Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tips on How to Spot Fraudsters

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When Your Lover Is a Liar: Tips on How to Spot Fraudsters Before You Set the Valentine's Day Plans in Stone

"At work, I'm the quiet one. Everyone here sees who I want them to see-which is a sweet, kind of naïve girl. I'm very good at masking things. Sometimes I wonder if I'm a sociopath."

The woman I was chatting with, who identified herself as "Anna," told me that she's a 28-year-old CPA working for a company in West Palm Beach. Anna gave me a riveting, firsthand account of how she uses various aliases online to meet men for brief relationships, before she disappears and never contacts them again.

I'll delve more into Anna and what motivates her to deceive the men she dates in a bit, but suffice to say that fraud in relationships is much more common than you may think, and small discrepancies are often a sign of much larger lies. Some of the hallmarks that your potential suitor may be a fraud are a reluctance to open up about his or her personal life and a tendency to use cash over credit cards.

This Valentine's Day, before you dive into your box of chocolates, consider whether your lover is really as sweet as he seems to be.

I got interested in learning more about relationship fraud last year when a woman in San Diego, whose husband works for the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, hired my private investigations firm. I will refer to him as "Mike." They have kids.

The woman was suspicious that Mike, who claimed to be living on a ship in Norfolk, might actually have a double life. Mike was often cagey about where he had been, and he carefully guarded control over the couple's bank accounts. The woman's suspicions were heightened when a friend informed her that Mike's ship wasn't docked in Norfolk like he claimed and that he was actually working at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

We ran Mike's name and Social Security number through an investigative database, and with that we determined that he had some connection to a home located in Columbia, Maryland. One of my investigator's drove by this home at night and noted that a vehicle in the driveway had a Department of Defense parking sticker, the same type used at the Navy Yard. The investigator returned to the home the following morning, where he captured photographs of Mike-along with his second wife, and their infant child-emerging from their residence.

Mike's life unraveled from there, as we were able to put together the pieces of his deceptive façade using social media and public records. We served the divorce papers on Mike in his driveway a couple weeks later as he was standing next to his other wife. A second investigator in a nearby car video-recorded Mike's morose expression as he registered what the documents were about. I wrote off a portion of our client's bill in return for permission to cite her case in this article, provided I don't use anyone's name.

Private investigators are intimately familiar with stories like this, cases where someone in a relationship is not at all who they claim to be. It happens all the time. I recently asked some of my colleagues about the most outrageous lies they've ever encountered in domestic cases, and some tips on what to look out for.

For example, Jay Rosenzweig, a private investigator in Woodland Hills, California, told me about a case where a husband hired him because he thought his wife was cheating on him, and it turned out she was working as a prostitute at a massage parlor. In this case, the man ignored plenty of clear warning signs, including the fact that his wife was highly secretive about her job and often came home with large amounts of unexplained cash.

"She'd come home with $3,000 every night," Jay commented wryly. "And he somehow didn't know what was going on."

Sometimes these types of cases touch us personally, too. A few years back my mother, who lives in Virginia, got taken in by a man who asked her out at the gym. His name was Jim, and we called him "Jim from the Gym."

"It was my ravaging beauty that drove him to me," my mom joked.

Jim from the Gym, who was a NASA scientist, told her that he was divorced and that he had two kids living on the west coast. He later moved from Virginia to Seattle, and he and my mom continued a long distance relationship for several years.

According to Jim, his daughter, with whom he claimed to be was living, was "very conservative" and didn't want Jim dating anyone following his divorce from their mother.
"We were staying in various hotels together," my mom explained, "And he always wanted to use my address, and he always paid cash. So, I asked him what was going on, and he said he didn't want his daughter finding out about us."

I told my mother at the time that Jim's story sounded ridiculous and that he was likely married. I offered to investigate the guy for her, but she brushed me off. I let it go.
It wasn't until a planned trip to New Mexico that my mom ultimately got suspicious. "The phone numbers he called me from were kind of in weird places. When he called me from a Denver number I was really suspicious, because he never mentioned being in Denver." My mom did her own investigation; she finally Googled the guy, and she found a marriage license. It turned out that Jim from the Gym had been married for years.

"It turned out he bought one of those phones you buy so that you can't be tracked," she said.

