A few days ago, I opened up on an Instagram Live about something that up until then had filled me with loads of shame and anger (which I turned into an IGTV Video and you can watch it here). It was very scary to even talk about it, even when I have been feeling like a fool and a bad entrepreneur ever since it happened, yet I couldn’t NOT talk about it, as I kept feeling more and more that the silence was crushing me worst than the shame.
The story I shared was that I had been a victim of an “Online Marketeer” scammer called Tabitha Paganelli, who after promising support, help and tricks to help me grow my online business, ended up stealing 900USD of my hard-earned money in one whooping transaction. (Also, beware of her business the Build and Grow Collective as she continues scamming people, sadly).
This whole thing started with us becoming friends on Facebook. Last year, as I realised that I wanted to shift a big part of my business online, I had started to become more and more and more active on the online world, joining different communities of (what I thought were) like-minded female entrepreneurs for support, promotions, etc. If you’re an online entrepreneur, you know what I’m talking about… and if you’re not, it’s basically a way to network online and Facebook Groups are HUGE at it.
Long story short, in the last 3-6 months she started popping up more and more on my timeline. I would read her updates and comments and would sympathise and relate at times, which as you might know is sort of how we connect with strangers in this new age of social media. At one point, I remember her asking for support to get her weight under control and that time I commented reaching out.
In the passing weeks, her posts changed. She started to share more about her journey as a successful online coach, how she has gain full financial freedom and was living her best life. It was ALL I wanted to create for myself and, in my naïve and overwhelmed state, I bought in. First simply commenting on posts and liking. Later by reaching out to her, particularly about her support with Pinterest, a platform I’ve been wanting to get on forever but still haven’t figured out; and eventually hiring her to be my coach on a program where she guaranteed to get you making 20,000USD in 90 days or refunding you the whole investment.
Too good to be true? Well… it was.
I paid her and then within a week or so she was gone. First, she would blow me off whenever I tried to connect on Zoom, the time zone lies worked perfectly for it as I live on the other side of the world; later she unfriended me and eventually blocked me. Then, as I posted a review of her business mentioning the fact that I hadn’t received the services I paid, she attacked me on a post and promised a refund that never came. That’s when the penny dropped, and I realised this was a scam.
You see, Tabitha has that girl-next-door look, little silver cross wearing and all. She is baby faced, sweet looking, blond and white. How could SHE do this to ME? The shame came in and it came in FAST and I started questioning the whole ordeal.
“Will she attack me if I post again?”
“Will she make fun of me?”
“Will anyone believe me over her?”
“Does she have any information that she can use to mess with my accounts?”
“Can she hack my profiles?”
“Was I that stupid?”
“What will happen to this next?”
Then the reprimands entered my mind and I was sinking into a full-blown shame storm.
“Of course no one will believe me. Who am I to say anything in public?”
“This happened for wanting to make more money”
“I should have seen it coming, I mean, no one believes people online anymore!”
To be perfectly honest, this was truly consuming my energy, which is why by the second day with little to no sleep due to the nightmares around this, plus the stress of life, kids and work without my amazing nanny around and the whole Venezuelan crisis, I decided to come clean and see if that would help me at all with the feeling storm… and I can honestly say, that was the catalyser.
I felt silly talking. If you follow me on any of my social media channels, you know shyness isn’t my thing, yet this time I felt VERY uncomfortable. Yet I pushed through. In the end, after the whole “confession” I was feeling lighter. I still didn’t know, however, that the true healing was yet to come.
Messages of support started to flood my inboxes. From friends offering me to gang up against Tabitha, to other people telling me their own scamming and shame stories. It was unbelievable. It was honest. It was healing… and then came what I so needed. A couple of powerful women in my life helping me process this, the pain, the shame, the odd feeling that was choking me, yet I couldn’t understand. Suddenly, I wasn’t judging me for doing wrong, I was loving me as I was wronged. I let go and compassion came in.
The always wise Layla F. Saad, who I’m lucky to call my friend, walked me through this and helped me go back into wholeness. She allowed me to express my pain and reminded me that I hadn’t done anything wrong, but instead someone had done me wrong. She helped me get the tools I needed to move on from this, not from shame and heaviness, like the one walking home ashamed and feeling dirty the morning after; but from power and honour, like the one who walks confident and full of pleasure back home, knowing herself in charge of life and her choices. This is what I needed.
And so, after processing, journaling, going back and forth and honouring my stories and choices around this, I want to share the lessons I learned from being scammed by Tabitha Paganelli and how will this affect my life moving forward:
1) Trust needs collateral – At least online: I know there are countless of amazing Online Coaches in the world willing to offer people services and products from a place of authenticity and honesty. Heck, I’m among that crowd after all! But there are also scammers. So, in the future I’ll ask for real referrals, if possible, from people I know and with conversations with them included.
2) One rotten apple is just that: When I realised Tabitha had scammed me and dared to face my CFO (aka Mr.B) about it, I said: “Don’t worry. This won’t happen again because I’m never trusting anyone again online”. He looked at me and said: “Babe, that’s not real nor ideal” and he is right. As I work on growing my business and expanding my reach, I will trust again, I will hire people and I know that her behaviour won’t be the bar I use to measure them. She is an anomaly, not the norm.
3) The victim never “has it coming”: I don’t think this one requires much explanation, but just in case, this is a universal truth. Regardless of the situation, victim shaming is NEVER helpful. Yes, I could have not hired her, I could have not trust her, I could be asked to stop giving people online money as if it was my fault, but the truth is that SHE wronged me. I was wronged not wrong. This lesson works for ANY victim, by the way, and we never need to learn to spot perpetrators, instead we need compassion.
4) Check your stories –Race and worth included: As I started talking to Layla and truly walking myself through the emotions that I was struggling to digest, I realised that one of the biggest fears I had about speaking up was precisely around being attacked as a woman of colour if I tried to expose Tabitha, who is a white woman. I felt my story, my “version” wasn’t valid because I was in disadvantage. In fact, I thought at some point “who would believe a Latina over her?”. Checking our internalised racism and biases helps us make sense of the emotions so we can heal them. Once I unmask this, I could validate myself and move on stronger.
5) Showing up is the antidote: Had I not decided to speak up, I would still be feeling used, abused and ashamed. I would still be struggling with all of these emotions in full isolation. It was when I showed up fully, ashamed, stressed, saddened and vulnerable that I allowed the wound to dry and start healing. Shame, as mould, grows better in darkness.
Now that a big part of the storm has passed, and considering the bunch of things happening daily in the world, I can say that whilst I don’t wish this on anyone nor want to relive it, I can appreciate the lessons that I have managed to grasp through it. This allowed me to see so much of myself and my own wounds, not to mention that it made me even more furiously committed to being the best coach, mentor, writer and speaker I can, to serve from a place of wholeness and abundance, not because I need to but because I choose excellence above it all.
Experiencing this gave me insight about the emotions of those vulnerable to abuse, it reminded me of my many privileges and blessings and, above it all, it showed me how much the world needs honesty and vulnerability and how healing it is when we connect to others from there.
How about you? Have you gone through a situation that made you reframe yourself and life through victimhood?