did it or why I did it. I met a couple of awful guys online, but a friend of mine was a matchmaker and she set me up with a gentleman who I am married to.
Traci Brown: Oh, good. Okay, okay.
Debby Montgomery: I got remarried a few years after the scam, and we’ve been married five years now.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Debby Montgomery: I’m doing great. Financially, we’re doing well, not based on my finances, but my husband. There is a point that the women that have been taken, it’s devastating financially. Many have lost their homes. Many have lost their retirement accounts, which I did, and you can’t recover from that. That’s the toughie. What am I doing? I’m the advocate. I started the Women Behind the Smile, which is a nonprofit. I’m on the board of directors at SCARS, which is a nonprofit. We are trying to take this around the globe from the victim’s point of view. There is a lot of cybersecurity information out there. It’s all based on companies and to protect your home and all this kind of stuff, but we are one of the only organizations in the world that is working with victims. It’s hard because we make ourselves feel guilty, we harbor the blame and the shame, but many victims get that. Brett Johnson will tell you. Brett’s a former scammer.
Traci Brown: Oh yea. Brett is the best at it.
Debby Montgomery: I love Brett because he’s become an advocate for us, and I learned a lot from him. But we go through the shame blame, the victim blame, and our families particularly and close friends will shame you into: How in the world did you do that? You’re a smart woman, blah, blah, blah, and that shuts you down. That’s no good for you. What I try to do is I’m available if somebody has been a victim to this or family members that need to speak to somebody. I know what they’ve been through. They will feel comfortable contacting me or the women at SCARS, even Dr. Tim, because we know, we’ve been there. I feel it in my heart what they’re going through.
Traci Brown: Oh, yea.
Debby Montgomery: We try to give them tools. We show them how to go to law enforcement and what to say, and what not to say, and how to say it, and maybe they can get some assistance through the government, through the states or whatever. But they have to realize that yes, they were part of something. They’ve got to own it and realize they have got to forgive themselves and, as best they can, forgive what happened. Maybe not forget it, but totally disengage from contact with any of these.
Traci Brown: Yea, yea. Absolutely. Now, how can people get a hold of you?
Debby Montgomery: They can contact me at Debby@TheWomanBehindTheSmile.com. My website is actually TheWomanBehindTheSmile.com. I suggest that they go to AgainstScams.org and RomanceScams.com, which is part of SCARS, and if they’ve been a victim, get involved in SCARS because again, the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams. We have incredible information and resources available for free. It’s a marvelous organization.
Traci Brown: Got it. Debby, thank you so much for sharing your story and being so transparent and joining me on Fraud Busting today.
Debby Montgomery: Thank you Traci. I just don’t want anybody to be taken again. I know I can’t stop every single one, but if I can stop one, that’s my goal.
Traci Brown: Oh, I think you have. I’ve think you’ve stopped more than one even just today.
Debby Montgomery: Let’s hope.