How To Protect Yourself From Online Scammers With Debby Johnson

TCAS 22 | Online Scammers

How does a former USAF Intelligence Officer fall prey to an online relationship scam? What can you do? Podcaster, Debby Montgomery Johnson at The Woman Behind the Smile, delves into protecting yourself from online scammers.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

How To Protect Yourself From Online Scammers With Debby Johnson

Good beautiful day, you beautiful souls. This is Charla Anderson, host of the Charla Anderson Show, collector and connector of fascinating people, and everyone is fascinating, especially YOU. I am grateful to have you join us. We’re going to have an amazing show. As you know, we’re on the Win Win Women platform, which I dearly love, that whole family. We’re on Podetize and live streaming on all those big streaming services.

We are continuing to grow and expand. I’m so grateful to have my book become a bestseller. I’ve had a lot of things happening and going on. I’ve got a great amazing guest, a friend of mine, Debby Montgomery Johnson. We’re going to talk about scamming and being relationship scammed of all kinds. Who knows where it goes with us but certainly with me.

First, we’re going to do a breathing exercise. It’s something I do every week. It helps ground me. It helps ground you. It centers us. It’s a little mini vacation, so it’s 22 seconds. We’re going to breathe in calm, hold for 4 seconds, breathe in calm for 7 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, then breathe out gratitude for 11 seconds. I want you to join me as we do this. Here we go, breathing in calm, hold, and release. Thank you. It works for me. We need all that.

In this episode, Debby Montgomery Johnson, who is one of my fun friends and we met in person. A lot of people met a couple of years ago and got to meet grandkids and all that stuff. It was so much fun. We are going to be talking about The Woman Behind the Smile, her book, and all of the things that she is amazing at. She’s a number-one bestselling author, speaker, entrepreneur, podcast host, and a woman on a mission. Debby, I would love it if you would tell us a little bit about who you are and what you are up to these days. Let’s get this party started.

Thank you so much. Congratulations on your book. I remember when I was out there and we were out swimming in the bowl with kids. You gave me a copy of it and it is great. It is the Candy Bar Hugs and I love candy and hugs, so congratulations on that front. Who am I? I like to say that I am like you, like any other mom woman out there. I’m a mother and grandmother of four daughters. My mom and dad live near me.

TCAS 22 | Online Scammers

A lot of my life is filled up with that. Sometimes I feel like I’m the fluff or the icing in an Oreo cookie. I got parents on one side and the kids and the grandkids on the other. I’m very busy. I became an entrepreneur many years ago when my husband passed away suddenly. That was something that hadn’t planned on. He had been a big guy and had diabetes, which we thought was under control, but he walked out the door one day, and the next day, he was dead.

That’s something that none of us can anticipate. You try to plan for it, but even that, my kids were 15 to 23. None of us anticipated that. That was the first big change in my life, which threw me into why you and I are here on The Woman Behind the Smile because after Lou died, it took me about six months of running on energy and anxiety. I had to run his company, which I knew nothing about. From one day to the next, I was thrown into running his business, which is interesting. I still call it his business and I’ve had the company for years. We’ve been in business for many years.

It’s my company, a vitamin supplement company for neuropathy called I want to put it out there. It’s an excellent thing. It’s a form of Vitamin B1. It’s a lipid-soluble fat form of vitamin B1, which originally was for alcoholic neuritis, an inflammation of the nerves due to excessive alcoholism or alcohol drinking. It is funny because you’re in Dallas. A lot of my Texas clients who imbibe are funny because they’re like, “We’re taking this stuff for neuropathy,” which is nerve-ending damage typically for diabetics. They’re like, “We can’t get as drunk as we used to.” It blows up the sugar content of things.

I didn’t know anything about Lou’s Company and it paid the bills. I was a treasurer in a school district at that point, working for benefits. I had to learn very quickly how to run the business. As an entrepreneur, a whole other story is how you run a company that wasn’t yours. How do you learn how to do it and work with customers? I was good with the customers, but there was a lot of it that I didn’t know how to do and I had to learn.

There’s no I am team. I had to get a team, learn how to work with people and have them help me with marketing, sales, production, and all these things. I was a paralegal for years when I got out of college. I worked for a bank. I was a banker for eight and a half years. I was an Air Force intelligence officer for eight years. I was a stay-at-home mom for 11 or 12 years. I had a lot of experience, which helped with running the company. It also prepared me to talk about financial scams and financial fraud. Going into it, if you look at my background, you would’ve figured, “No way she’s going to get taken by something like this.”

An intelligence officer for the Pentagon in the Air Force.

