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BOOK REVIEW: Red Flags of Love Fraud by Donna Andersen

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this book, Red Flags of Love Fraud 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath, and I was not disappointed at all. Donna Andersen, the owner of the LoveFraud.com website, received her “credentials” in dealing with sociopaths (psychopaths) when she married James Montgomery, a full-fledged con man. At the time Donna “enrolled” in this course in the University of Hard Knocks, she was totally unaware that this charming and charismatic man she had married was indeed a sociopath. He conned her out of more than $200,000 during the short course of their marriage, had numerous affairs, and actually fathered a child with another woman during their marriage.

Wanting very much to help others avoid enrolling in this course in the University of Hard Knocks, Donna has written her second book about the experience.

While I was up all night reading her first book, not being able to put it down, this book I read more slowly and carefully.

Red Flags is laid out almost in an “outline form,” so that it is easily understood. Donna has arranged each chapter and each section so that it is easily comprehended. She has also used excerpts from many of the thousands of people who have sent their stories to Lovefraud and completed Lovefraud surveys (of course changing the names).

Donna explains the confusion with the terms sociopath, psychopath and antisocial personality disorder, not only the professional differences about what to call it, but also the exact diagnostic criteria for any one of them. She also makes it plain that it doesn’t matter what you call them, they are toxic and there is no cure for what they have.

She debunks the myths about sociopaths/psychopaths all being serial killers and deranged criminals. In addition, she points out the old fallacy of “there is good in everyone” as being one of the things that keeps victims hanging on.

The Red Flags that are covered in the book are:

  1. Charisma and charm
  2. Sudden soul mates
  3. Sexual magnetism
  4. Love bombing
  5. Blames others for everything
  6. Lies and gaps in the story
  7. Intense eye contactӬMoves fast to hook up
  8. Pity play
  9. Jekyll and Hyde personality

Each of these actually correspond to symptoms on the Psychopath Check List developed by Dr. Robert Hare, but in more informal terms.

This book is not stiff or clinical in any way, but infinitely readable and packed with information to help people spot the “red flags” that sociopaths/psychopaths display in how they try to hook vulnerable people in order to fleece them, before they get fleeced.

Every high school kid should be required to read this book in order to educate themselves to the predators among us. People who have already had the “course” in dealing with a sociopath/psychopath will also profit as well. I recommend that everyone buy two copies, one to keep and one to give to a friend who is in a bad dating situation.

Red Flags of Love Fraud—10 signs you’re dating a sociopath is now available exclusively in the Lovefraud Store.


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30 Comments on "BOOK REVIEW: Red Flags of Love Fraud by Donna Andersen"

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I took psychology courses in college (in the mid 80’s) and I don’t remember learning about sociopaths (of course, we were reading from text books, just getting a basic understanding of some of the mental illnesses people can be afflicted with). If you can teach college students about these predators (because they’re young, still “starting out in life”, that’s a plus, having long-term positive effects) (at least for those who pay attention to what’s being taught). In my opinion, the mental-health field should be teaching the public about these people – namely, that these individuals are TOXIC to your mental, emotional, financial, etc. health. Keeping them out of your lives is critical (for your own well-being’s sake).

and that’s much harder to do if they are your family members and have really good masks. I mean “benign” masks. It takes a lot of guts to go NC with someone who is “nice.” And it takes a lot of discernment to figure out that’s what’s going on if the spath is always smiling and calm while the drama of others swirls around them.

I agree — get this stuff in the textbooks — lots of undergrads take Psych 101 without majoring in anything psychology-related.

