Dear Margo: All in the Family

What to do when fraud and identity theft become a family matter? Margo Howard’s advice

All in the Family

Dear Margo: How do you deal with a family member who has done something morally and legally wrong? My brother “borrowed” all of my parents’ retirement money and signed a promissory note to pay it back. He has no intention of paying it back. My parents have next to nothing to live on, yet refuse to take him to court. Additionally, he has stolen my father’s and his own sons’ identities, opening credit cards and taking out loans in their names. When they found out, they all refused to prosecute him because his “life would be ruined.”

He is in a relationship with a woman who has no idea any of this occurred and cannot understand why his relationship with his family is so uncomfortable. It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to have a relationship with my brother because of his actions. I also think his significant other who lives with him should know the truth so she can make an informed decision about the relationship. What do you think? — Devotee of Dave Ramsey and the 10 Commandments

Dear Dev: The people in your family who have been ripped off sound daft. They are worried about this criminal because his life “might be ruined”? What about their lives? To take it out of their hands, I would go to the local district attorney with the information you have, giving all the victims in the family a clear conscience. Your brother cannot be allowed to continue. And I don’t think there’s any need to cue in his significant other. I suspect the authorities will do that. — Margo, rationally

Of Facebook, Tags and Romance

Dear Margo: My boyfriend and I, both in our 20s, are not friends on Facebook. We used to be until I caught him untagging photos he did not want me to see. I thought not being friends was the best way not to “stalk” him. Well, a few days ago, we were hanging out, and he logged into Facebook. I glanced at his laptop and saw a picture of him and his ex-girlfriend. When I asked if I could look, he responded, “You’ve already seen my photos.” I told him I wanted to see him with his ex, and he told me it was an old photo. Then I saw it was in one of her albums labeled “Spring/Summer 2011.” He contended it was an old picture that must have been put there by mistake.

I looked through the album and determined by the dates that the other photos had been posted recently. He later admitted the picture was recent, and he didn’t tell me because he thought I’d get mad. The fact that he was hiding something from me is upsetting, and the fact that this picture is out there for others to see makes me feel disrespected and embarrassed. I asked him to untag the picture, but he refuses. Am I wrong to ask him to remove it? Are there rules of etiquette for dealing with an ex online? — Trying To Be a Good Girlfriend

Dear Try: You will forgive me — I have basically no idea what you’re talking about. I do not know from tagging and untagging pictures, but you do sound like a very good Facebook detective. What I think I understand is that you “unfriended” your boyfriend, which in the world of older people sounds somewhat odd. I also think an older generation would not have photographic evidence of the reunion, even if platonic. While I understand your feelings of jealousy, I am also thinking that your bf may feel a little hemmed in.

As for “rules of etiquette for dealing with an ex online,” I think that area is new enough so that each couple can make their own. If you think he has stepped out of bounds, he has. — Margo, situationally

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to dearmargo@creators.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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84 comments so far.

  1. avatar Jody says:

    LW#2: If it walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck…

    Come on! You can’t be friends in facebook with the guy you are supposed to be in a relationship with? NO WAY! I’m sorry, but the boyfriend has one foot in and one foot out. If he wants to continue being your boyfriend, I suggest full disclosure. Otherwise, help him Hokey Pokey his other foot out as well. You don’t need that. All it’s doing is helping bury your self-esteem. There are plenty of fish out there, Girl!

    Don’t make someone a priority, when they see you as an option.

    • avatar LCMom says:

      LW2 – What’s wrong with this picture? (no pun intended)… You have a boyfriend who you are not connected with on FB because of inherent issues in your past experience with him and FB… and you’re noticing NOW that he’s in RECENT photos with another woman and LYING about it. Why exactly did you write Margo? There is no etiquette for dealing with exes, if that’s REALLY your reason. To each his (or her) own agreement… as long as they stick to the agreement… which your boyfriend is obviously not doing. I think you’re about as daft as the LW1′s parents who’s identities are being stolen. Get a clue girlfriend, he’s just not that into you.

  2. avatar Jody says:

    LW#1: Call me a sucker. Call me overly compassionate. But, there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what it must be like living as the brother. His self-esteem must be non-existent. He must believe this is the best he can be… all he can be… all he can ever hope for. How sad is that? To live your life believing you are nothing and must steal from those who love you in order to survive. Daunting.

    Don’t mistake my above statement for feeling sorry for him. Because I know that Karma is a bitch… and her wrath will catch up to him. When it does, I hope it’s not from some creep he borrowed too much money from that decides to take it out in blood. Roads like the one he’s on lead down such paths. It is his lesson. His decision. It’s unfortunate, but if your family is so toxic that they cannot hold him accountable for transgressions against them, then that apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I believe enabling is a form of abuse, mostly to the extent your letter suggests.

    May your family find peace.

    • avatar blue tooth says:

      If her brother were as you described, that would indeed be sad. More likely, though, is that this brother is stealing from his family because he can. Either he is narcissistic and feels entitled to all their money and resources, or he has an addiction of some sort, either drugs or gambling or porn, you can take your pick. In that case it’s not a self-esteem issue or a values issue. It’s just an issue for law enforcement. Who knows, this may be just the jolt this person needs to hit bottom and realize what he needs to do to get his life back on track.

      • avatar Katharine Gray says:

        Oh, I think the brother has plenty of self-esteem.   So much that he expects his entire family to forgive and forget all of his lies, betrayals  and crimes  L and pay for his world…whether it is a lavish lifestyle, stupid investments, or what is more likely a drug or gambling problem (as blue tooth pointed out).  While I am not defending the enabling by the parents and this man’s sons, I would not call their behavior *toxic*.  Enabling someone like him is stupid but I don’t think it is abuse because the brother seems to be doing just fine and dandy living high on the hog of his family.  What is happening is that the brother is toxic and his parents and sons don’t want to face that fact.   Low self-esteem my ass!  He’s been given so much by so many that he thinks it is his by right and I would bet my paltry 401K that he doesn’t feel put down by them or inferior to them but that he thinks they are patsies and suckers for letting him get away with it.