I worked overseas in Europe and for the Defense Intelligence Agency. I had a lot of good experiences. I worked as a Senior Branch Manager for a bank for a lot of years. I had a great experience, but I like to say too that anybody and everybody can be taken by somebody, and will, at some point in their life. When I first started talking as The Woman Behind the Smile, I’d have people saying, “I’m never going to get taken this. It’s never going to happen to me.” I said, “Never say never. I hope it certainly doesn’t,” but in this particular case after the pandemic, the rise of scams is astronomical. It’s affecting everybody because we’re all home. We’re all on the computers. We’re all relying on and trusting who we see on the screen.

After the pandemic, the rise of scams has gone astronomical. It's affecting everybody because we're all on the computers and rely on and trust who we see on the screen. Click To Tweet

I know who you are because we’ve met in person, but think about all those Zoom calls we’re on. You probably never met three-quarters of the people that are behind the screen. We’re relying on what we see and we can’t do that, especially with artificial intelligence coming out. What we know how to do, the scammers are so far ahead of us. I don’t even want to call them scammers because that trivializes what they do. They are criminals. It is organized crime in a big way.

Trillions of dollars are taken by unsuspecting, trusting people around the world by criminals. They take all that money, that ill-gotten gain. They are so far ahead of us technology-wise and that whole dark web. I read something about AI and I forget what it was called, but it’s not chat. It’s the underground version of the chat AI. They’re using it to get everybody. To bring this back around, why I’m doing what I’m doing now as an advocate is because of what came out of my life after Lou died. I want all my single lady friends, divorced, widowed, or whatever, to read this because I wasn’t necessarily looking for love. I wasn’t desperate. I was busy. I was looking for a friend. I was looking for someone to talk to.

Here I was at home, all alone all of a sudden. My youngest son was fifteen, so he was out of the house. I kept thinking, “His job is to go to school. His job is to do his very best. My job is to learn how to run the company and do this stuff.” I was also working my second job. Of the 24 hours of being awake, I slept about 4. I would go to sleep at midnight alone in my big king-sized bed and cry. I was sad. I was so angry at Lou for dying. How do you get angry at someone for dying?

It was so unplanned. One day, he was alive and doing fairly well. The next day, he was gone. It happens more than we care to think about. The average age of a widow is 52, 53, or 54 years old. We don’t talk about that. We don’t plan on that. My girlfriends were all, “Deb, you got to a life. You got to do something other than work.” I was like, “I’ve been married for years. I hadn’t dated since I was in my twenties.” Their idea of getting a life was going out, getting a date, and moving on with life. As soon as they would say that, the anxiety erupted. I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, and skinny enough. All these not enough that we go through when we’re 16 popped out at 52.

I was scolding myself, going, “You’ve had all these career things. You raised four children. All this stuff is good. Stop thinking that you’re not enough.” I jumped in and went to a safe or I thought it was a safe faith-based dating site. I had a lot of friends that had gone on to online dating and it worked out for them. I even went to my mother and I felt like, “Mom’s the biggest skeptic.” I addressed it with her first. She said, “My best friend who’s in her 80s met her husband on online dating.” I’m thinking, “If mom’s behind us, let’s go for it.”

I did and jumped. An international businessman from London, a widower, had a son and was international in business. He had a company or worked with a company. He was transporting hardwood trees. I had investments in hardwood trees down in Costa Rica. He didn’t know that, but as I was trying to research him, I saw that. I said, “This is fun that we can talk about these things.” One thing led to another. He was in Houston at the time but then got a job offer to go overseas.

It took him overseas. This was back in 2010 and 2012. The way we communicated off the dating site, and there’s a big red flag so don’t go off the dating site, is we went to Yahoo Chat, which now would be Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, or something like that. Back then, it was Yahoo Chat. That was instant messaging. It was amazing. I could do it wherever he was in the world.

We would be online. We talked a couple of times because people were like, “How do you know who he was?” I said, “I talked to him on the phone a couple of times and heard a British accent,” which bought into the story. He was from London. I wrote all hours of the day and all hours of the night. We both like to write. I have 4,000 pages of the journal, which I’ve printed in five volumes, thinking that I was going to have family history to show my kids how he and I met. It turned out to be 4,000 pages of evidence, which nobody could use.

Fast forward after these two years where I didn’t arbitrarily lose $1 million and give him all this stuff, we had a business thing going. I would talk about his business. He would talk about mine. We would work out different things. I remember one time he asked me to help him with a business plan. I sat for hours figuring out a business plan for him. For us, it was more of a business deal, like, “Can you help me with A, B, and C?”

In business sometimes, you don’t get paid until the job’s done. Part of that bought into I was helping him out with his business and with things that were happening with customs and whatever overseas. We had a lot of emotional ups and downs. There are a lot of red flags I can tell you about now, which is more important than my story because millions of people are being taken by scammers and criminals every year.

