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Signs of liars – Watch out for scams

We have reported on scams, fraud, and people who put up fake fronts. But how do you know when someone is lying to you or some company is? Some people can’t lie convincingly at all, and also have no desire too do so, while others seem to be born to stretch the truth and it seems that all they can do is lie. I have been learning a lot about this topic.

Even the best liars or fraudsters tend to display one or two subtle behaviors that shine a light on their deceit. But the lying can/will destroy relationships and can bring down businesses. There are many examples of corporate lies and fraud too. There are many times in which the lies go on indefinitely, and the truth is never known.

These tips listed below may help protect you from harm, reduce your chances to falling susceptible to scams, keep you away from certain relationships, protect your assets, and keep you safe and happy. Think about companies lying too, including Wells Fargo opening an account or predatory lenders. Here are several signs to look out for that someone is lying to you and tips on protecting yourself from scams.

They can’t keep eye contact

If someone tells you something, but they can’t look you in the eyes or their eyes continue to shift as they speak, this is a red flag. Liars can’t often hold eye contact. While of course this does not work over the phone, email, or remotely, (so it may not help you with a company) it is effective in person.

They can’t provide supporting documentation

If a person or a company claims supporting documentation can be provided to you, but they refuse to provide it or they always come up with excuses (delays, issue with paperwork, etc.) that means the documentation they claim almost certainly does not exist or is fake. They will have something to hide or the documentation will provve a lie/show bad stuff. When dealing with a business or person who is not in your proximity (where the verbal/body signs are not possible to see) this is very effective way to discover a lie, including scams.

This is also a very effective tell for business people looking to hire someone or address work matters. If a person can’t provide documentation on their education, past employment (even a basic paystub), then it is a lie and the person does not have that education or employment history. This happens time and time again where people lie about education, experience, skills, etc.  Even look at politicians such as Melissa Howard or CEOs of companies, like Scott Thompson, and they are but too examples of those who lied about their background and it came back to bite them.

Their bodies give an opposing message, such as their hands touch their mouths

Many people can lie with their mouths, but fewer can lie with their whole bodies. When someone tells a lie, there is often a small giveaway that suggests the truth. For example, people who lie might say yes with their mouths while their heads shake no. Or their hands drift to their mouths when they tell lies. This action is entirely subconscious communication from the brain that what the mouth is saying just isn’t true.

Or the person closes in their body. Opening the body, with solid eye contact, signals honesty. It’s like saying you’ve got nothing to hide. People who close in on themselves through hunched shoulders or folded arms signal that they are holding something back.

They offer excessive details

When people lie, they often try to cover it up by adding unimportant details to make their stories sound more real. When someone offers too many aspects to support a story, ask yourself why. This can be true of many people, but especially scammers who target the elderly.

Or they offer no details

If someone or a business who you have had multiple forms of communication with over a period of time remains secretive, is “shifty” or refuses to provide more information, then they are most likely holding something back and lying. Providing no details in a personal relationship or other arrangement (scammish) are tell tales of a lie. Especially when no details come out over an extended period of time and repeated requests.

Fake Fronts

Liars put on fake fronts as well, which can often be caught over time. This always applies to scams, as once a scam starts it can be hard to maintain. Think of Maddof and the countless others who eventually get caught as their lies catch up to them. This also happens to all sorts of relationships.

They groom or touch themselves as they speak

This is another body single. Straightening a necktie or playing with hair are signs of nervousness and anxiety. Or they touch their hear or other parts of their body, and they are fidgety. A person who is lying may display these behaviors as a way of expressing an uncomfortable feeling inside.

There are inconsistencies in their stories

People may add or forget specific details when recalling a memory, so it’s not unusual to repeat the same story in more than one way. Or a rep from a business tries to offer/sell you a product in different fashions. However, facts don’t usually change from one telling to another. If someone says an event happened in the morning one day but the next day says it was afternoon, that may very well suggest deceit.

They lean or turn away as they speak

Truthful people tend to point their bodies toward the person to whom they are talking. They aim their shoulders, feet, and hips in your direction. People who are lying are more likely to move their bodies away from you. They often turn their feet toward the door or lean back slightly.

Their body movements slow down

Someone typically animated during conversation may slow down entirely while lying. Everything moves much slower, often as they need time to formulate an answer. That is because the person is concentrating on telling a lie. Some people become completely still when they lie. However the people that do not “slow down” but have a lie at the tip of their tongues, those tend to be the compulsive liars as it comes natural to them.

Scammers speak quickly

If you say get a phone call from someone trying to sell you a product, request information from you, or claim you “won” something, and if they speak very rapidly and refuse to let you ask a question, this means they probably do not want you to make any inquires. They may be pushing a “quick sell”. As they probably can’t answer your question so they try to speak over you.

They display changes in typical behavior

Behavioral change is the best way to know if someone is lying, but it requires knowing the person well. So this is not as much of a protection from a con-artist or scammer as the target will usually not know the person in question. Scientists call this a deviation from baseline. Baseline behavior is how someone acts typically. A deviation is any change.

Many types of behavior can change when someone is lying. These can include vocal pitch, tone, speech patterns, body movement, and facial expression. People just don’t act like themselves.

Protect yourself from a lie or fraud

People as well as some companies (look at Wells Fargo) unfortunately lie every day. Sometimes it involves a scam, sometimes a personal matter, or it can really be anything. Individuals may lie for significant reasons (such as a con job or fraud) and sometimes for no reason at all. They often lie to get themselves out of a potentially tricky situation, to get money from someone, to avoid showing their true self, or to avoid conflict.

If you think someone or a business has an employee who is lying (as maybe running a scam), look for the truth in body language. Ask for documentation and get down to the facts…numbers, math, etc. as documentation is much more difficult to manipulate. You should be better able to get a sense of whether or not the person or company is being honest.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

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