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BOOK REVIEW: You’re Just Too Good To Be True by Sofija Stefanovic

BOOK REVIEW: You’re Just Too Good To Be True by Sofija Stefanovic

Penguin Specials
February 2015
Paperback, $9.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

8.5/10

9780143572121

In my mid to late teens, through to my early twenties, I ran a creative writing forum.

It was never about being the biggest or the best, it was a place for myself and a few friends to keep in touch, and, with the addition of their close friends and so on, it grew into a bit of a community. Some people were local, some I’d never met but felt like I had. I’m still in touch with a number of them to this day.

There was one instance, though, where a new person joined the site and started posting, making friends, the usual forum activities.

This Charlie person seemed like loads of fun, but she had a bit of a rough home life. We started talking daily, but she would often disappear for months at a time. I always worried, what with her tough home life, that something had happened to her.

A new guy, Will, joined and said that Charlie had recommended the site to him. This was GREAT news, because it meant Charlie was still around, she was still thinking about us, and… maybe life just got busy. She was okay.

I began to talk to Will, welcoming him to the site, asking how Charlie was, asking what he liked to read and write. He suddenly turned the conversation around and asked me how I could be friends with another girl on the site, let’s call her Lisa, and went on and on about how immature she was and he didn’t see what I was getting out of the friendship. I told him that maybe she had her immature moments, but I enjoyed talking to her and it was really none of his business. The conversation after that, in two different chat windows, went a little like this:

Window 1:

Will:     Actually, it is. You see, I’m really good at making up fake identities that people like better than the real me.
Steph:  What do you mean?

Window 2:

Lisa:     I mean Will was never real.
Steph:  WTF? I was really excited when he said Charlie had mentioned the site, because it meant she was okay. I haven’t seen her in ages.
Lisa:     Ok, now you’re really going to be pissed off, because you’re still not getting it.
Steph:  … Charlie’s not real, either.
Lisa:     Nope.

I had met Lisa in person, and met her parents, so I knew she was real. But that day I lost Charlie. I felt like she had died, and, while trying to work out how I felt about Lisa, I seriously considered asking her if Charlie could write me a letter, if I could keep in touch with her, because she hadn’t been the one to wrong me, Lisa had. In the end I didn’t, because that was crazy talk, and it would have been Lisa, not Charlie, and I would have known that. Maybe it was my love of fiction, and habit of getting attached to people who were never real, but I wanted closure about Charlie.

While this situation wasn’t about someone asking for money, it had the emotional elements of a scam, so I completely understand where the people in this book are coming from.

 

 

You’re Just Too Good To Be True is a story of online scams, focusing on those who are lonely and looking for love, those who are vulnerable, and those who likely don’t have the net savvy to realise what is going on.

This book is conversational and compulsively readable, while dealing with some rather deep topics.

As you read the book, and you’ll want to read it in one sitting, you’ll find yourself realising that what these victims have is a form of addiction.

The situation escalated, and, over several years, Bill became involved in a horrific tale of love, death and crime, all the while sending money to a growing cast of characters. When he began to suspect he was being conned, Bill was contacted by police, who assured him they were about to catch the scammers (they were, in fact, scammers themselves). A manager at Barclays bank was holding onto the money Bill was owed (also a scammer). Bill had lost all of his savings, mortgaged his flat and borrowed money from friends. He was sending his pension away as soon as he got it, in the wild hope that he would, one day, get his money back. He was scammed out of more than $80,000. It left him an emotional wreck, and drowning in debt.

These scammers force them into an abusive relationship of sorts, the kind that ruin friendships and families:

‘Some of the tactics scammers use remind me of domestic violence. They cut you off from everyone else and make you reliant on them. We hear all these stories of children giving their senior parents ultimatums to cut contact and they don’t, so the families disown them. So they have nothing left. Even if they recognise it’s a scam, they still have a payoff – they still have a relationship.’

And no one is immune. In trying to get in touch with scammers to find out how they operate, the author of this book found her own emotions betraying her:

And even though I am fully aware that Cindy has cut and pasted this from somewhere, even though I have been told a thousand times by the police that scammers operate by stroking people’s egos, I cannot help but glance at the photo I sent Cindy to see if my eyes do, indeed, look magical.

Even when things are proven false, an addict/victim will search for the tiny piece of truth that makes them feel better about their situation:

‘All of this unfolded because of the boxes. I had no idea about scammers. Miller Duncan was a person who I was dealing with.’
I ask: ‘So when you found out that none of that was true-‘
‘No, it was true.’
‘Sorry? You’re saying he was a real person?’
‘Yes. He was killed.’
Bill tells us that the scammers jumped in only after the parcels got into the wrong hands. That’s how the scammers became aware of his details. Miller was real. This is not what I believe. To me, the Miller Duncan love story and the subsequent tragedy seem to be at the very centre of the scam. The way they ‘hooked’ Bill.

You’ll wonder how it is that these people can get drawn in, but our current, technology based society just adds to the scammer’s arsenal.

Some of our best friendships, and indeed a lot of long term relationships, come from meeting online.

Next time you find yourself wondering how on Earth someone could be drawn into these scams, take a look at your online friends, think about how close you are to some of them, having not even met them, and really think about how hard it would be for someone to develop a relationship with you online, and then convince you that they’re in severe financial trouble. 

And then go buy yourself a copy of this book.

 

This review is dedicated to Pommie, Shaye, Bee, Geebles, Shadoe, Jenn, and all the other Figments I lost touch with. And, of course, to all of the other wonderful people I’ve discovered online.

BOOK REVIEW: You're Just Too Good To Be True by Sofija Stefanovic

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