The stories are very similar. My story is 1,000 other women’s stories. They just changed the names and they changed some of the things that happened to them. The bottom line is that they’re all fabricated. They are looking for good-hearted people who might happen to have had something happen in their lives. They’re looking for widows or divorcees. Some of them might have had an emotional trauma. You may not think so. I never thought I was vulnerable, but I was. I wasn’t stupid. I wasn’t to blame but I was, for them, easy prey. That’s the thing. There’s a psychology of the scam, and it’s very calculated.

What took two years for me is now happening in 2 or 3 months. They’ve upped their game and maybe did wire transfers or Western Union back then. Now, it’s cryptocurrency. It’s a strange thing. It’s called pig butchering. That came out of China where you fatten up the pig then you slaughter it, but they come at you in financial planning where, “My friend is teaching cryptocurrency. I’m invested in cryptocurrency and I’d like for you to learn how to do it. Do you want to try it?”

It’s hit Millennials and the younger folks in a big way because they’ve grown up online thinking that they’re safe and that they know everything. The websites that are designed are amazing. They look like financial companies. They get you to invest a little bit. They’ll show a little bit of a gain, a statement, get you to invest more then, all of a sudden, you’re at $100,000, $200,000, or $300,000 because they disappear. None of it’s real.

The pictures are for folks our age, be careful. Do not have your Facebook and your social media profiles public unless you’re an author like we are because they’ll take pictures. They create profiles off of people’s family pictures. They love having babies. They love having children or grandchildren. I never put pictures of my grandchildren because they create a family. When I was looking to go online, I looked for a man who had a son, had a family, had a dog, and had a sister. All those pictures are created from a stolen identity from other people.

You and I have talked about the military. It happens a lot with the military. If you’ve got someone who’s reached out to you and they’re in a uniform, it is probably a fake. It is probably a scammer because they will not do that. They will not ask you to send money to get them home from Syria. They will not ask you to buy a phone for them. They won’t, but they show up in uniform. People inherently trust and love somebody in a uniform. I do. I was in uniform for all those years. I have family and kids who are in uniform, but those criminals know what’s going to pull at the heartstrings of the people they can get.

My sister had a saying or has a saying years ago. She said, “Con men have only themselves to sell and they’re masters at it.” Talking about the stuff that they’re doing now, I get it almost anytime I post anything. This was on Facebook. I copied and pasted it. It says, “I always enjoy what you share here on Facebook, but we’re not friends yet. I’ve tried several times to send you a friend request, but it’s not going through. I’ll be glad if you can click on my profile and send me a friend request. If you find the message embarrassing, please pardon my manners. Thank you.” My response to that now when I get those, I answer them sometimes and say, “Con men, I have gotten so sophisticated. Be a good person. Do the right thing. Karma is real.” I’ll say something along that line. This last guy said, “How dare you call me a con man?” I was like, “Defensiveness is a key.”

The big lesson there is that we don’t need thousands of friends and followers because only 10 or 15 are going to see what we’re writing anyway. Anybody that sends you an unsolicited friend request is not your friend. Be careful about women’s groups and things that you’re involved in because it only takes 1 or 2 of them to get into a group. They pretend to be a woman. Now they’ve become a mutual friend. That drops our trust. It drops our scrutiny of them, thinking, “I can trust them because they’re mutual friends.”

I saw that. It was a very good friend of mine or two mutual friends of somebody. I went to send a friend request and went to his profile. It’s what you were just describing like puppies, birds, and things. I want to ask those two mutual friends, and they’re both out of the country, if they are really friends with this person or did they just happen to accept a friend request. You’ve got a common friend and you trust the friend.

I’m very aware of a lot of that probably more than most people. There was a girl who was panhandling down in Fort Worth a few years ago. I talked to her for quite some time. She didn’t tell me this. There’s a panhandler school in Houston, I believe. They teach these people how to go and how to create these amazing stories, “My brother can’t come pick me up and I’m stranded here. Could you give me $5 for the bus?” We want to give them.

In Nigeria, they have universities that are training these guys. They’re very well trained. If you think about it, we went offshore all these years ago, offsite, and did call centers in India and Africa. All those folks who are college-educated have become the best sales guys. If they could only do what they do for good, they’d be phenomenal.

Isn’t that the truth? Your guy, he ultimately fell in love with you, right?

That’s part of the story. Part of it might’ve been I affected him enough that he came online and confessed. Even now, very few of them are going to come and confess. They might, but it’s part of the story. They might have tried to get you. When he confessed, came online, and I saw him, it wasn’t my handsome Britt. It was a young Nigerian man. I used to say dark hair, dark-skinned, dark eyes, and young guy. He’s part of a group. It’s never a he. It is they. It might start off as one guy. I bet I can go through my 4,000 pages and find at which point it was somebody else.

