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Is it love or is it a con?

Offered by Sheila Rabe author of A PRINCE OF A GUY

He's charming and sexy. He could be the man of your dreams. Unless... he's a con artist. Then he's no dream, he's a nightmare in an Armani suit. Besides possessing a gift for getting money from us, what do con artists have in common? For starters, they're antisocial (and I don't mean they hate parties). These guys have no concept of right and wrong. They're career criminals who work on being attractive to the opposite sex. They are also virtuosos at playing on our greed, our desire to save a buck, even our sympathy. Just ask my doctor, who once got conned by a charming man suffering from a "backache." Old Bennie Broken Back came into the office wearing faux clerical garb and claiming to be in terrible pain. His wife, he said, had insisted he go to the doctor and get something for the pain. The doc examined him and couldn't find anything conclusive, but feeling sorry for the poor sufferer, he prescribed a mild pain killer. "Thanks, Doc," said Bennie, "but there's only one thing that works for me." What worked for him was stronger, potentially addictive and a lot more expensive than what the doctor had originally prescribed, so Doc wrote out a very small prescription. After the patient left the office with his prescription, he altered it to give himself a large supply of pills, then headed straight for the local pharmacy. Sadly for Bennie, the pharmacist got suspicious and called the doctor. The police picked Bennie up in front of the drug store, where he was killing time waiting for his prescription to be filled by collecting money for a "good cause" from passers-by.

Con artists can specialize in any number of cons, from roofing scams to investment swindles. One popular scam is the "sweetheart con", where the victim gets her piggy bank broken right along with her heart. The con artist's "pigeons" or "marks" (that's us) might be met by chance, stalked, or found on the Internet. Scammers will look for someone who is lonely and vulnerable, and they often prey on the elderly. Many are bigamists who will sweep a woman off her feet then leave her flat on her back with her assets as gone as he is. So, how can you know if your Mr. Wonderful is a con man? Here are some clues:

1.) He's missing a life. If he doesn't have a visible circle of friends, a family, and a job complete with co-workers, he might be a fake. And don't let his producing one family member such as a sister take him off your suspect list. Often the con artist's "sister" or "brother" turns out to be a spouse who's in on the con.

2.) He suffers "embarrassing" financial mishaps. In her book Rip-Off, private investigator Fay Faron writes about a woman whose Mr. Wonderful got his bank card eaten by the local ATM right before their first date. And, wouldn't you know, it was on a weekend, when the bank was closed. Well, it could happen to anyone, so our heroine graciously footed the bill for dinner. But as their dating relationship progressed, some goofy thing or other kept happening to her hunk on a regular basis, leaving him in need of money and bringing her riding to the rescue. Once she stopped getting on her white horse he stopped calling.

3.) He shares a dream "investment opportunity." We've all seen this happen in the movies. But, somehow, when it's happening to us, we go blind--because we all like to make a quick buck. The con artist knows this, and uses our greed to separate us from our hard earned money. If your hero promises he can take your money and double it, beware. He may just want to take it. And be leery of any hot shot friend he may have. His friend could very well be his business partner, and their business could very well be ripping you off. When it comes to love, the best way to evaluate potential lovers is the way we do those get rich quick schemes: if he looks too good to be true, he probably is.


Sheila Rabe had every intention of becoming a songwriter... until she got a great idea for a book. She's now been writing and publishing both romance novels and devotional books ever since her first novel was published in 1989. With the new millenium, Sheila reinvented herself and switched from writing Regency romance to single title contemporary. Her first single title, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS. Her second, BE MY VALENTINE is a romance for mothers and daughters, and her third book PRINCE OF A GUY (Berkley, August 2001)will introduce you to Doctor Kate Stonewall, radio shrink who doesn't know as much about separating the frogs from the princes as she thinks she does. When Sheila's not in Nashville plugging songs, she hopes to be spending the new millenium plugging more of her funny contemporary romances.

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