The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, August 25, 2002  

A Web Scam That Shames All Others

“‘How could anyone be so cruel?’

“That question torments a dozen women from Arizona to New Jersey -- and maybe many more,” reports Marie McCullough in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. “Each was using the Internet to search for a daughter she reluctantly gave up for adoption years ago. Each received e-mails from a woman posing as her long-lost daughter. And each was hurt when she opened her heart to the mystery woman.”

Whether the “mystery woman” is merely cruel, severely demented, or just plain has too much time on her hands is not clear. Read on and then hop over to the Inquirer for the full treatment (“A Cyber Scammer Preys on Mothers in Torment”).

“The ‘daughter[,]’ who called them Mom, e-mailed photographs showing a family resemblance, and had such a sweet voice began to manipulate them with tales of woe, playing on their deepest maternal regrets, guilt and fears -- and then vanished into cyberspace.

“After two years, the con artist does not seem to be tiring of the heart-wrenching ruse. She doesn’t seem to be out for money. She has passed up gifts, plane tickets and cash, according to seven birth mothers interviewed for this article. But, precisely because she has committed no clear-cut crimes, her victims are frustrated in their efforts to identify and stop her.

“Indeed, cyber torment seems to be such a bizarre, vague Internet abuse that there is practically nothing to stop it.”

We would appreciate comments and observations from psychiatrists and psychologists regarding the illness that drives the mystery woman to perform such senseless acts of cruelty.

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