My mom wrote a long letter to Jim's wife, and he later died from cancer, which is why I don't mind using his real name here.

If someone like Jim could trick my mom, who is no dummy, I figured it could happen to anyone. People in love see what they want to see, and we're bound to take what people tell us at face value. The case involving Mike, however, made me curious as to what makes people go through such great lengths to deceive their lovers. Surely sex is a big part of it, but if my experience as an investigator has taught me anything, it's that things aren't usually as simple as they first seem.

It was this curiosity that spurred me to interview admitted "cat-fishers" on the pseudonymous social media site Whisper, which is what led me to Anna.

Cat-fishing is when someone uses a fake identity online to lure strangers. Sometimes the aim is to solicit illicit photographs; other times it's done as something of a sadistic sport.

"Sometimes I pretend I'm from another country," Anna wrote during our conversation. "[With] one guy I was from Europe. We went out and everything, so I had to keep the English accent up. But when things got serious-he wanted to meet my family-I couldn't, so I broke it off and blocked him. [I] told him I was 'going back home.' I use disposable phones."

Asked why she does this sort of thing, Anna explained, "I don't think I'm trying to hurt anyone. I'm just lonely and hope that someone would like me-just me-flaws and all. But whenever I have been me-open and honest-most guys have used that [against me], because I'm kind and naïve. So this is my way of taking back control of the situation."
She told me that the longest relationship she has carried on with someone using a fake identity was two years. "When it gets serious I change my screen name and start over again."

"I keep track of names, etc. in a notebook, so I never slip or make a mistake."

It was very clear during my conversation with Anna that dating via deception is not about sex, although she does occasionally have sex with the men she meets. For her-and I suspect this is equally true for others who engage in relationship fraud-the real benefit is the reward of romance without risk.

Anna explained, "I'm young, I have a great job, everything-but what I'm missing is the excitement I create for myself online."

It's this excitement and the thrill of having the upper hand over others that really makes relationship fraud so appealing to those who do it. It's what makes people like Mike so willing to exact such harm against those they purportedly care about and at such great personal risk.

For people involved with cat-fishers and other relationship fraudsters, the lesson is that there are some warning signs to look out for-disposable phone numbers with weird area codes, for example, unexplained cash, and a reluctance from your partner to let you meet family members. As with every other type of fraud, little lies are often symptomatic of larger lies. Ask yourself if your lover's story makes sense, and if it doesn't then there is a good chance he's playing you.

The important thing to know, however, is that this phenomenon has little to do with the victim and everything to do with the fantasy of the fraudster.

Anna said it best: "I get to live in whatever fantasy world I create."

To stay out of the fantasy worlds of relationship fraudsters this Valentine's Day watch for the warning signs-and heed the advice of your son, particularly if he happens to be a private investigator.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Delicious Winter Fizzer Cocktail Recipe

We are now into the dead of Winter and things are looking quite dreary outside. I don't know about all of you...but I am getting inpatient waiting for Spring to arrive. I am ready to do some outdoor entertaining again and enjoying time outside with my friends and family.

Today's cocktail recipe is courtesy of the great folks over at Colman's Mustard. Now you can spice up your favorite cocktail recipe (like the one below) with some Colman's Dry Mustard to give it a little kick! You can visit their site to learn more.

Winter Fizzer Cocktail Recipe

1 ½ oz. Gin
¾ oz. Lime Juice
½ oz. House Grenadine
½ oz. Pomegranate Molasses
¼ tsp. Colman’s Powdered Mustard

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.Top with club soda.

Disclaimer: You must be 21 years of age or older to consume alcoholic beverages. Please drink responsibly.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Colman’s Mustard Spicy Chocolate Popcorn Recipe

How many of you are aware that every year National Popcorn Day on January 19th is celebrated across the nation? That's right, there is indeed a National Popcorn Day!!! Well guess what? That special popcorn lover's day is just around the corner and today we have a great recipe for all of you from the folks over at Colman's Mustard. It looks delicious and definitely easy-to-make! Enjoy!

Colman’s Mustard Spicy Chocolate Popcorn Recipe

1 bag buttered popcorn
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup milk
2 tsp. Colman's Mustard
1 tbsp. light Karo Syrup

Pop the popcorn according to package directions. In a small saucepan add the chocolate chips and heat on low. Add the milk and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the mustard and the Karo syrup. Mix well. Dump the popcorn into a bowl and pour chocolate mixture over popcorn. Mix well and let it sit till it cools.