I always thought that perhaps over the years, my life affected his enough that he couldn’t do it anymore. There is Dr. Tim McGuinness. I’m on the board of Directors of SCARS, which is a society of citizens against relationship scams. Tim would say, “Deb, that’s part of the scam because they know that they’ve bled you dry. They want to have you continue.” This fellow at the time, his name was Eric. He said, “Can we keep this going?” I’m thinking, “Are you out of your mind? You’ve taken $1 million from me.” I had no more money to give to him. What they do now when they get all of your money is they want you to help them. “Can you help me with such and such?”

You’re not thinking this is a scammer. I did at that point because he confessed. The women that I work with now who become money mules or package mules are the ones that will go and open up a PO box so that this person can receive mail or they will receive checks themselves and put it in their bank accounts then go and send crypto or Bitcoin back to them. What’s happening there is that now there’s a layer between the actual criminal and the new victim, and that’s you.

It’s very easy because you’re here in the United States for the Federal Government, the Justice Department, to come after you as a criminal. We’ve got 67-year-old women being arrested and prosecuted for being money mules because they’ve facilitated the movement of money or property. It’s so sad. Not everybody’s going to get arrested, but when you have the police or FBI come to you and say, “This is a scam that have you participating in. You must stop,” and you don’t, and it happens over and over, you’re going to jail. That’s what’s happened because the criminals are so good at this art of the scam, the psychology. We call it the amygdala hijack. That amygdala is so hijacked. I used to say that my heart ruled my head. It does. The brain chemistry changes. I want to say that you’re not at fault for what happened because they are so expert at manipulating you to believe their stories.

Here’s the thing, and I want people to understand. If you’re going to go into Word with Friends, gaming on sites, it’s not just dating sites, it’s anything you were engaged in on social media. It could be LinkedIn, Facebook friends, and all those things. It is if someone is coming at you and is actively trying to become your friend. I’ve got women that have been on Words with Friends. They start a game with someone. After a little bit, you feel comfortable with that person that you’re playing with, then something happens.

The child’s had an accident or something has happened. They’re like, “Can you help me out?” We all want to say, “Sure.” As soon as we do that, they got you. We don’t know these people online. We don’t know who they are. Do not send things. Do not send phones and credit card information. You don’t have to send them a gift card anymore. You have to give them the numbers. They’re laughing their way to the bank. Do not send money, wire money, or buy cryptocurrency from a financial investment guy that you have not met in person.

If you’ve never seen them, they are not your friends. You think they are because they can do video chats and everything. I think about Netflix and what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years. My husband and I watch a lot of shows from overseas. I know that they’re not speaking English. I hear English, but they’re speaking Dutch, Finnish, or something. My brain is saying, “I know what they’re saying.” They’re not.

They’re not saying what I think they’re saying. They might be saying it but in a different language. I’m thinking and looking at this guy, “He’s talking to me. He’s not.” With this AI, that has opened up a can of worms that we can’t trust anything now. My tagline now is beware and be aware. They’re out there to get you. It is their job to get your money, and your heart happens to come with it.

The hardest thing to heal is the ripping out of your heart and the trust that you had in somebody. For me, to trust somebody after that was very difficult until I met my now husband. When he and I met, bless his heart, he told me something about him that his friend said, “Don’t tell her. It will scare her off.” When he told me, it was nothing bad. I said, “You’re the first man not to lie to me in two years.” That was huge for me.

The shame is a huge piece of it because you didn’t tell anybody for a while, did you?

No, I didn’t. That’s interesting. Tim and I were talking about shame and guilt. I felt guilty when I realized the scam. I felt stupid. That’s the word that a lot of people say, but I wasn’t. I’m not a stupid person. I don’t want anybody who is reading and knows someone who has gone through this to go at them and say, “That was stupid of you,” because it wasn’t. It was expert manipulation. Grooming is what they called. I was susceptible. The only thing I did wrong was say hello. That was the very beginning. As soon as you say hello, they’ve got you. Don’t let them. We don’t need that engagement. If you want to meet somebody, go to church. Go to something close by.

Go to the library. They have a lot of activities at the library. I’m taking my grand toddler. Whatever you’re interested in, go do that. Somebody who’s interested in that, you’ll eventually see them.

Make sure they’re local. I used to say if you haven’t seen them in person within two weeks, it’s going to be a scam. Don’t trust that, “I can’t get there because A, B, C, and D.” They’ve got 4,000 pages of excuses on why they’re not going to get to you. A doctor in the UN over in Iraq, they’re not coming home to you. We think that, “If there’s somebody out there doing good, they need my help.” No, they don’t need your help because they don’t need $1 million from one person. They need $250 from a million people. They’re getting it. I heard of a scam where a fellow had been contacted by someone he thought was his friend.