FWIW, high school health class is a great place to talk about this stuff. But not every high school is open to it — a lot of the curriculums are set. Also, the spath curriculum would go against the current bullying curriculum, which, while focused on trying to engage the bystanders and “empower the victim,” falls short by explaining that bullies come from families where they are abused or witness abuse (i.e., we need to pity them and excuse them sort of), OR they have low self esteem and bullying helps them feel powerful…. LOL

… but those two reasons focus on the bully’s feelings and our empathy for the bully. This misguided focus distracts from the mechanism of bullying and fact that bullies are missing empathy themselves. In my view, the current anti-bullying curricula fall short because encouraging empathy for the bully will only give the bully more power to keep on bullying. Because there is no reciprocal empathy. This fact is simply omitted!

I think Donna is doing a wonderful, trailblazing job of spreading the word. It will take a long time, though — hard to get this information through to people before they have encountered spaths, and also hard to talk against the conventional wisdom about bullies and sociopaths in relationships.

20years, I agree it is very difficult to do if it is your family member, because they cause collateral damage to the rest of the family who “don’t get it” about the family psychopath.

I have had to NC both my sperm donor and my egg donor, and two sons….and since I come from a small family that’s about it. My only 3 first cousins have essentially NC’d me though they are “distantly polite” if I contact them, there is no warmth, no family connection. They are of course very warm and family to my egg donor.

But you know, PEACE is a wonderful thing to have in my home and now that I have gotten used to it, I really miss it when it is gone for even a moment.

When we recognize the red flags, no matter who is waving them, and we honor those red flags, then we can have peace, but as long as we allow people to wave the red flags of psychopathy in our lives we will have no peace or tranquility.

Yep, that’s kind of where I am with it (but I have not had the murderous experiences you have had!).

For 25 years my sister lived in a distant city and would only swoop in once or twice a year for a few days of chaos… for the past 12 years I have lived in the same city as our parents, and have interacted with them quite pleasantly though these relationships can have some complications, it has been a peaceful, adult relationship… but for the past year since my sister moved back in with my parents, they are deteriorating psychologically AND physically (coincidence?) and she has created so much havoc in our lives… for example taking it upon herself to go to my son’s school, march herself to the office and declare to them that he is not actually sick — oh no, he is TRUANT!!! (to the school’s credit, they would not talk to her). She told me this herself, with great glee at her cleverness at exposing him. (he really was sick). And this was before CPS came after me. Geez…. that’s the last thing I need… more ammunition going to CPS about my “truant” son.

So… I know that my parents have finally “gotten” that my ex-husband is a spath — but I don’t know if they can grasp this about their own daughter.

You are right. It is the red flags. Big, fat, bright, flapping red flags. Impossible to ignore. Impossible to explain away, once you know them and how they are part of a long-standing pattern — not an occasional isolated incident.

I’d love to go NC with my sister (sort of have done so for the past 25 years) but with her living with my folks, that may mean NC with them…. and I feel they need some protection… I don’t want to abandon them to her. It is tough.

Both high school and college students should be taught about sociopaths. The problem is that much of what is being taught now is incorrect.

That’s not just my opinion – it is the view of Dr. Liane Leedom, a psychiatrist who studied at some of the best universities in the nation. After her own marriage to a psychopath, she came to the conclusion that her own training was deficient. What she experienced is not what she was taught.

I’ve had at least two university psychology professors contact me to tell me that my explanation of sociopaths/psychopaths is wrong, that these are two distinct disorders.

My answer is, says who?

The fact is that the research psychologists, who use the term “psychopath,” have one view. The psychiatrists, who are medical doctors, are still using the term “antisocial personality disorder” in the new DSM-5. According to the psychiatrists, “psychopathy” is not even a diagnosis.

So who do we listen to? I don’t know. Here’s the bottom line – the mental health professionals, both clinicians and researchers, simply do not agree. So there is no “right” and “wrong,” there are only different opinions.

All of this makes things complicated when we’re trying to teach people about the disorder in order to save their lives.

The strongest message for anyone reading Donna’s book is that disordered people cannot be FIXED or will ever CHANGE.

In my opinion that is the simplest message that will resonate with
teens as well as us “nurturing” people who think if we love them enough they will change……………BULL!