About Colman’s Mustard - Established in 1814, Colman’s Mustard of Norwich has been recognized widely as the iconic English mustard in the U.K using a unique and zesty blend of brown mustard and white mustard seeds. Colman’s Mustard provides a pure, fiery and complex condiment for all recipes and dishes. Visit for more information.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tips for Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals

How many of you made a New Year's resolution to lose weight, get more exercise and to eat healthier? Many of us make these resolutions every year with meaningful intention but most of us fail within a few weeks. I personally know that I am guilty of that myself.

Today I am sharing with all of you a timely article from a health and nutrition expert Joey Thurman.

You Made New Year’s Resolutions. Now KEEP Them. Tips for Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals

You made New Year’s resolutions to eat better, exercise more, and treat your body like the temple it is. This year, if you want to avoid becoming one of the roughly 92 percent of individuals who fail to achieve their New Year’s resolution in 2015, keep reading.

Fitness expert and nutrition expert Joey Thurman, founder of The Lifestyle Renovation, has helped countless celebrities and everyday people achieve their health and fitness goals. “About one in six people who lose 30 pounds or more gain it back,” says Thurman. “And it’s often because they’ve never been taught how to lose weight the right way. That’s no way to keep a resolution.”

Thurman offers five tips for those watching their weight and hitting the gym so that 2015 is the year they lose those extra pounds …and keep them off!

Slow and steady wins the race: Too often, folks begin a weight loss regimen too quickly and push too hard, and that’s a recipe for disaster. “There’s nothing wrong with being excited about getting in shape,” says Joey. “But you have to be aware of your physical limitations so you don’t risk injury or burn out too quickly. Slow and steady always wins the race.”

Don’t skimp on calories: One of the biggest mistakes you can do is not to eat healthy, balanced meals. “People think that skipping breakfast or starving themselves is a good way to lose weight,” Joey says. “But your body adapts and begins holding onto existing fat, making weight loss more difficult.

But don’t go overboard, either: It’s easy to begin justifying overeating if you’re committed to a fitness plan. “It gets dangerous when you start eating poorly simply because you’re working out,” warns Joey. “Achieving weight loss goals is 90 percent what you eat, and 10 percent how effective you exercise. You can’t do just one or the other.”

Aim for marginal improvement on multiple fronts: Rather than killing yourself on the elliptical machine, Joey advises making small changes to your daily habits. “People get discouraged because they put in two hours on the treadmill but don’t see results in a couple weeks,” says Joey. “I advise making smaller adjustments to your daily life, which can have a greater impact on your health. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Swap out one unhealthy snack for a plain Greek yogurt, add your own fruit, and sprinkle on some cinnamon, which lowers the glycemic index of any food. Those choices add up.”

Don’t get derailed by an injury: One of the most common setbacks for those hitting the gym is an overuse injury. “It is possible – advisable even – to work around injuries,” Joey says. “If you strain your hamstring running, take that opportunity to get in the pool or engage your upper body. Just don’t quit.”

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be recipes for failure, and if these tips are followed diligently, 2015 can be the year of success...and no more excuses.

About Joey Thurman: Joey Thurman is a health, fitness, and nutrition expert and the creator of The Lifestyle Renovation, a website dedicated to helping people achieve their health and fitness goals. He has appeared on CBS, FOX, ABC, and WCIU sharing his insights as a celebrity fitness trainer and published author. Joey’s work has been featured in publications such as, Racked, TimeOut Chicago, RedEye, and American Global Traveler. Joey is a fashion model represented by Chosen Model Management where he works with brands including Neiman Marcus, Abercrombie, Jockey, and Carson Pirie Scott. He has also appeared on the covers of Healthy for Men and TimeOut Chicago. Joey is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) with the American Council on Exercise, a Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS) and a FITchef. For more information, please visit and follow Joey on Instagram and Twitter at @JoeyThurmanFit.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gym Etiquette in the New Year: The Do’s and Don’ts

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Gym Etiquette in the New Year: The Do’s and Don’ts
Lifestyle & Fitness Expert Offers Advice for Those New to the Gym

The holiday season is filled with family, laughter, and a lot of unhealthy food. In fact, people gain more weight from October to January than any other time during the year…combined. Cue the New Year’s rush at the local gym.