He said, “My daughter can’t do such and such. Can you give her $100 on an Amazon gift card because she needs such and such?” He did. The guy came back and said, “It wasn’t enough. Would you mind doing another $600?” Later, he realized that he had been taken. It happens to the best of people. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how intelligent you are, or how well-schooled you are. Everybody can be taken by somebody, and 60% of the time, it’s somebody that you know.

Somebody can take everybody. 60% of the time, it's somebody that you know. Click To Tweet

Another one that I’ve heard is it’s somebody you know or feel.

The thing about the whole process of the scam is that you become a family. They become a friend, a trusted companion, and somebody that’s close to you.

A confidant.

You’re willing to say to Western Union when they say, “Do you know this person?” “It’s my boyfriend.” Now you’re lying because you’re so engaged in this thing. Tim and I are working with the banking world now, trying to come up with best practices for bankers. I used to feel like the fraud department was pretty strict until it happened to me. I went to them. I said, “If anybody had looked at my history, they would’ve seen I’d never done a wire transfer in the years I’d been alive.” All of a sudden, wire. Where were they? When I went to them later, they were like, “Not our problem.”

Now it is going to be their problem because they’re going to make the banks and other industries like that financially responsible for some of this stuff if they can’t slow you down. That’s the only thing. Just pause. If it seems to be too good, step aside. As your grandma used to say, “Sleep on it.” Get a trusted friend like a dating buddy or a gaming buddy, someone who’s a little more objective because the scammers want to isolate you from your friends and your family. Once they do that, all you’re hearing is their voice, “Don’t listen to them. They’re going to tell you not to do this.” They’re going to tell you not to do it because an outsider might see this a little differently.

At least have you asked a different question. I’ve been reminded that phone calls, a lot of times, will say, “Can you hear me?” The minute you say yes, then they’ve recorded you saying yes. A friend of mine said, “Why are you asking?” She answered it in a way that she never said yes and he finally hung up on her.

They want your voice too because of the whole grandmother scam. They’re creating scamming messages. Our voices can be duplicated. They can make a whole thing up using my voice and it sounds like me, or you’ve seen the pictures of Tom Cruise or whatever. It’s not him, but they’ve duplicated that. You can’t trust anything now. That’s unfortunate because we want to be trusting people, but be careful. Take an extra step before you jump on it.

We want to be trusting people, but just be careful. Take an extra step before you jump on it. Click To Tweet

Discerning is probably a good word. Let’s be discerning before we get into something. One of my friends, her mom, every time gets a new credit card, it’s compromised the first time she uses it. I’m not sure what’s going on with that, but somebody has something.

I had a friend call up one day, and she knows my story. She says, “I have this older neighbor. She called up and asked me to come over and help her take a picture of her credit card because she had to send it to a friend.” I’m like, “No. Stop. Don’t do that.” It turns out she didn’t have to send the credit card to the friend. All she had to do was give the person the numbers on the back. When we tried to get ahold of the bank and said, “There’s possible fraud here,” they didn’t want to hear about it because we weren’t on the card.

I was out in Dallas for a federal court case when this happened. Anybody over 60 is considered elder fraud. It’s a big darn deal. I was very proud of the judge, the prosecutors, and everybody in the federal court in Dallas because they added years to the sentence this young man was given because it was elder fraud. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You can be taken. You can have a minute.

I’ve been doing this for a lot of years. I was on Facebook doing something and getting some Christmas travel set up for a family. One of my friends came online and said, “I’m having a hard time getting my Facebook account up. Would you mind helping me out?” I’m distracted and I said, “Sure, not a problem.” She’s local and said, “You’re going to get this email.”

I followed the directions because I wasn’t paying attention. The next thing I knew, they had my account, changed the password, and got me off of it. I was so mad because for me to re-engage as me was forever. I couldn’t get Facebook to listen to me. I couldn’t upload my own ID information. It came in a minute of distraction. That’s what they bank on. It’s like fishing. They’re all out there. Throw out the net. We only need a couple.

I don’t understand it. Karma is real, and here we are, the vast majority of the people. We’re trying to get along and do the best we can and make a difference. One guy I did that same message too and said, “Do the right thing. Karma is real,” thing. He came back and he said, “You have no idea. I have been sleeping on the floor. It’s the only thing I have.” He explained his situation. I didn’t end up responding but it sounded like he was like, “I don’t have any other options.”

That’s the excuse where they try to reel in and say, “I’m this poor kid living in Lagos or whatever.” The way they’re getting arrested over there is not the way we would normally get arrested. It’s by things that we’re sending to the EFCC, which is the financials folks over there. Go to this neighborhood and look at the car because there could be a picture of a car.

