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Liars Cons and Scammers: How to Recognize Them

We talk about criminal hackers, scammers and bold face conmen like they are mysterious creatures from the twilight zone. While they are certainly interesting and mythical creatures, fundamentally they are people. People who lie and do it better than anyone else.

If only our noses grew every time we lied. Life would be so transparent. Social engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing certain actions or divulging confidential information. While similar to a confidence trick or simple fraud, the term typically applies to trickery or deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or computer system access; in most cases the attacker never comes face-to-face with the victim.

But many times the conman does come in contact with their victim. And when they do, there are a few tell tale signs to look out for.

CSO reports research conducted a few years ago at the University of Massachusetts found that 60 percent of participants lied at least once during an observed 10-minute conversation.  Body language expert Carolyn Finch is a colleague of mine from New England, and she was a consultant and during the OJ Simpson trial and has appeared on numerous media outlets. She points out what to look for:

Finch says when people lie, they smile with only the lower muscles in their face. A liar might try and fake a smile to look genuine or at ease. But a real smile uses the entire face, including the eyes.

A liar will speak hesitantly and pauses frequently when answering a question. A liar might also repeat words or stutter.

“A person who is pausing is thinking,” said Finch. “The eyes go up and around and down to think about what they are going to say next.”

Other face touches might include nose rubbing or touching underneath the nose, all indicators the person is uncomfortable. And watch hands closely, which are an easy way to spot nervousness. “Sometimes there is tremor, definitely in the hands,” said Finch, who also noted the jaw might shake, too.

Liars will make a concerted effort to keep your gaze so as not to arouse suspicion. However, Finch advises studying where there eyes go if, and when, they do break gaze.

When you are speaking to someone and ask them to remember what they ate an hour ago they may look up to their left which is called “visual recall” meaning they are accessing a part of their brain to remember fact. Whereas if you ask them to think of what it must be like to live on the moon, they look to the upper right, which is called “visual construct” meaning they are accessing a part of their brain to create a scenario. This is what someone does when they lie.

Become and observer of the human condition. Study what makes people tick and what motivates them. Determine who is truthful and who lives a lie. Bad guys who want to take from you generally lie. They look you right in the face and BS you. Whether in person, online, or over the phone, you can sense a lie if you are tuned in.

In the meantime protect your identity too.

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes the SSN useless to the thief.



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