Advice for anyone that doesn’t want to get scammed or conned accidentally — or even waste time with an amateur that can’t help you.
Illustration by janfeindt.de
Until last year, I had never met a professional Con Artist. When you have a few people read your work online, things change. People approach you out of nowhere who seek to profit from your hard work by conning you and taking shortcuts that involve them lying.
Their words are addictive and their offers are hard to refuse because they seek to take advantage of your human psychology through tapping into your need to want more and preying on your human survival instincts.
A con artist tried to scam me recently. The referral came from someone I know and within a few minutes of the phone call, it was obvious something was not right. So how do you avoid these cheats, liars, and con artists and protect yourself?
LaRae Quy spent 23 years in the FBI and suggests that how someone says “no” can tell you a lot about whether they are deceptive or not.
Here are the signs to help you identify a con artist.
They’ll usually talk fast, hoping that you don’t pick up on the detail that reveals the hidden clues to their lies. The speed of conversation helps cover up their anxiety about the life they are choosing to live.
Make lots of money sound like nothing
“Yeah, I’m doing $2M a month bro. It’s nothing.”
People that are truly financially rich rarely tell total strangers how many millions they are making. And when they do talk about how they make money, they tell the truth: it’s bloody hard work.
Making $2M a month is not nothing and you have to be doing something that adds a lot of value to achieve a goal like that. Skipping over the detail and arriving at an outlandish number is usually the work of a con artist.
Mention Fortune 500 companies
Part of the lie involves building credibility and that can be done by dropping big-name companies. These company’s brands are dropped casually throughout the conversation and mentioned as though they are clients.
When you dig below the surface, as I have on a few occasions, you learn that these big-name companies are either not working with the con artist or have had nothing more than coffee with them, which in my book is not a won deal with a seven-figure payday.
Be careful when a stranger talks about big brands too much, especially if they have never had a career that would logically validate their exposure.
Drop the name of a rich tech founder
Company brands are not the only names a con artist will drop. They also like to pretend that they are surrounded by tech founders who have had or are about to have huge exits. This adds to the lie.
Their confidence levels will typically be overinflated. They’ll show photos of them doing extreme sports or jumping from planes.
Their personal life will be full of fake confidence too. A model on their arm at a charity ball or a six-pack in 30 days can be other signs of fake confidence.
When you talk to them on the phone, they sound confident and make you believe anything is possible. It’s only when you talk to people in their inner-circle later on that you find they are a hot mess because of the lie they are living.
Details that sounded like facts start to be revealed one by one. What was living in a mansion becomes a holiday to a mansion that they spent their savings on. The car you thought was theirs turns out to be a rental, friends or rich parents.
Each layer of their fake confidence is peeled away the more you dig. When you’re genuinely confident, you don’t seek to lie so you can gain the approval of strangers. You just do you.
Mention social media when they have no audience
My recent encounter with a con artist involved them giving me LinkedIn advice. After the conversation, I looked up their LinkedIn account and saw that they had a small audience and hadn’t posted on the platform for a very long time.
Giving advice on a subject they have no experience in is the classic trait of a con artist.
Do calculations of earnings on a call
Con artists often have a primary objective: to make money from people’s ignorance and cover up their lies with one-hundred-dollar bills.
The money is supposed to make it all worth it for them but it never fills the void in their heart. A huge red flag is when you talk with a stranger and they start going through calculations with you.
They explain that by working with them, you’ll make some crazy figure (let’s say $1M) and then they’ll start to break it down.
“So you have a mailing list and social media audience size of 200,000. Now if I’m conservative, we can assume that 1% of people sign up to the product (scam).”
“If 1% of people sign up and go through the process, we can also assume most of them will signup on a subscription. So those 2000 people each pay $1000 per month to subscribe and we bring in $2M.
Now the freelancers and my fee will bring that down to $1.2M.
Could you live off $1.2M a year? they ask.”
That last question is a dead give away. They make it sound so easy to make money and then ask ridiculous rhetorical questions like is $1M enough to live for a year? Of course, it is.
Most of us can live on less than six-figures and not feel any pain. Pretending that making money is easy and that the maths of the whole process is so simple and conservative, is a key sign you are being conned.
Say they don’t do countdown timers and then give you a limited time offer that expires next week to join their deal
A con artist will tell you that everybody else is a con artist. They will pick up common shady tactics and say they don’t do them.
One of those tacts is creating urgency and trying to get you to make a decision quickly so you don’t ask too many questions and realize you are being conned. In my recent encounter, I was told that countdown timers on emails are shady, followed by “next week is the latest you can let me know by because many people want to be involved and I can’t work with everyone.”
In my head, I was thinking this: “Horse shit, amigo.”
Give you an affiliate link with a high margin (50%)
Every man, woman, dog, and child is offering affiliate opportunities. As soon as you have a small audience or a few email subscribers, the con artists will find you in one form or another.
The classic telltale sign of these con artists is an affiliate offer that allows you to keep an insane amount of the money for doing nothing more than contacting your audience. A normal, healthy, non-shady affiliate offer would be 5–10%. Anything over 40% starts to smell funny.
Giving you a high amount of money means that the con artist needs access to your audience and is heavily reliant on you to pull off their scam.
Not be able to back up their claims
A genuine offer to work with someone on a business venture would involve, from the person pitching, an idea of the following:
- Some data that backs up what they’re saying
- A quick demo of the live product either virtually or physically
- An idea of the success they have had to date
If you’re going to make huge claims, you better be able to back them up when you’re asking someone to sign a deal with you.
Describe the lifestyle
Con artists love to describe your future lifestyle after they’ve got you to sign up with them. They’ll talk about remote working, travel, cars and wild experiences that normal people don’t have.
Then the conversation leads into how to pay less tax and live in places that have a lower cost of living so you can be even richer.
The detailed lifestyle description that is spoken of without your input is a classic con artist trick.
Mention the name of billionaires
Another keyword you can expect to hear at least once is “billionaire.”
This helps you see the con artist as a work in progress that is surrounded by successful people that they’ll one day be because of the proximity effect. It’s natural for us to assume that if we spent time weekly with a Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Warren Buffett, eventually some of their knowledge would rub off on us too.
The truth is that billionaires do not hang around con artists. Their closest friends are typically other billionaires.
Drive a fast car
The car they drive is a big part of their fake persona. Coupes and convertibles with big engines made for revving in Instagram stories or Youtube videos work best for them.
A car helps add further evidence to the lie they portray and the success they don’t actually have. Some of the most successful people in the world drive plain cars like Toyota, Honda, and Ford.
Sign up now
Con artists need you to proceed with their scam before you have time to think or do your research. They know that the more you think, the quicker you will be able to catch them out.
Asking you to sign up on the spot is very common. The process is made out to be so easy that not signing the dotted line seems counter-intuitive to a smart person.
If you’re still not sure you’re dealing with a con artist, make them wait.
Delay the decision by two weeks and see what happens. Many of them will cave in real quick and you’ll have just saved yourself from a scam that would have never delivered the benefits that were promised.
Don’t be scammed by a person that is displaying these characteristics.
Money is not made quickly and success comes from hard work, not one-time subscription products that users sign up for for the rest of their lives and forget about without canceling.
Slow down, look for opportunities that require patience, choose the people you surround yourself with and do business with carefully, and trust your instincts.'