        Jody, I’m not going to call you a sucker or overly compassionate because you have NO problem blaming the victims in this scenario.  I just wonder why you identify so strongly with the brother who has lied, cheated, and defrauded his family.   
         

      • avatar Michelles11 says:

        Katharine Gray…couldn’t have said it better.  The brother is somewhat of a sociopath….

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Please…not “sociopath”. That term is barely used anymore in the psychiatric field, and over-used ad nauseum on the boards. He may have a narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (both are Axis II mental disorders that are virtually untreatable and would be nice fits for him…if he does have a mental illness)…or just be a selfish, egocentric sufferer of a cranial-rectal inversion. Not everyone who is manipulative, self-centered, and seemingly lacking in conscience or guilt is necessarily able to be diagnosed with a mental illness…and sociopathy is symptomatic of Axis II mental disorders.

        I’ve known some people who could pass every psychiatric test known to mankind (those who are sociopathic cannot, despite what is written in books or shown in movies) and are worse then the LW’s charming brother. Just as not everyone who takes it into his head to go on a shooting spree is schizophrenic or bi-polar. Yowza.

      • avatar Sweet Dream says:

        My head is spinning reading all your technical terms. I think I’ll take “sociopath”, simple and to the point.

      • avatar Davina Wolf says:

        What do you mean the term “sociopath” is hardly used any more?  The term is everywhere, as are sociopaths, who make up 4% of the population. 

      • avatar luna midden says:

        I left a reply, further up, and used SOCIOPATH… because I have a family member OR HAD… have not had contact in years with this person… THANKFULLY. And this person was a Sociopath, nothing else, straight down to every mental health description. No, this brother sounds like one too. Granted, we have only one story, a very short story and yes, we can be wrong.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        In the actual psychiatric community, “sociopath” is not used because there are for more accurate diagnoses for what “ails” certain individuals who display the traits that far too many people…because of fiction, including TV, movies and books…are convinced indicate sociopathy.

        But, for your edification, the following:

        “Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition (DSM-IV-TR), as an Axis II personality disorder characterized by “…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

        The World Health Organization’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems’, tenth edition (ICD-10), defines a conceptually similar disorder to antisocial personality disorder called (F60.2) Dissocial personality disorder.

        Psychopathy and sociopathy are terms related to ASPD. ASPD replaced sociopathy as a diagnosis in the DSM but the terms are not identical. Currently, neither psychopathy nor sociopathy are valid diagnoses described in the DSM-IV-TR[3] or the ICD-10.”

        This information, in case readers are overwhelmed, is from the World Health Organization…and The American Psychiatric Association. Your information is from a book called “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout, who has a ph.d., and is not a psychiatrist or a member of the psychiatric community. Lay people love the book. Researchers, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists seem to unilaterally dismiss it. I’ve read it, and to me it is a work intended to create fear, suspicion and, of course, money for the author. It certainly has done a wonderful job of fear-mongering. A whole four percent of the population…the medical community estimates that no more than 1% of the population of this country are afflicted with ASPD, or similar Axis II personality disorders.

        But, stay ignorant, and keep your eyes open for those frightening backyard sociopaths. They’re everywhere. I adore lay diagnoses, especially since I have a son with narcissistic personality disorder. I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve done the research…and not by reading sensationalistic crap. A vast percentage of the misery done by one human being to others is committed by garden variety anuses who have no diagnosable mental disorders at all. Just your regular, next-door-neighbor ass-hat.

      • avatar yeahright says:

        why don’t we just call him a crook?

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        yeahright; which was precisely my point…why give the bastard a chance to use the excuse of a faux “mental illness” to gain sympathy (see a certain set of comments) in court?

        That wretched book “Sociopath Next Door” has those addicted to reality shows and Oprah seeing “sociopaths” behind every bush, and diagnosing every crook and walking anal orifice as deadly personality disorder manifested in flesh.

        Forest for the trees people…

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Katharine: I was going to reply to Jody…but you absolutely nailed it. Excellent response.

        As to why the victims might be receiving the blame…a lot of addicts, recovered or otherwise, tend toward that behavior. So do those who were, or still are, enabling an addict who never has recovered.

        I am NOT making any accusations, nor am I, a dry alcoholic and clean addict, that sort of person. But I’ve seen it more times than I can remember. One might phrase it as sympathy for the devil.

      • avatar Jody says:

        Perception is EVERYTHING! Especially when it comes to the written word. I am in NO WAY blaming “victims” in my post. Simply because I don’t believe there are any victims here. It is a slippery slope to believe you are a victim. This means you had/have no control over what has happened to you, how to change the circumstances, or how to rectify the situation. Her family had/has control over what is happening, yet they choose not to do anything about it. Hence, no victims here.

        I’m sticking to my guns on the low self-esteem. A person who feels good about themselves in an healthy way would not stoop to such levels. He is clearly missing something of himself. Take it literally… he is stealing other people’s identities. His own identity is not enough. My training tells me that says it all.