This is not the car that belongs to a kid that’s not making any money. He might be living in what we would consider a ghetto type of thing, but they go up there. They’ve got cash and gold. You name it. What they do here too is that they’ll set up what looks like a legitimate business. This is the crazy part. They’ll be getting cheques and things in from victims.

They’ll go and buy a used car. They’ll have that car shipped overseas. Now that car gets over there and that car gets sold. You’ve put so many layers between the victim and that. It’s money laundering. By the time it gets sold over in Nigeria or Ghana, wherever, they say they have legitimate money, but if they go and they spend that, it’s beyond what their means should be.

It’s easy money for them. “I’m poor. I can’t do such and such.” I’ve got a friend, a woman over in Nigeria whose mother was scammed. She started an organization over there, a cybersecurity company, because it’s made her so angry that the reputation of the country is based on what the scammers and the criminals are doing. She’s like, “Deb, it’s like calling Americans all cowboys.” We’re not all cowboys, but not all Nigerians are scammers. The ones that are doing it are very effective. The problem is that 3 out of 100 victims are going to report it. You hear these humongous numbers from the FTC and whatever about there’s billions of dollars or trillions of dollars being taken.

Multiply that by another 90 because victims feel embarrassed. They feel vulnerable. They get shamed and blamed by family members and friends. They shut down and they don’t want to tell. That’s why the scammers are laughing their way to the bank because they know people are not going to tell. That’s why I started speaking up because I got tired of that. I don’t want to hear the story of the poor boy over there because someone got $1 million. It wasn’t Tim but the organizations are using that money to fund terrorism, trafficking, and all these awful things. I would never have contributed to that, but that’s what’s happening. We don’t need to feel sorry for any one of them.

My show is about hope. There’s hope in getting the word out a little bit more, knowing that being wise and discerning and not so gullible in asking a few more questions.

It’s not gullible, but be aware that human nature is such that we want to help people and we do. Sometimes that’s for the good, and sometimes it gets us in trouble. What I want people to know is that there is hope, especially if you’ve become a victim of this. You’re going to want to shut down and not tell anybody. You can’t do that. You’ll never recover emotionally or hardly ever recover financially. What’s more important is that we can’t take the money with you.

I don’t want someone committing suicide over something like this, and that’s happening every single day because someone has lost hope. They’ve lost their friends and financial security. If you’re 60, 65, or 70 years old and you’ve lost all of your financial wherewithal, where do you go? You don’t want to call your kids and say, “I have to come live with you,” because that’s embarrassing.

You can’t call your friends because they’re going to say, “That was dumb of you.” There is hope. That’s why the organization that I work with, SCARS, the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams, is the one and only organization that supports the victims. It supports them with support groups and gets them to go to a trauma therapist because there’s so much you can do. You don’t think you can but in time, there is light at the end of that tunnel.

There is hope that you will believe and come to believe that you are not at fault. It was not your fault that you got taken. You happen to be there. You happen to say yes, but there are steps to recover. There are steps to report because we’re even working with law enforcement. Originally, you walk into a police department to file a report and they laugh at you out the door.

It is not your fault that you got taken. You just happened to be there and said yes, but there are steps to recover. There are steps to report. Click To Tweet

That’s not what they do to victims of domestic violence anymore. There’s a learning curve here. We want people to know that there are steps to take and report. With cryptocurrency, there may be even a step to get some of the money back. The biggest thing is to raise awareness which makes your social media private. You don’t have to have the world as your audience. If somebody asks for money, no is the answer. Even family members made me very leery about giving money to anybody.

They may be asking it because they’re involved in that.

You never know. People want things for free. They want things for doing nothing. They feel that they’re entitled to it. That’s what they’ll tell you too, “All those wealthy Americans, those wealthy whoever.” We’re not all wealthy. I could have given that money to my grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Have at it. If he had asked me to help out and it was legit, I would’ve done it. Not as big as I did, but we’re not bad people. We do want everybody to be happy but in a healthy and trustworthy way. Don’t lie to me to get something from me because you’ll never be my friend then. I have hope there. There are good people out there. Find good people and surround yourself with them.

I know I have stayed home a lot. Not as many in-person things, now that you certainly can get scammed in person as well. Generally speaking, if you’re out there helping a community service, out there in your community and volunteering or doing a garden or whatever, if you’re outside and not always on your screens, you might find some good friends. I feel like I have a lot of friends, but that’s what we’re looking for, companionship sometimes. That’s where the risk comes in.

We need our community. We need our tribe. Our tribe doesn’t have to be 100,000 people. We need a family of 2, 3, 4 or 6.