And I meant to add…..the fact that THEY KNOW what they are and just don’t CARE. That was a tough one for me to wrap my head around. Thinking if they are soul less; how sad that must be.

They are callous, calculating manipulators that ENJOY what they do.

Donna, you are right on, the professionals do not agree on a definition of a “diagnosis” or the symptoms of the disorder, or what to call it, or what the cause is.

It makes me think back to the days when “doctors” believed in spontaneous generation of worms….if you put down a piece of meat in a short while it would spontaneously generate maggots. It never dawned on them that the flies on the meat were laying eggs which hatched into maggots and that the maggots then became flies.

While there is no known “causative agent” such as a virus or bacteria or a fly egg to cause psychopathy, there has been found to be some GENETIC indicators, and in identical twins who are raised apart, there is a 50-80% chance if one is disordered, so is the other one. So while genetics can’t be totally blamed for the disorder, it definitely is connected.

With professionals unable to agree on what psychopathy IS or what it should be CALLED there is nothing but confusion and chaos and different opinions and theories on the SYNDROME of behaviors.

Some important judge once said “it is difficult to define pornography, but you know it when you see it.”

I think that psychopathy is the same thing, it is very difficult to define, but you know it when you see it….when you live it.

We having lived it know what it looks and feels like, but to describe it to others who have never lived or seen it, Donna’s book does a damned good job I think!

They don’t care because they can’t care. That would take empathy, and that is missing. Yes, it is a spiritual question, too. Are they soul-less? or what, exactly? (some of the way we view this has to do with our particular spiritual framework).

I agree that they cannot be fixed. But practitioners of dialectical behavior therapy seem to think that borderline personality disordered folks can be treated. How does that fit into all this?

20 Years,

How long has you sister been there?

How “with it” are your parents?

What is the reason she is there?

You may have trouble protecting them from her, especially if she is “guardian” of them.

I would first of all, see an attorney who is an ELDER CARE SPECIALIST or who is PROBATE SPECIALIST and get some advice from him. It might be that when your parents get to the point that they qualify as “demented” you can bust her chops and get yourself declared their guardians and toss her sorry ass out of their house. Of course in the meantime she is plucking them like a chicken for Sunday dinner. Good luck.

Oxy,

My sister has been there for slightly over a year.

My parents are mostly “with it,” but slightly different for each; my mother had a stroke a few years ago and has some vague moments and more lucid moments than vague moments. She is very intelligent. My father is mostly lucid and also very intelligent, but becoming a bit more (this is subtle) rigid in his thinking and less cognitively flexible, if that makes sense. But both are currently competent.

She is there because… she has had a progressively higher paying career for the past 25 years but would get fired every few years or so. Up until recently (a few years ago) she always managed to find a higher paying position and at the height of it all was making TONS of money. She never saved much, spent lavishly, and has been in debt for a few years. And has had very little luck finding work in her field and cannot decide about a new career. About a year ago, she was fired from a contract job she was working overseas, and while she was over there, her landlord died and the apartment was sold (she made a brief trip back to put her things in storage). The sudden firing was a mental/emotional blow to her. She returned to the states with no job and no home. She “temporarily” moved in with our parents (no income, no job, no home, etc.), and now that has stretched to over a year. She has not succeeded in finding a high paying job that will allow her to move back to the other city. She has worked low-paying jobs and odd jobs. The economy is tough, and also she won’t accept a low-paying, full-time permanent job, and she wants to return to a career in her field, even though no one seems to be hiring. And she’s older now, and there is age discrimination.

I know she is accepting “loans” from them (to repair her car, for surgery for her dog, etc.).

It is an odd situation I am only just now starting to get my head around. I want my parents to preserve their autonomy for as long as possible, without interference from either of their children. But I also feel a responsibility to intervene to help protect their rights, if I can.

The other aspect of her “no boundaries” includes endless gossip to anyone about random private things she is “privy to” because she lives there… not anyone’s business. And it is disrespectful to our parents.