        Enabling someone to continue a behavior that will kill them or harm them is most definitely toxic in my opinion. This is a familial issue… not just the brother’s. Everyone involved in this mess has something they’ve contributed to it in order for it to get to the point which it is at. I am simply saying here that, although the brother’s behavior is disgusting at best, he is not some evil-doer over his “victims”. Unless and until everyone involved takes accountability for their part in this, whether you are the one who takes advantage of people, or whether you are the one enabling the manipulator, it will not be resolved. He may serve jail time for his transgressions, but if the family doesn’t get therapy for their part, they are still in the same behaviors that contributed to the problem. Such as when a drug abuser goes to rehab, but the family members don’t receive therapy. Often times, the addict will go right back in to old habits because the environment which enabled the habit hasn’t changed.

        Maybe my perception comes from YEARS of living with a drug abuser. My brother stole from me. I asked my parents to put a lock on my bedroom door, but they would not. I hid my things, money, jewelry, even shoes as best I could, only to have them discovered and stolen from my brother. I even had make-up missing from my room. My parents enabled him to continue his behavior for YEARS, just as the LW’s have. Eventually I began keeping things at a friend’s house. I took responsibility for my own stuff, and stopped him from stealing from me. I see no victims here. What I see is toxicity. What I see is dysfunction. I see an entire family that needs counseling.

        It always takes two parties. It’s never just the one who is sick. EVERYONE plays a part. That is my point. Whether we agree or disagree is of no concern to me. I am only hopeful that the family seeks help and does not fracture from this.

      • avatar Frau Quink says:

        Ltr. 1: The guy is a criminal. This family seems very fractured to me…… It can’t get any worse……

      • avatar blue tooth says:

        Sorry Jody but I have to disagree with you here. There are very many people who don’t have self-esteem issues who believe, “I want what you have so I should get it.” Whether or not it belongs to you is secondary. I’ve heard them justify their actions by saying, “I can make better use of it than you can,” or “I need it more than you do,” or “you don’t really use that stuff anyway.” But these are only justifications they use when they get challenged or caught. If they’re not caught, they don’t even think about it. They feel fine about it. It doesn’t bother them at all. In their minds, the other people are suckers and deserve what they get. They see it as, people are takers, or they get took, and they’re fine being the takers. It’s that simple.

        Sometimes, addiction drives that behavior, like your brother. Sometimes it’s lack of empathy. Sometimes it’s just their worldview. And these people can come from poverty or wealth, broken homes or loving ones, be the oldest child or the youngest, or the only child. It doesn’t matter. It just happens.

        About being the victim, there’s no doubt his parents and his son are the victims of his actions, just like you were the victim of your brother’s actions. You fought back and adjusted and went above and beyond to protect yourself from your brother’s stealing, and that was resourceful of you and showed your strength and determination, and you refused to allow yourself to continue to be victimized by him. That doesn’t change the fact that he did you wrong. That you should’ve been protected. That your parents let you down. So yes, in your case your parents victimized you, by enabling your brother. Their behavior was toxic toward you. You deserved better, and what your parents did shouldn’t be minimized or excused.

        This situation is not exactly the same as yours. His parents might be enabling him, but he is still the one responsible for his actions. If there is blame to go around, it’s not split 50-50. It’s more perhaps 90/10. And in the case of his son, for all we know his son may still be a minor, and what child finds it easy (whether grown or not) to press charges against his parent?

        So, no, it doesn’t take two parties to do harm. It only takes one person who’s willing to harm the other.

      • avatar Jody says:

        Thank you for your perspective, blue tooth. I appreciate it, and consider it.

        I like to jump ahead sometimes, and get past the victimization thoughts that people come to me with in coaching. It is important for me to be compassionate towards what people are going through during these sessions. But, in the end, I know it is most important for me to show them how they are NOT victimized, so they can take back their power. This is what I help people do on a daily basis… help them get their power back by processing them through their experiences. Awareness is key to that, as well as not seeing oneself as a victim.

        I come from a place where I believe we all tell ourselves a story. It is the story of who we are, where we come from, what we have, etc. Strip away all of those things and what do you have left? The family has told themselves a story about the brother. His life will be messed up if they make him accountable and hold him responsible for his actions. Is this story true? Maybe. I don’t know. But, what I DO know, is their resistance to create a NEW story is keeping them stuck in the muck.

        I was young and initially I felt victimized by my brother’s behavior. Until (literally) one day I stepped back and saw how my family reacted this way towards him all of the time. The realization hit me like a brick wall and I was nauseated by it all. I had an epiphany, took my power back, and learned from it. If I can do it… so can anyone. For, I know I am not special nor inherently unique! So, I have found my life’s purpose, been through school/training/etc. for over 11 years now to develop the skills, etc. needed to help other’s do the same. It pays the bills. But, more than that… it is my calling. I like coming in here, it helps me learn more so I can be more helpful to others. I often see perspectives that others haven’t thought of. And, I only hope to lend a thread of hope, new perspective, or challenge old belief patterns by commenting in here from time to time. Who do I have to thank for that? My drug addicted brother! lol. Oh, the irony!

        Thank you again. I am in gratitude for your words and honor them.

        Jody

      • avatar amw says:

        I fully agree that the LW’s family are not victims. However I don’t believe that the brother must have low self-esteem. He just doesn’t care. I have a family member that takes advantage because she’s allowed to. Not much I can do by way of helping my family…but I can certainly distance myself and not be one of those enabling her behavior.

    • avatar martina says:

      I have a brother like this guy.  Mine bought my father’s bakery which was very well known, made a good income and bankrupted it AND blamed my father.  He didn’t pay the employees’ withdrawal taxes to the government so that when the bakery finally closed these people had a heck of a lot of trouble collecting unemployment.  The government went after my brother for the taxes and, because my father opened the bakery again trying to salvage his retirement, they thought my father was fronting for my brother and tried to pull him into the criminal charges.  My brother never bothered to clear that up and Dad had to hire a lawyer.  My brother never once apologized. 
      He then got his girlfriend pregnant the same time he got his wife pregnant and had a fit that his wife got pregnant.  Probably because he told the girlfriend that he wasn’t getting any at home.  My father had nothing to do with him after that.  My mother kept in contact because of the grandchildren – there were 5 not including the one from the girlfriend.  I avoided him.  He has no sense of guilt or of what is right or wrong.  I tell my parents that he is mentally ill and it’s not their fault.  When his ex found out she finally started divorce proceedings.  He said that he wanted full custody of the kids and if he couldn’t get it he wasn’t going to see them at all.  He didn’t see them once for over 8 months.