Bob Beaudine has twelve. Jesus had twelve. There’s a twelve. You have your 1, 3, and the rest that are all in this community. The Power of Who is his book. It’s an amazing book.

It’s tough, especially when you’re dealing with kids because other than the older woman that’s got the demographics, we’re looking at teenagers because they’re looking to find friends. They feel trusted online. They could be putting a picture out there saying, “I’m playing lacrosse at 3:00 at Park Vista High School.” All the predators that are out there now know what you look like, where you are, and what time you’re going to be there. It’s not too difficult to extrapolate that, “We’re going to have kids taken.” Parents are thinking, “I want my kids to have a phone.” We’re talking 10 and 11-year-olds, “because I want them to contact me.” Do you know what your kids are doing on those phones? Do you know what information? Do you know who they’re talking to?

Even if they’ve been warned and they think they’re sophisticated enough to figure it out.

The kids aren’t.

Trafficking is real. It’s horrifically.

Michael Butler’s got an organization that works with that. We put people around ourselves that have good causes. The reason these causes are out there is because there is a problem. That’s why SCARS is around. That’s why Michael’s thing is around. That’s why you’re doing what you’re doing. There are problems out there, and some of us have learned to speak up.

I say, “Stand up and speak up.” You have to learn from what happened to you and not let it happen again. That’s the learning part. It’s, “What happened? Why did it happen? How can I not let it happen again? Who can I help move forward?” There’s someone sitting beside you that has had the same thing happen to them. They are desperate to know that they’re not alone.

You have to learn from what happened to you and not let it happen again. Click To Tweet

How do they find SCARS? How do they find Debby Johnson? How do we get you?

I have a website called I do work with SCARS. The best way to find the encyclopedia of everything you and your family want to know about relationship scams is That will lead you, if you’ve been a victim, to report it at and

Romance Scams now is the place to go for that. is how they can write to me. I do not want to entertain scammers, but if there is a victim out there or a family member who doesn’t know what to do, I will write back to you individually. The Woman Behind the Smile is where I’ve got a lot of videos. I had my podcast there. I’m not doing that now, but I am active with the SCARS victim support groups and out there ready to help.

You do and you’ve got a strong stand now. I remember the original story where you hinted at a women’s group, Women’s Prosperity Network that had happened. You were encouraged to stand up and speak up.

I was in a place where I felt comfortable and safe around women who understood. They might not have had it happen to them, but it might have happened to their mother or a good friend. I always say it could happen to your daughter. It could happen to your father. My mom and dad who are elders, I say, “Don’t answer the phone. If you see that it’s unavailable, you don’t need to say hi. It’s not your friend. If it is, they’ll leave a message.”

We’ve got to make people aware. Watch out for our neighbors. If you have an older neighbor out there and you haven’t seen them in a while or you say, “How are you doing?” or if you have a friend that’s online dating and they stop talking to you about it, there could be a problem there. They don’t want to tell you what they’re doing. It happened to me.

Make people aware and watch out for our neighbors. Click To Tweet

I didn’t want to tell my best friend what was going on and almost lost her because of that. She’s tried to push. I was like, “Don’t push me on this one.” So far in that at some point, you can’t recover, it’s like you’re chasing the money. You’re like, “One more because if I get out now, I’ve lost so much.” You’re going to be in it until you’re broken. If you don’t stop in the first two weeks, you’re going to be stuck. That’s when you come to us at SCARS. It’s unfortunate, but we get new people every day. That makes me sad because you’d think after all these years that we’d do a better job. People don’t want to hear don’t. Beware and be aware.

Beware and be aware. That’s your tag. What’s next for you, any more books, any more shows?

I wrote a book called Fearless. It was called Fearless. I write every month for an online magazine called Positive Tribe. That’s at I love doing that because I’m looking at a picture of my dad sawing a tree. I use my parents in the many decades of experiences that they’ve had. I am very blessed that they’re nearby because I spend a lot of time with them.

I write a lot for that. I do support groups for SCARS. I backed off a little bit because I’ve got a lot of family issues going on with one of my youngest sons. I realized too that we have so many things happening in our lives that we feel like we can’t talk to anybody about. It gets overwhelming. There are mental health issues out there. There are physical issues, physical diseases, and disorders.

Many people are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid of being judged. I was like, “They judge me.” My husband always says, “What people think about you doesn’t matter.” It’s true. What you think of me doesn’t matter. What I think of me matters. What God thinks of me matters. What can I do best? I learned something new. I was working with one of my son’s therapists and she said, “Don’t do for him what he can do for himself. A mom is an enabler.”

I know I enabled the scam to go on for so long because I wanted to help do things for yourself that make you feel better and find self-care. We can’t do everything for everybody else because they want our anxiety level as high as theirs because it makes them feel comfortable. Stop and take a breath. I love how you started the show by breathing. Drink some water, especially now with the heat that we’re going through.