Come January 2nd, you’re likely to fall into one of two buckets: the gym regular who’s slightly annoyed that she can’t get on a treadmill, or the eager newcomer who’s a little lost and a lot anxious. But worry not, because trainer and lifestyle guru Joey Thurman has some tips for how to practice good gym etiquette in the New Year.

“I’m always surprised by how many people are in the gym in January,” says Thurman. “But the key to success is to realize that you’re not going to create your ideal birthday suit in one marathon session. And you’re not going to make any friends if you don’t know the many unwritten rules of the gym.”

Below are Joey’s top 10 do’s and don’ts for hitting the gym in the New Year.

DO deodorize, before and after: Everyone knows that you should pile on the deodorant after a healthy sweat, but it’s also simple etiquette to do so before the gym. Small odors from the workday can grow exponentially while you work out, and nobody wants that. Especially the girl next to you.

DON’T wear cologne or perfume: Avoid wearing heavy amounts of perfume or cologne when working out. The smells will radiate as you work up a sweat and may cause nausea among your fellow gym goers. And if you think wearing your commercial body spray will have the ladies lining up, you are sorely mistaken!

DO wash your workout clothes. Everyday: See point one. Even if you don’t notice odors on your clothes post-workout, as soon as those materials are exposed to perspiration again, they will release a foul odor. Buy a few back-up items and rotate between visits.

DON’T hit on fellow gym goers: The gym is not an appropriate place to pick up a date. Most people hate working out and do so for health reasons, so they’re understandably focused on themselves. Don’t try to strike up a conversation with someone wearing headphones.

DO be discreet with makeup: Whether you’re joining the “most exclusive” gym in town, you’re there for one reason only – YOU. Don’t dress like you are going to the club. Leave the glitter and makeup at home.

DON’T be a know-it-all: Just because you’ve read the latest issue of Men’s Health or have been practicing the newest weightlifting trend does not mean you are an authority on working out. Do not offer help or advice unless someone asks you. Don’t even offer to spot someone.

DO sanitize your equipment: There's nothing worse than putting your face down on a gym mat and lying in someone else’s sweat. Same goes for putting your hands on an elliptical handle and being met with a slick surface. Always utilize the gym’s sanitizing spray before and after using any equipment that isn’t your own.

DON’T be noisy: Grunting, singing, rapping, or yelling across the gym are major faux pas. Not only is it blatant attention-seeking behavior, it’s extremely annoying. Keep your earphones at a reasonable level and your grunting to a minimum. If people are staring, it’s not because they think you’re cool.

DO be courteous with equipment: While you shouldn’t necessarily cut your workout short, be mindful of those around you waiting for their turn on the machines. Everyone’s paying for a gym membership, so don’t be an equipment hog. Sharing is caring.

DON’T walk around naked: While it’s not the biggest gym blunder, it can make others uncomfortable. Changing in the locker room is one thing, walking around in your birthday suit and sitting on the benches is another. There are towels for a reason.

Whether it’s your first time in the gym (good for you!) or you’re a seasoned veteran, utilizing these tips will ensure you’re a positive influence in the gym and are contributing to an environment of health and fitness!

About Joey Thurman: Joey Thurman is a fitness, lifestyle and nutrition expert, FITchef, celebrity trainer, cover model, television personality, published fitness author, owner of Morph Personal Training, and creator of The Lifestyle Renovation. Joey has appeared on CBS, FOX, WCIU and ABC and has been published in, Racked, TimeOut Chicago, RedEye, and American Global Traveler. As a fitness expert for nine years, Joey has helped numerous celebrity clients including Celebrity Chef Art Smith, Professional Female Wrestler Lisa Marie Varon, and many others, make internal changes for continued success in life and achievement of their aesthetic goals. Joey is also a fashion model who has landed covers on Healthy for Men, TimeOut Chicago and has worked for companies such as Abercrombie, Jockey, Kohl’s, Sears, Kmart, Carson Pirie Scott, Neiman Marcus, and more. Joey has a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from South Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE), is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) with the American Council on Exercise, and is a Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS). For more information, please visit