      He has bounced around from girlfriend to girlfriend.  He’s a real charmer and moves in with them until they find out what he’s really like and then they kick him out.  His ex started drinking and it got so bad (she blames that on my brother) we sent her back home to Germany for her parents to deal with and so he had the two youngest boys.  He got kicked out of a girlfriend’s house had nowhere to go and showed up on my parents’ doorstep.  Because of the kids, they took him in.  It was suppose to be temporary until he could get back on his feet and lasted three years.  The first 1 1/2 years were OK and he gave them money towards household expenses. Then my mother had a stroke.  Once that happened, the money stopped coming.  Because of the kids, it took my father another 1 1/2 years to finally kick him out.  He did nothing to help out around the house even after Mom came home paralyzed and brain damaged from the stroke.

      Recently, my father’s health became so bad that we had to put Mom into a home and my brother calls every so often to see how they are doing.   He said that Mom could have stayed home if he was still living there and it was Dad’s fault that that didn’t work out.

      I have met a couple of my brother’s girlfriends and the last one seemed so nice and decent that I just wanted to tell her to run far and fast.  But he would just tell his girlfriend that I was nuts and there are the kids to consider.  We have a good relationship with the boys – they a really good kids and I still wonder how they managed to turn out that way with the parents they had – and I don’t want to jeopardize that.
      Is it right for you to go to the authorities to notifying them of what he is doing?  Because he is stealing IDs, yes.  His life isn’t going to be ruined – they always manage to find a way to survive.
      These people have no sense of reality.  Life is about them and what they need and they will do whatever they need to get it.  They have no conscience and a minimal sense of right and wrong but if they do wrong it can be justified.  Yes, it must be sad to be this way but I don’t think that there is anything they can do about it because they won’t go into therapy because they don’t have the problem everyone else does.  What they do to people because they are what they are is even sadder.
       

    • avatar luna midden says:

      Okay, NONE OF US know the family or this lovely brother personally, BUT, having been in a similiar situation….. he sounds more like a sociopath… no sense of wrong towards his family and the pain he is putting them through. Or the time, effort and possible $$$$ to straighten out THEIR CREDIT REPORTS. (especially HIS SONS!).  Someone who desperately needs money and resorts to this should at least feel SORRY FOR SCREWING UP HIS RELATIVES… Sorry his parents are living just on S.S.I. But, according to his sis, and unless she is lying, he has happily going about life. Sociopath, because they can convince others they have need, they are sorry, etc. but actually don’t give a D***.  Going to the DA? Hummm…. might make sis on the outs with the family, but if he opens accounts on Dad’s and his kids names, who says he has not done it with others? And if he hasn’t, when he is squashed for money, it will become tempting, and GF and HER FAMILY will be the next target… MONEY FOR NOTHING??? HE DID IT MORE THEN ONCE AND DID NOT GET IN TROUBLE ..( what happened to the credit cards that were opened under the others names?) MUCH TOO TEMPTING, HE WILL DO IT AGAIN, AND LIVE IN GF AND HER FAMILY WILL BE THE EASIEST TARGETS. or SIS.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Give me a break Jody, the guy STOLE his parents retirement fund and the identities of family members to STEAL MORE and RUIN THEIR CREDIT!!! The guy needs to be in jail, end of story.

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  Going to the authorities is not a bad idea but do not be surprised if your parents/family members who were the victims of the crime refuse to cooperate with the prosecution or claim that *he had my permission to use my credit cards* etc. making the case nearly impossible to successfully prosecute. 

    I suppose you have had numerous conversations with your parents and your nephews urging them not to put up with this behavior and sue or prosecute and they just won’t do it.   They are daft, misguided, enablers, you name it.  It would be hard for me to deal with them because I have no patience for people who let themselves be victimized.  As for dealing with your brother, frankly, I would not deal with him at all and make every effort to avoid being in  the same room with him.  As for his girlfriend, if she questions you about the distance or tension in the family, tell her the truth.  If not…she will figure it out either when the authorities come calling or when he steals her credit cards/ identities or those of her own family, borrows lots of money from her and doesn’t pay it back etc. 

    What a frustrating mess for you.  But keep in mind that YOU are not the victim…and those that are choose to be.  I hope you are not put in the position of having to help your parents out financially because of this mess…and if you are I think I would make it a condition of giving them money that they sue your brother on the note or prosecute.  Of course, by the time this happens, it may be too late for them to do either.  And I doubt your brother has money to satisfy the civil judgment against him anyway. 

    Letter #2:  Ah…this is why I hate Facebook.  But your problem really isn’t the tagging/untagging/online etiquette with exes.  You boyfriend is not really as into you are you are into him.  If he is  hanging around with exes and lying to you about it, its time to recognize that he is not as involved as you are in this relationship.  Seriously consider moving on. 

  4. avatar Deeliteful says:

    Oh Margo,

    Your response to LW#2 is priceless! “You will forgive me — I have basically no idea what you’re talking about.” I consider myself pretty computer savvy, but not “social Network” savvy. And since the latest upgrade (yeah, right) Facebook has implemented, I’m even more frustrated. But I digress. Social skills such as talking (not texting or posting on FB) seem to be disappearing for the youth of today. It was difficult enough back in the good old days when couples actually talked to each other about problems and actually sorted most of them without input from all of their “friends”.