20 years, sounds like the situation I was in a few years ago, only was my son C and his wife and the Trojan Horse standing in for my P son—manipulatiing grandma for loans and gifts…

Not much you can do about it unfortunately, and of course she will milk loans out of them, and never would consider anything lower than her “high paying jobs” because she is “worth more”

Funny thing about her getting fired every few years…she can keep the charm going for a while but then she can’t keep up the charm mask!

Well, I wish I could give you some idea about how you can keep her in check, but I see none. Sorry. 🙁

I know. That’s why I’m kind of circling this cautiously. I’m not concerned with preserving “my share of inheritance” because I’m taking care of myself. My primary concern is that my parents’ assets are preserved sufficient to take care of themselves and whatever may come…

and the every few years firing has been interesting to watch over the years. It is always that she works for “crazy people” and it is always their fault, and they always persecute her in some devious way, forcing her out through innuendo, blackballing, sabotage, demoting her… at first I believed her. I mean, as I have mentioned I have known for a long time that spaths in the workplace exist and had my run-ins with them. And I’ve seen it happen to others. So I know this stuff goes on. But when the same thing happens, repeats every few years, for 25 years… after awhile I start to think… is there a common element here?

I suppose it is possible that a person has such karma or bad luck or sending out a certain kind of vibe (yet be a victim) that they find themselves endlessly persecuted, but it seems very unlikely that it would keep happening.

I learned a long time ago that I can’t win against spaths in the workplace, and i don’t want to play those games. So I don’t. I try not to be a target in the first place, but if I am, I leave. I don’t engage.

I think she enjoys engaging. But why? I’m wondering… is she a spath who wants to win, wins sometimes, but loses more often than winning, but this is the only game she knows?

Cause she does find herself in the victim spot an awful lot… it’s a mask that is also real, you know?

Hope my meaning gets across OK — this is a hard idea to express.

20years,
your situation does sound like a rock and a hard place, so I’m going to change my advice and give you the same advice I gave onestep: be patient. You can tell them later, but you can’t un-tell them.

If you wait, you might be able to see more about what your sister is really thinking. And what her plans are. It might be that she is moving her chess pieces into position and you can offer her a “move” she can’t resist.

Gray rock might be best for now.

yep.

20 years, well you already KNOW what she is, so at least you are not going to be gobsmacked when mommy and daddy wind up broke….and I really dont’ see any way to prevent it, as they are not going to believe you about Sissy.

Sissy has convinced them and they want to believe Sissy because to NOT believe Sissy would be to admit that one of their beloved children is a monster.

That deal of kidnapping your kid, going to the school and telling them that he was not sick, he was truant….WTF? DRAMA??? Maybe she feeds on DRAMA and so she is willing to do anything to promote family drama.

Thanks God this woman has procreated! LOL

I would like sky said, just Gray rock her for now, don’t give her any sign of an emotion or that you are noticing she is doing anything not good to or for your parents. You might commiserate with her about how bad she has it, how much of a psychopath her last boss was and that sort of thing…feeding the two headed dog slabs of sympathy as meat to keep her off your leg so to speak. I would be careful about saying any thing that might be deemed criticism.

ps You might even tell her 20 years, how GLAD you are that she is there to take care of mom and dad during their twilight years…that your career is keeping you away from doing the things for them that they need and that you’d like to do, but you are just so GLAD that she is there….a little reverse psychology. Might also point out that when they get to the point that they aren’t able to drive or take care of themselves that way, you are so glad that she will be there to do it for them. It is always much nicer when family members can do that rather than strangers. hee hee

Ah yes! that’s a good idea Oxy.
20years,
make her think you are so glad YOU don’t live there and have to take care of mom and dad. Be very nuanced, of course, don’t make it too blatant.

hehe. you guys are good.