Drink water, touch, step outside or even hold a rock or something that is grounding because we are always with shoes. We’re always with things that are artificial and breathing. It’s the breath of life that I am coming into you, so every word. Take that moment anytime you’re in a stressful situation or need to come to any vacation. Breathe in calm.

Don’t feel guilty. Don’t beat yourself up because of something or a misstep in the past.

You can’t change anything that just happened.

That mistake might’ve been something that, in this whole eternal perspective, was something that maybe had to happen. It’s bad. Bad things do happen to good people.

We can’t change it but we can change our story about it. That’s something that is another whole conversation. You can change your story about what happened and you can move forward. You can’t change that but if you don’t like where you are, the next step you have control over. The next word or the next step, you can take a different path and begin a different journey if you choose. It’s all a choice.

Fail forward fast.

Don’t do it faster.

Get it over then learn from it.

It’s been amazing having you with us on the Charla Anderson Show. I’m so grateful for your friendship, your light in the world, and the difference you’re making. That’s what we’re all here for. When we do get involved in something, it’s because we have a heart to help and make a difference to somebody else. Maybe we need to bring it a little closer to home and find somebody local who could use that more than somebody in another foreign world.

I love you and I’m grateful for your friendship. I’m so grateful for this platform. I love this Win Win Women platform and globally getting the word out to so many women around the world. The goal for this platform is to have access 24/7 in every language for 3.9 billion women. That’s a big goal and that’s a stated goal. That’s where we’re headed. I’m privileged and honored to be here. Thank you for reading. Anyone who’s out there reading, if you want to reach out to me, I’d love to hear from you. As I tend to end most of my shows, I want you to be blessed. I want you to feel blessed. I’m going to say always choose joy.

Important Links

About Debby Montgomery Johnson

TCAS 22 | Online ScammersVictims Advocate;
Founder of The Woman Behind The Smile, Inc;
Director, The Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams (SCARS).
Debby Montgomery Johnson, #1 Best Selling Author, International Speaker, Entrepreneur, and a Podcast host, is a woman on a mission.
In her book, “The Woman Behind The Smile” she shares her personal
experience with a “love” that turned into betrayal and financial disaster and she removes the mask of
shame and shows others how to do the same.
Many of us have something, something we’re hiding,
something we’re ashamed of, something that through no fault of our own or through our own making
keeps us hidden from each other and the world.
From Vermont and a graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy and the University of North Carolina-
Chapel Hill, Debby is the President of, a vitamin supplement company that provides
an alternative remedy for the pain of neuropathy. Products and educational information can be found
Debby’s background is diverse, from working as a paralegal and Senior bank branch manager to being a
U.S. Air Force Intelligence Officer serving at the Pentagon and with The Defense Intelligence Agency.
Debby first appeared in the Palm Beach Post and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, CBS This Morning,
The Mel Robbins Show, The Tamron Hall Show, WPEC CBS Channel 12 and WPTV NBC Channel 5, in addition to being featured in National Geographic’s Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller.
She is regularly
called upon for expert commentary about relationship fraud.
Debby is just like you – a woman on a mission to live an authentic, joyful life as the Woman WITH the Smile rather than behind it. She is available for speaking engagements.

I’m Charla Anderson, host of The Charla Anderson Show, Collector & Connector of Fascinating People (and EVERYONE is Fascinating!) on live TV, streaming and podcasts. As a Ziglar Legacy Certified Trainer, a retired award-winning flight attendant, Olympic Torch bearer, personal development junkie, Inspired Speaker, Published Author and Your Courageous Coach, I want to share my passion of living life full-out, saying YES to intriguing opportunities, and encouraging YOU to do the same. Let’s jump on a discovery call and get to know each other. Find all things Charla at

On The Charla Anderson Show, We discuss Mindset, How much Your WORDS matter, Princess to Queen energy, mantras, HOPE, Faith, Miracles, Overcoming, and much, much more, including learning from amazing guests.

Everything Charla: show every Wed at 1 pm CT.

WATCH Button turns green at 12:58 to join the live show. Also streamed on Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV.All replays are on my website,

Become YOUR OWN Show Host:

Build your own website with amazing support:

Nutrition, Energy, Health, Vitality, Focus, Collagen, Brain Health:


Collector & Connector of Fascinating People... & everyone is Fascinating!  Sharing Encouragement, Courage, Inspiration, Smiles & Hugs to Leave OUR World a Better Place.

TV SHOW ~ SEASON 2 - Join me Every Wed at 1pm CT on BE EMPOWERED Channel 


Get notified
as soon as it is available



That's it for now.

While waiting, check one of my courses already available in the library!

Scroll to Top