    LW #2 – what Jody says in her first sentence applies however you discover the evidence.

    • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

      I totally agree with you on LW#2.  I seriously do not understand why anyone would want a facebook account.  You realize that there is no such thing as privacy if something is on the internet, right, no matter what your settings?  You wouldn’t believe how many fraudsters and liars we’ve nailed in court due to their “private” facebook posts.  When we’re deposing them, we have them log in to facebook as themselves and we go through it on record.  Facebook is simply a way for adults to put Junior High-type drama back in their lives, and I’ve no interest in one of their silly accounts.

      LW#1-I agree with Margo’s advice.  If he isn’t stopped, you and your own credit might be next.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Deeliteful — You are not alone, and I nearly fell off my chair laughing at Margo’s bold admission on not being on top of Facebook tagging razzmatazz.

      I admire what Mark Zuckerberg has created, but he and his geek minions are going to kill the golden goose if they don’t dial back on all these so-called upgrades that are mostly incomprehensible and are also quite scary when it comes to spreading around personal info.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I know—right? (NO, THIS ISN’T A SARCASTIC POST.)

        You have to be vigilant about privacy changes on Facebook, because their updates will sometimes reset your customization. I just found out yesterday my phone number is visible again to everyone, even though I had it previously set to “Me Only.”

      • avatar Linda McNeal says:

        OK. I have to ask. Why put your phone number on facebook if it is only for you to see? I’m really scratching my head…

      • avatar JCF4612 says:

        Exactly. Vigilance pays.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        @Linda: I didn’t. The site pools information from other friends’ data and phone contacts and then puts it into the appropriate fields. I have all my personal contact info blocked now.

      • avatar Ghostwheel says:

        “David Bolton September 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

        @Linda: I didn’t. The site pools information from other friends’ data and phone contacts and then puts it into the appropriate fields. I have all my personal contact info blocked now.”

        Another awesome reason not to have a Facebook account. You have no idea what information your friends have attached to your account or when it might appear. Yeah, I’m one of those who thinks each person is worth a personal interaction, usually IN PERSON, not a post on a “wall” (That seems too bathroom to me.).

    • avatar Jo H says:

      But back in the really good old days, people didn’t talk to each other. They had chaperones and got married without dating. :)

      I find it ironic all the people who are saying “go out and talk to people in person!” are saying that on AN ONLINE FORUM.

  5. avatar David Bolton says:

    A Quick Facebook Primer for Margo.

    1) Facebook is kinda like a bulletin board that combines aspects of email, texting and instant messaging into one convenient page for each person who sets up an account.

    2) Facebook users can “friend” each other, which allows each user’s page to become connected to friend’s pages, so they can network and share information.

    3) Facebook users can upload quotes, or pics, or links, videos or combinations of all the above. When I upload a pic of Margo to my page and if Margo and I are “friends,” then I can tag the picture as having Margo in it. This posts a message on Margo’s own page, notifying her and her friends that she’s in a picture, and they now have a link to click on to see it. To remove this tag is called “untagging.”

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      David – thank you for that. It was, indeed, concise, and I’m still not getting on FB!!

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I’ve almost posted before: “why aren’t you on Facebook?” You can create a business/fan page that’s somewhat different from a regular personal page, but if you don’t make regular updates to it, then there’s not much point into the effort.

        I’ve made it my goal to make less visits to Facebook. But. It’s. So. Damn. Addictive.

      • avatar D C says:

        Facebook is nice to be on if your kids in college allow you to “friend” them — you can see pictures they post and feel a little more involved in their lives.  That’s my reason for joining anyway.  I am by no means a helicopter parent — And I don’t abuse the priviledge of being connecte to my kids this way.  I might read something vulgar a “friend” of my son has written on his page, but I don’t comment on it.  OK… I did once.  He was still in high school and the other kid wrote something truly vulgar, and I posted “You kiss your mamma with that mouth?”  I could see his head hung down when he replied, “No Ma’am.”  And it’s kind of fun to see photos posted on pages of people I went to high school or college with but haven’t really kept up with.  But I draw  the line on the social activities some of these high school class people try to arrange.  I mean… I didn’t like you people when we were in high school enough to hang out with you that much, and surely not enough to stay in touch, so why would I go out drinking with you now?  But still… it’s kind of fun to see how much their kids look like them. 

        I worry about people who put Farmville pictures in their photo albums. 

  6. avatar blue tooth says:

    To LW2,

    Dump him. He’s spending time with his ex and hiding it from you. Not because he thinks you’ll get mad, but because he has something to hide. That’s why he was untagging photos he didn’t want you to see earlier. And he made you feel uncomfortable enough that you stopped looking at his facebook page, which gave him free reign to socialize with his ex there. You’re not being a bad girlfriend. He’s being a bad boyfriend.

  7. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: It sounds like you’re about to discover the meaning of the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger.” Because that’s likely to happen to you if you try to open up a can of legal whoop-ass on your brother. Don’t do it. Distance yourself from your brother as much as possible. Do not offer solutions and don’t worry about your family’s problems—if they wanted your help or cared to fix things they would do it or ask you to assist.

    However, the only thing to change this is if your parents are not of sound mind—if that’s the case, you can investigate a conservatorship (like what Britney Spears’ dad does, since she’s apparently a little off still). But keep in mind, if the others are in your brother’s court (for whatever reason) it may be hard to prove his behavior wasn’t accepted by your family. Good luck.

    LW2: ur bn pwned. :(

    • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

      I agree that the LW is probably going to get cut off from the family if she turns in her brother, but even if her parents are of sound mind and the son he ripped off was an adult, the LW could be next on the scam block.  Even if her family gets mad, the LW needs to protect himself/herself.

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      I disagree David – this could be just what everyone is waiting for so THEY do not have to be the bad guy. Even IF he behaviour was ‘accepted’, it is still illegal. I would by all means open that can of whoopass on him – who knows who else, outside his family, he has victimized? As for not worrying about the family’s problems – uh what?! This man, according to LW1, has NO: concience (sp? Early, no coffee yet), sense of obligation, intention to keep promises made (your word is your bond)..I could go on. In short, this ‘person’ is lower than pond scums refuse. He has victimized his parents and even his own children………time for him to go down. Or as Sick Puppies’ song goes ‘don’t cry like a b*tch when you feel the pain’.

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        *his – dang it, off to get coffee………….

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        @Brooke/Karrin: I agree that she needs to protect herself and any interests that she may share with the parents—but unfortunately this is just another case of “don’t shoot the messenger.” I can almost guarantee you 100% that if LW1 tries to get the legals involved and intervene on behalf of the “victims,” it will bite her on the ass and ultimately she will wish that she had left things the way they were. The most telling phrase is “his life would be ruined,” which says it all. Indeed, BB is right about sympathy for the devil—in situations like this, the nice guy finishes last and the assh@le invariably wins.

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        Correct – be that as it may, still would open the can and let the chips fall. As both Brooke and I pointed out: he does this to family, I have no doubts he’d do it to anyone as someone outside would make easy pickins too. I don’t think in this case the wipe would win actually. ID Theft is serious biz…..with out without approval of the victim. Sic him hun!!!

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        ** or….it takes caffine how long to kick in? Dang it……

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        In all likelihood—if Sticky Fingers gets caught, the family will bail him out. If he gets caught and it’s revealed that LW1 is the reason—she’ll never hear the end of it. The old adage is that the husband can beat the wife, but she’ll protect him to the bitter end. (Granted, that’s not always true, but it does happen a lot in abusive situations).

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        Bail him out with WHAT? He stole everything ;) And FYI – I didn’t protect mine. I kicked him square, left him rolling like the baby he was on the floor screaming, grabbed the car keys and walked out……best day of my LIFE!

    • avatar A R says:

      Well said, David!!
      My spouse has a sister (with whom we are no longer in contact) who stole a$5,000 check from us. The only people who could help prove that she’d taken and cashed the check were her mom and dad (my MIL and FIL). (It was just one of many thefts in a series by her.)

      My MIL said she didn’t want to get involved. My FIL said that it would cause too many family problems. Grandma, rest her soul, said to my spouse, “It’s your sister. Just get past it. Family is more important.”

      My husband looked at them and said, “Family apparently wasn’t important to her when she forged the check. She’s the one causing ‘too many problems’ not me, and as far as family goes, did she forget that I was her brother?”

      The long and the short was that everyone who could help us refused to make a statement about their knowledge of the forgery and theft. I’m not sure why people circle the wagons when it comes to family criminal activity by an individual, but they do. David is right, the parents won’t cooperate to expose their son.

      The only thing the LW can do is keep an iron lock on his/her finances and any identity stuff that he could get and exploit. Encourage the parents to do the same.

  8. avatar Karin Smith says:

    LW#1- Where there is smoke, there is fire, and where there is one form of fraud, there are usually others. If your brother has taken advantage of people in a way that could technically be legal (esp. if he uses the “oh, it’s okay, they gave me permission” routine), it’s HIGHLY likely he’s done some not-so-legal things that don’t require enabling family members to press charges.
    [Example: a good friend of ours pressed charges against his mother after she wrecked his credit by maxing out cards in his name. As the authorities investigated further, it turned out that she had also used her under-age children's SSNs to acquire and max out even MORE credit cards. There was no need to talk anyone into pressing charges, because that was blatantly illegal.]

    You said that “when [your family] found out [about the fraud]“… which means it had been going on for awhile. If he’s done this to them, how many other people has he done this to that DON’T know about it yet? Does your brother handle money for a business or as part of his job? Does he have access to the personal info of other people (other associates, friends, family members… Significant Others) so that he could take out credit in their name without their knowledge?

    I suggest that you contact fraud authorities and let them know of your suspicions about your brother. Let them know that, while you know they can’t do anything about the way he’s taking advantage of your parents & nephews, you suspect that there’s a strong chance he’s stolen the identities (and possibly finances/credit) of other people, and that he needs to be investigated. From there on, there’s nothing more you can do; it’s up to the authorities to decide whether or not to pursue it.

    Even if you can’t prevent your family from letting themselves be taken advantage of, you can at least see to it that your brother doesn’t ruin anyone else.

  9. avatar Donna Sampson says:

    lw 2 He is hiding more than the picture. He really isn’t as in to you as you are him like someone else said. This relationship looks as if it’s based on deception. I’d leave him if it were me.

    • avatar Sweet Dream says:

      And this is only the beginning, it’s not going to get any better. My husband doesn’t want to “friend” me on facebook, but his page is open to public and I can always see it. I can also check his e-mail anytime. Not that there’s anything interesting there. From my experience when you can smell rubbish, you can always find rubbish. Leave before you waste too much time on this guy. This is a good lesson for the future.

  10. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Seems to me this person is hoping by letting the significant other onto the brother’s rottenness, SHE might step up and do something about it? Since parents and other sibs (all ADULTS) seem “content” to do nothing and also seem “content” to be seriously stupid enablers, I’d a] continue to ensure brother doesn’t get ahold of $$$ or use my identity and b] stay as far away from them and the situation as possible.

    L #2: You’re dating but you’re not friends on Facebook. That makes no sense. Get offline, get out and do REAL TIME/REAL LIFE things with each other.

