Liars Cons and Scammers: How to Recognize Them

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

We talk about criminal hackers, scammers and con men as though they are mysterious creatures from the Twilight Zone. But while they are certainly interesting, 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, con men do come into personal contact with victims. And when they do, there are a few telltale signs to look out for.

According to a University of Massachusetts study, 60% of participants lied at least once during an observed ten minute conversation.  Body language expert Carolyn Finch, a colleague of mine from New England, was a consultant and during the OJ Simpson trial and has appeared on numerous media outlets. She points out what to look for:

Face: 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.

Speech: 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.”

Nerves: Other indicators that the person is uncomfortable include nose rubbing or touching underneath the nose. 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.

Eyes: 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.

If you ask someone to remember what they ate an hour ago, they might look up and to their left, which indicates “visual recall,” meaning they are accessing a part of their brain to remember a 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  indicates “visual construct,” meaning they are accessing a part of their brain to create a scenario. This is also what someone does when they lie.

Become an 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. Whether in person, online, or over the phone, you can sense a lie if you are tuned in. And that should help protect you from scammers and identity thieves.

There are numerous tools to protect you too. Intelius offers a Background Report and a DateCheck. Its unfortunately not enough to simply “trust” or even trust your gut. Its often necessary to make a small investment.

Background reports include, when available, a criminal and sex offender check, lawsuits, judgments, liens, bankruptcies, home value & property ownership, address history, phone numbers, relatives & associates, neighbors, marriage/divorce records and more.

A Date Check instantly gets the scoop on potential dates with an online background check which provides information on living situations, relatives, criminal convictions, professional information, bankruptcies, liens, address history, social network info and more. Date Check helps you follow up on your intuition with real facts.

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.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Theft Protection. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses Bernie Madoff, liar, on CBS Boston.

1 reply
  1. Fred Brito
    Fred Brito says:

    While this article covers some key areas, it comes up very short with actual information that is accurate and based on “reality.” This is a textbook account of what “some con artists and liars may portray while attempting to con or lie.

    True con artists and real liars are much more unique than what is written here. In order to understand the mind of a con artist and professional liar will take much more to understand that what text books articles like this can convey.

    It is very true… “To catch a Con or Liar… and actually beat them at their own game, you need to have been one. The phrase: “It takes a Con one to know a Con is quite true.”

    Psychiatrist/Psychologist only have a text book and an academic approach to this subject. What they fail to reveal is the actual “forensic” journey into the mind of a celebrated con artist and or liar.

    Short of this, all that people will write about are theories, of what they believe con artist and liars do in order to achieve their goals.

    Many people write book after book about this subject, and never really reveal the realistic truth. Authors have great “academic sense,” but fail to have actual “practical sense.” The practical is by far more important. In order to truly understand the mind of the Bernie Madoff’s the Frank Abagnale’s and many others, is to spend significant time with them on a realistic forensic journey inside the mind of a Con Artist. Then and only then will you be able to tap into the basics of this subject short of actually living it as I have.

    *** I should know what I am writing about. I am a former professional Con Artist. I am an expert in this subject and now travel all over the world teaching “How to Catch a Con… Before they Catch you” and many other subjects related to this matter.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *