13 red flags you’re dealing with a convincing liar

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Have you been lied to without realizing it?

Have you been scammed, defrauded, cheated on or led on a wild goose chase?

The feeling of anger and humiliation after being lied to is intense. I’ve been there. 

Even if it’s just a phone scam we wasted time on or a fake dating profile that tries to get money from us, it’s awful to realize you got at least partly reeled in. We tend to blame ourselves. 

“How did I not see the signs?”

This is a guide for how to catch convincing con men and frauds red-handed. No matter how good a liar somebody is, they always have small tells that will tip you off if you listen and watch carefully. 

Here are the signs you’re dealing with somebody who’s convincing but still a liar.

1) They play on your hopes and fears like a finely-tuned mandolin

Talented deceivers are masters of psychology. 

They find out what you hope for or fear and then they focus right in on that. 

A doctor offering a quack cure, for example, will play on your hope of getting better while darkly emphasizing the horror if you don’t get better and casting more doubt on any solution but his.

Even though he knows his cure is bogus, this quack has identified a fear and a hope in your mind and is now manipulating you like a puppet

Even if you have a vague sense it’s not for real, your hopes and fears are so strong that you hear him out. And before you know it you’re signing for a prescription and follow-up visit.

2) They offer easy solutions

The skilled liar identifies what you hope for or fear and then offers a surprisingly easy way to get it. 

They assure you not to worry about anything else and focus on their promise:

They have the solution. 

Tune out the noise, the other offers, your own doubts and your own questions and just listen to what they have to say. They’re an expert, they have a lot of background experience, and they’re here to solve this for you right now.

3) They plant desires in your mind 

Not only do skilled liars offer quick fixes, they also get inside your head. 

They will plant ideas of what you want inside your mind, like talented advertisers do. 

Before you know it, you want the kind of house they’re selling even though you came into the real estate office thinking you wanted half the size. But no, the liar assures you that buying half the size would be a huge mistake in this market. 

You thought you wanted to date a woman who was free-spirited and artistic, but before you know it there’s a woman convincing you that she’s what you actually need even though she’s as square as a lego block.

4) They ape official tones and titles 

Skilled liars tend to use official tones of voice and titles to make themselves more convincing. 

“Hello ma’am, I’m calling from Henderson Insurance Incorporated about your policy. Do you have a moment to speak?”

It all sounds very official and probably legit! 

If you’re not careful, this kind of person can rope you into all sorts of scams and misleading adventures.

5) Their emotions are always fully ‘correct’

Those who are best at deceiving are masters of emotional mimicry

In other words, they are extremely good at faking emotions and having emotional reactions right on cue. 

This is often in line with sociopathic tendencies and a distinct narcissism and lack of empathy. 

They just can’t feel the pain of others and don’t care, but they’re highly observant and able to mimic the strong positive and painful emotions they know move people. 

As Christian Hart and Drew Curtis write:

“Whether expressing happiness, surprise, sadness or contempt, good liars can wrinkle their brows, raise their eyebrows, or bare their teeth in convincing ways that belie their true emotions.”

Think of the stereotypical preacher exhorting his flock to buy miracle spring water that will cure any disease and crying what look like real tears as he talks of his wife being cured from cancer… 

6) They agree with you too much to be true 

The skilled liar is a fake nice guy or submissive woman. 

He or she nods and smiles no matter what you say, acting like you’re God’s gift to humankind and nothing you say could be wrong. 

This is generally pleasant, and you may feel very validated. 

Then the liar tells you something questionable and you’re inclined to believe them: after all, they’ve been believing you! Why not return the favor?

Building this kind of fake bond of trust is a typical deceptive behavior. 

7) They ask probing questions about your personal life

Liars love to know as much as possible and also disguise themselves as good listeners. 

For example, a con man likes to know as much about his mark’s personal life as possible. 

All this information can be used against the target as threats, fake niceties and to remember and call upon in ways that make the target feel heard and cared about. 

If you have someone trying to convince you of things and often asking details about your personal life that seem a bit out of the blue, consider the risk that they may be building up a database of leverage and fake-friendliness to use against you. 

8) They act like they care overly deeply about your problems 

The skilled liar is adept at fake compassion. 

They will mimic emotions as I mentioned, and they will also draw back on their memory of your personal details to ask questions about you and those you care about. 

You begin to feel this person is truly your friend or a confidant, and that they are looking out for you. 

This is right where the liar wants you: in the palm of their hand. 

9) They offer you deals and ideas that are too good to be true 

Whenever something is too good to be true, it usually is. 

Liars know this, but they are also keenly aware of the human capacity for hope. 

“Maybe this one time this great deal is finally going to be legit,” you think. 

The liar loves this. He or she plays on your hope and on your optimism, twisting it into taking advantage of you in every way possible. 

10) They present themselves as a victim and in need of help only you can give

Skilled liars will often use the victim role to manipulate you. 

They will say you are the only one who can “save” or help them:

With love…

With money…

With your time…

With listening to their endless complaints…

In reality they are just using you. 

11) They are incredibly optimistic about the future but also very vague

Liars love vagueness.

As Nietzsche said, “they love to muddy the water to pretend that it is deep.”

But it’s actually just muddy (and probably full of shit). 

Liars will have everyone sold on a pipe dream without ever really getting into specifics. And when they do get into specifics they usually come up with excuses about why they can’t follow through. 

Think of your typical politician, for example. 

Or think of many mainstream journalists who advance simplistic, polarizing narratives and then demonize anybody on the other side in order to get clicks and make more money. 

12) They tell you things which include truth mixed with fiction 

The truly talented liar doesn’t just bombard you with false statements

He or she mixes truth with fiction, and often does so incrementally. 

In other words, a man trying to lie about cheating would start by being 90% truthful and only sneaking in the occasional very small lie about his schedule or habits. 

But he would then slowly increase and perfect those lies as you accept them and feel less suspicious. 

By putting so many true things into what they say, liars often succeed in alleviating your suspicion, allowing them to then deceive you at a subtle level.

13) They give you references that seem to mean they’re trustworthy 

Skilled liars know how to back up their lies with references and appeals to authority. 

They will find folks who promise they’re trustworthy and they will talk about prominent or well-known individuals they know or have worked with. 

This is an appeal to authority, which is a reference to somebody in power as a way to assure you that they’re the real deal. 

How could you still doubt them? 

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