    • avatar Jo H says:

      Using Facebook doesn’t mean people don’t do things together in real life. I am so amazed and baffled that people draw this conclusion so frequently.

  11. avatar blueelm says:

    If you have to “blind” yourself to reality (online or offline) in order to deal with a relationship then it isn’t a good relationship.

  12. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#2:

    First, make sure your own identity is protected.

    Second, notify the authorities and let them determine whether to take action … (If brother boy runs out of family members to scam, he may start latching on to IDs of others.)

    Finally, Margo is right. The DA (if action is warranted) will clue in the woman, since she may well be a victim … or (although you think she’s unaware) an accomplice, enjoying fruits of the thefts.   

  13. avatar shakes says:

    I think Margo left the responding to someone else today…

    LW1:  If you plan to go to the authorities then please do tell your brothers significant other.  Why would he not be trying to steal from her too?   She should be informed right away and let your brother know why.  It sounds like way to many folks are walking on eggshells for this criminal.

    LW2:  You don’t want to stalk your boyfriend on facebook?  Ok, but being his FB friend and checking his site like you do on all your other FB friends pages is just using the site not stalking.  It sounds like way too much hiding is going on and that your drama filled relationship is a little doomed.  You may not want to look at it this way but I would run for the hills and maybe someday you and your “ex” will have a pic on FB for his new girlfriend to worry about.  Sounds like your relationship will be more open if your an ex anyway.

  14. avatar crmofwht says:

    LW #2

    Take away all the technology stuff for a moment. I think the point everybody seems to be missing here is that the boyfriend was recently hanging out with his ex and then lied to his girlfriend about it. That’s what the letter writer is stating. No matter how she found out about it, it’s obvious the boyfriend is trying to hide things from her and be secretive about his actions. Then when confronted with evidence that he had seen his ex recently (he was IN recent photos with her) he tried to lie to cover up his actions. That’s what the letter writer should be concerned about. The “unfriending” is just another way for him to hide his actions from her. They are due for a serious talk or else she needs to unfriend him in real life too.

  15. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Go to the DA with what you know and then back off. None of the people you’re concerned about are children. They are adults who get to make really bad choices and if you’re finding it increasingly difficult to have a relationship with your brother than stop. You have choices also.
    LW2 – I totally missed the part where you said right up front that you and your boyfriend are in your 20′s. I assumed you were 12. Wow. God help us.

  16. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Ltr.2: Putting your head into the sand will not get you anywhere…….

  17. avatar Jo H says:

    Hi Margoland,

    I haven’t logged in here to comment in a long time, but I do regularly read comments. I feel compelled to log in to defend Facebook! (And respond to LW2)

    LW2: he’s just not that into you. Any guy who says he won’t friend you because he doesn’t want you to look at his pictures has something to hide. If you can’t be open and honest with your SO, what good is your relationship? I don’t let my boyfriend login to my email account, because sometimes I complain about him a little to my sister and I don’t want him to read that stuff. Email is more like how I would keep a diary private, for example. But he has full access to FB. FB is public, so I share more judiciously on there. You probably should seriously reconsider your relationship. If he’s not willing to be open with you, but will let the rest of his circle see his photos, that is a big red flag.

    On to my next point. Complaining about FB and privacy is just like saying money is the root of all evil. Money is NOT the root of all evil. The problem is greed, which originates in people. They use money unethically or love money too much.

    Facebook is a tool, nothing more. If you don’t want your stuff to be public, don’t publicize it on Facebook. Easy-peasy. I only put light-hearted stuff on there. Or if someone close to me is sick, I might post on there and ask people to say a little prayer. Or I post a recipe I liked. I enjoy reading such things that other people post. Facebook is generally not a place to bear your soul, although some people do. That’s fine. Whatever you’re comfortable sharing.

    But please stop acting like Facebook itself is the devil incarnate. It’s just a tool.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Don’t get me wrong—I think Facebook is a great tool for bringing people together. But the site programmers know exactly what they’re doing with the data collection and mining. And you DO have to be very on top of things in order not to get information released that was previously protected.

      • avatar Jo H says:

        Hi David–yes, what you say is true. I read your example above about your phone number becoming visible. And certainly Facebook pays attention to what we click on when we’re using the site, and they collect that info about us. It’s very valuable for advertising, to be sure.

        But I think a lot of people have other misconceptions about it, like their social security number or address will be available, etc. I have never given Facebook my home address, and I don’t have my real phone number in there. I can still use Facebook without sharing that info. And I don’t have my work information in there, either, because I don’t want people linking my workplace to the silly stuff I post on my profile, like the video of “Charlie bit my finger,” for example. People can see where I went to school and the city I live in currently, but no further details. They will also see that I like Jon Stewart, Kurt Vonnegut, and the Cosby Show. That stuff is harmless.

        It comes back to the point I was making before: don’t put anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want the whole world to know about you.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “I don’t have my real phone number in there.”

        I didn’t put mine in there either—but it’s in one of my friend’s phones, which they synced to Facebook and allowed it to update the profiles of their friends—aka, me. I have no personal information posted on Facebook, and the fields that are required (birthday, etc) are filled with fake info.

  18. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #1 – It will ruin his life his if family members turn him in?  I’m sorry, he’s ruined his own life!  I think you know what you need to do and let the chips fall where they may.  If others are angry with you, too bad.  There really may not be anything you can do legally if he hasn’t wronged you personally.  The other route is the shunning route by extricating yourself from your brother and the situation.  Deflect any family conversation about it. If people want to continue to be stepped on by him, that’s their choice.  You don’t have to be drawn in to the drama.