I can be very nuanced. It is also actually true that my job and the kids and being a single parent make it very hard for me to do the things for our parents that I would like to be able to do at this stage of their lives.

I’m just hoping she actually gets a job that takes her far away again and pays well enough that she can get another apartment.

And Oxy, she didn’t kidnap my kid. He legitimately stayed home from school (he’s a teen) due to illness, and she didn’t believe he was ill (not her job to determine that anyhow) so she took it upon herself to drive to the school to attempt to report him. Weird!!!! Plus, it actually could get me and my son in trouble if the school believed HER. We have truancy laws here and they do put parents in jail and involve CPS and other harsh things. Not her f-ing business.

It really has only been clearly apparent to me in the past several months what she is, because of the proximity, seeing the patterns and the number of instances she inserts herself into all of our lives in an egregiously boundary-violating way. At first when she lost her job, I was genuinely sympathetic and assumed that she was doing these horrible “meddling” things because she was so distraught about her own messed up life, that it helped relieve her stress to focus on others — you know, a co-dependent type of behavior (not that that’s healthy, but it was a more benign interpretation than I have now). Now I see that it is more twisted than that. There’s blame-shifting going on and an utter lack of remorse for any injuries she causes to others through her actions. It’s a very slippery thing, and I believe that is why it took me so long to see it. Don’t you all think spaths are slippery?

Yes, as hard as it is for me to admit this to myself about my sister (I think you all get that I am having “guilty feelings” over so labeling and judging her), I can imagine how much harder it would be to admit it about one’s own child. Ugh.

20, it is difficult to admit it about ANY family member….and I’m not sure one is more difficult than another.

Taking off and going to the school about your kid is WAYYYYYY over the boundary. What was her explaination to you about it? Did the school believe her? What was their take on her coming in like that? (head shaking here) I mean really, that was just a really NASTY THING for her to do. Totally over the boundaries.

Yea, I think the “oh, I’m so glad that you are going to be available to take care of mommy and daddy when they need their bottoms wiped and their food fed to them…the “old maid” daughter who has no children of their own is the perfect one to do this. LOL hee hee (oh, I am such an evil person and Sky is just as bad as I am! hee hee 😀 )

Well. Since you asked.

One day I dropped by my parents’ house on my way home from work and my sister pulled me aside and had this look of delight on her face. She said, “I need you to do something. You need to put my name on the list of people at the high school who are authorized family members. I went to the school today to report that he was skipping school, and because my name was not on the list, they refused to talk to me. Your son was NOT sick. He is missing too much school, 20 years. He’s faking. Someone has to step in and see that he gets his butt kicked.”

I looked at her. And said, “How dare you. No, I am not putting your name on any list. That is completely over the top and so uncool. I’m the mom, and I’m responsible for him. I can’t believe you took it upon yourself to do that. That is so wrong.”

There was more from her, along the lines of in her opinion, I’m not doing my mom-job very well so as the aunt she is required to step in. I stood my ground and was very tough — just drew the line. I’m the mom. Period.

(later, at home, and to friends, I allowed my jaw to drop — because I could not believe what she had done and with such DELIGHT and also such ENTITLEMENT. Such BALLS. Geez.)

At the time, I was trying to puzzle through what it meant. Now I know.

(it is also true that my son misses more school than is typical. We have been working with his pediatrician to address his health issues.)

I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be to educate people about psychopaths. My best friend, who was with me through my entire 6-year spath relationship and knows everything that’s transpired, STILL pooh poohs me when I say he’s a psychopath. And she has a master’s in special ed! When my copy of Donna’s book arrives in the next few days I will share it with her.

When you watch TV, the only time psycho/sociopaths are referenced in the media or on crime shows, etc. it’s related to murder. I frequently heard Casey Anthony referred to as a psychopath, but never Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, or any other public figures who we know are probably narcs or spaths but whose “only” crime is serial infidelity and lying and betrayal of their loved ones.

It just seems like such an uphill battle and I get so frustrated sometimes. I do agree that educating students is the best way to start; I’d also like to see the media targeted with some intensive education, but that’s probably asking too much.

Keep up the excellent work Donna!

Ellen

20 years,

Yes, that is over the top that she should interfere with your parenting like that…IF (and I say “if”) there was a problem in her opinion, she should have come to you about it, not gone to the school! I’m glad you stood your ground and it gave you an idea of what she really is. GOOD for the school, too, for not allowing her any information.

Forewarned is FOREARMED so that is a good thing I think.

Knowing what she is before she started in on your parents is a good thing. At least you know what you are dealing with and that is probably half the battle.

Hey Oxy! speak for yourself, I’m a GOOD person.
:mrgreen: 👿
but anyhoo…

That is really over the top, 20years, telling you that she’s stepping in because you’re a bad parent. 🙄

Now that you know what she is, you must realize that she has no limits. So I guess it’s best that you don’t let on that you know her mask. Realize too, that she is filled with envy, even if she doesn’t show it. They all are. So try not to trigger it.

It’s so sad that there are so many of these creatures. It’s way more than 4%.

and the earliest “story” I remember is….

my sister, maybe 4 years old, BITING HER OWN ARM and going to our mother and saying, “Mommeeeeeeee!!!! 20years BIT ME!!!!!!” and my mother came to me — I’m off by myself doing stuff; had not been hanging out with my sister, and suddenly I was in trouble…. but innocent old me had no clue what I was under arrest for and that probably showed (rather than guilty denial, haha — it was genuine!) and my mom took another look at my sister’s arm and realized that since I was missing my 2 front teeth at the time — there is no way the bite marks matched. Haha!!!!

(I would be interested in knowing how my sister thought that trick up, and WHY — envy, right, Skylar?)

True story.

20, Your mom was one smart cookie to pick up on that.

Sounds like Sissy dearest has been an “early blooming psychopath” which doesn’t bode well for you dealing with her. I think sky is right, she is filled with envy of you so keep that in mind as you deal with her. Try not to invoke the envy in her and just learn to play up to her, using her own weaknesses against her. Or as Erin brock would say “back spath her.”

Looking back you may find other memories of her attacks against you in the past.

20years,
spath from birth huh? lol.
You and I seem to have a lot in common. My spath sister used to get me and my brother in trouble all the time by accusing us of hitting her. My mom knew she was lying but punished us anyway, just to make her happy.

So my observation is that your spath-sis, like mine, didn’t do it for envy. She did it for power. She needed to know that she could control the authority: mom.

As she grew up, she showed more of that.
As a freshman in highschool, she dated a senior. When she went to college she dated her teacher. She got out of school and got her first job and dated her supervisor. She lost that job, broke up with him and married a cop.

It’s all about the need to manipulate authority. They all have this need.

My exspath used cops in his cons. He liked the power he had over cops and that “theme” shows up over and over in his cons. They want the power that comes with authority but none of the responsibility. What better way to achieve that, than to control the authority figure?

Donna,

I am looking forward to reading the book. I would also like to know about your appearances at high schools and how to arrange for one at our high school.

OXY,

Aftermath radio – wonderful interviews I listened to this week. Small world , Oxy !!!! You also have a bundle to contribute !!!!!!

20 years, my egg donor’s brother was 7 when she was born and very envious of the new baby’s attention. He tried to smother her to death….my grandmother knew this but kept it a “secret” from her husband and just tried to keep the baby within her sight at all times to protect the baby….Uncle Monster managed to smother my egg donor unconscious many times though until when she was 7 and he was 14 his dad caught him and fanned his pants for it. that was the last time he did it. My grandmother’s “reason” for keeping it a secret was “if his dad knew he would spank him and he might run away from home.” WTF?????

My family was really good about keeping secrets. Protecting the “golden child” from the consequences of their behavior. Always a male child that was protected.

newlife, thank you!

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