    Ltr. #2 – Facebook or any other social networking is just another medium.  If you can’t trust a boyfriend, you can’t trust a boyfriend.  Bottom line:  trust appears to be something important to you, but not him.  My advice is to move on and when you find that someone who you can trust all this Facebooking stuff won’t be an issue. 

  19. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Your concern (IMO) is in the wrong area. It matters not that your boyfriend has a photo of himself and his ex on Facebook, what matters is the fact he lied about it. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted and take your eye off the real area of concern. He lied to you about it and his reason for lying “his concern you would get mad” is a HUGE red flag. What other things has he lied to you about?

    If I were giving you advise I would suggest you sit down with him and have a heart to heart about your relationship and boundaries. Are you the uber jealous type of woman? And even if you are, if he feels the need to hide things from you to avoid conflict, your relationship has little chance of succeeding.

    Letter #1 – I disagree with Margo, you need to keep your mouth shut and mind your own business. Your parents are ALLOWING your brother to take advantage of them. And as your parents, they are adults and responsible for what happens in their lives. You may not like it, you may hate the fact they are allowing themselves to be duped, but that is something you should express to them and respect their response.

    In all of your anger at your brother’s actions, have you sat down to tell him how much you object to what he has done? If you haven’t, why haven’t you? Have you told him pointedly that you want to go to the police about his actions as it relates to identity theft? If not, why? When and if he does something directly to you in this regard, then and only then should you open up your mouth and go to the authorites. In the meantime, his dishonesty with his girlfriend, your parents or anyone else is none of your business. Again, you may not like seeing others being taken advantage of, but the universal truth in these matters is simple….no one can do to you what YOU don’t allow them to do.        

  20. avatar amw says:

    LW2

    Your situation is why I deleted my Facebook page and refused to look back.

    One of the (many) problems with the online method of communication is how many things can be misconstrued. Pictures, posts, responses, etc. Not to mention the serious lack of privacy and how your settings reset each time the site is updated.

    While I’ve never quite figured out how this was done, each time I’d clear out my friends list (much simpler than clicking on each and unsubscribing from their feed, especially when I never spoke to them anyway), it never failed I’d hear from at least one person that was deleted concerned that their elimination from my “friends” list must mean our friendship was over in reality. At first this was frustrating…eventually it became infuriating. Evidentally there is no line, not even a fine one, drawn for some members’ social lives. For me, it was more imporant to receive updates from close friends and family and quickly I realized having a large friend list composed of fellow graduates from high school and friends of friends that I only met once or had only heard of was nothing more than a pain.

    Off topic a bit…this social networking craze really gets on my nerves! And I’m 25!

    In your situation, Facebook aside, your boyfriend’s secrecy raises many red flags. What is he hiding that you haven’t found yet? Just your need to look further is cause for concern. You obviously don’t trust him and he obviously isn’t worthy of being trusted…the sooner you realize this, the sooner you can relax and move on with your life.

  21. avatar amw says:

    LW1

    I’m not sure that going to the authorities is such a good idea.

    1) If the affected family members refuse to prosecute, what evidence of wrongdoing can you produce without them willing to testify?

    2) If the affected family members refuse to prosecute, does this open up the door for your brother to sue you in return for defamation of character?

    If I were you, I would distance myself from the situation and if it comes up in conversaton, change the subject. While sad, it isn’t your responsibility to ensure justice is served. If this happens to you, then you can take action. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, keep an eye on your credit and any money or objects of value out of grasp.

  22. avatar D L says:

    LW#2 – I had to chuckle reading this one: your BF is hiding his relationship with his ex behind your back and you’re concerned about whether you offended him about tagging or untagging his FB pics? Wow.
    I’m not going to get into why you’re not “friends” on FB (to each his own) but honestly, what’s the bigger issue here? A lousy picture or what your BF is doing? Your BF is LYING to you about what he does in his spare time and it seems to be have going on before the pic with the ex since had been hiding pictures from you. That alone is enough to kick him to the curb. Sure, they may just be friends but why hide it from you, his girlfriend? I’m just wondering why you put up with it in the first place…

  23. avatar Jody says:

    The facebook comments are cracking me up. I feel fortunate in my high school experience. I am always happy to hear from a past classmate in facebook. I had a great time at my 25 year reunion last year. I have enjoyed meeting up with some of these past classmates for dinner/drinks, and even inviting them over for pool parties at my house. People change and what I have found in these past classmates is that each and every one of us had misconceptions about one another, and even how much we were self-conscience. I have learned how my filter during my teenage years had sometimes tainted my perception of classmates and/or experiences with them. And, vice verse. It’s humorous to me now, and we can all laugh about it.

  24. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2 – I think this relationship is sour on both sides.  Just take Facebook out of it.  The guy started hiding information from his girlfriend because she likely was all over him about every little thing.  And the girl was all over him about every little thing because he wasn’t trustworthy.  They need to “unfriend” in real life.   

  25. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: I’m not certain Margo’s advice is correct. I don’t think that the brother can be prosecuted if his victims won’t prosecute/cooperate. Could be wrong and if anyone knows the answer then please let me know.

    As for the LW problems here it is, you need to begin practicing some tough love on your family. Cut off contact with your brother. I know it is hard and that you love him, but he is toxic. As for your parents and nephews, refuse to help them financially. I know this sounds harsh and mean but they have a way to resolve their financial problems, they just refuse to. And tell them that! Tell them that until they decide to take your brother to court and hold him responsible for his actions you will not help them financially nor will you listen to any problems they have caused by him. Also explain that he’s man and they not forcing him to be responsible for his actions is just enabling him. Also tell them that you are tired of cleaning up after your brother’s messes and refuse to do it anymore b/c that is just enabling him.

    LW#2: Get a clue, your boyfriend is cheating on you!