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How to Spot out Liars in a Digital World

How to Spot out Liars in a Digital World

The digital world has opened our lives up in many ways. Social connections can be made at a click of a button so it’s become a fast and easy place to meet people. This ease means you can reach millions of people, interact and have conversations as well as the control to respond or ignore anyone you want, which can be much harder in the real world. Building multiple relationships at once becomes the norm online with those people living in any corner of the world.

But what’s the downside to all of this? The problem is that, with the ease of building relationships with others, comes the greater the risk of being scammed. According to the Internet Complaint Centre, a whopping $173 million was lost by people scammed by romantic fraudsters just in California alone.[1]

If the digital world is a great place to build new connections and enhance our lives, why do more and more people fall for these scams online than they probably would in the real world?

How Our Minds Work: The Truth Bias

For our social, career and even governmental relationships to work, a certain amount of trust has to be in place. This is because questioning people’s veracity at every turn doesn’t create harmonious relationships. In other words, it’s become a social default to ignore inconsistencies because we want to trust that what we hear, see and read is the truth. This is known as the truth bias.

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    And while the truth bias is essentially a peaceful and amicable way to go about the world, unfortunately it provides the average liar with an advantage.

    Online presence takes away real life verbal and physical clues that face-to-face communication provides which is one way to fall for a liar’s words. But many people often dismiss discrepancies in order to avoid upfront questioning and would prefer to believe they are speaking to a truthful person.

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      The internet essentially acts as a mask making it hard to really know who we’re exchanging words with. In the real world, we can get a feel for a person’s energy or body language which helps create a fuller picture. But behind a screen, we are reliant on unpracticed techniques to figure a person out and our brains haven’t been able to build up enough data in order to spot a friend or foe without these physical interactions.

      Why the Internet Isn’t What It Seems

      Most people have put their stamp on the internet in the form of a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or dating profile and almost everyone is guilty of filtering, photoshopping or adjusting their pictures in some way. In most cases it’s harmless. We often exaggerate our hobbies and interests in order to make ourselves appear better to others. Again this can be a subconscious thing and quite innocent because we all want to build a unique and interesting image in order to attract people.

        However, we all know there are people out there that bend the truth when it comes to their profiles which can be hard to spot. Their life seems almost perfect with their top education, multilingual skills and high-earning job. Can this really be true? How can you trust that it’s a genuine person?

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        How to Spot out Liars in a Digital World

        Building relationships online is a great way of meeting new people and most of the time it’s not all bad. Being cautious, however, is a must because you don’t have these instinctive verbal or physical clues that you’d normally work from.

        Having the skills to decode a person’s personality, sincerity and veracity on the other side of a screen is down to getting a feel for the person and making educated guesses.

          Educated guesses is an open-minded yet cautious way to go about getting to know someone you may not see in person. If you find yourself building a relationship online:

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          1. Make a few guesses first. From what you see, try to find both positive and negative sides to them. This will help keep a balanced view without the truth bias kicking in straight away. Look at the overall person, not just what they tell you or what another person tells you about them.
          2. Do an internet search on them. This may appear like stalking but it’s helpful to make sure their different profiles show consistency across the board. This includes consistency of information as well as personality in terms of what they share or how they interact.
          3. Look for evidence that all information aligns. Look back on your initial guesses about the person and see if they match up (or don’t match up) with any of the information you’ve gathered. After weighing it out, you should be able to see if the evidence supports one guess over the other.

          When assessing someone online, you need to be logical instead of relying on instinct which serves us best when we see someone face-to-face. Having a more logical approach will negate the tendency to allow the truth bias to override and therefore reduce the vulnerability of being deceived.

          Next time you meet someone online, take a step back and allow yourself to be cautious. While it’s good to trust others, be aware of the truth bias we all tend to use when interacting with others and make sure you don’t make yourself vulnerable to the scammers.

          Reference

          [1] Sheriff McDonnell and Cyber Investigators: Love Hurts: A Forum and Discussion on Online Dating Safety

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          Anna Chui

          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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          Last Updated on May 7, 2019

          How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

          How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

          Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

          The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

          The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

          Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

          People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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            They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

            Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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                1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
                2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
                3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
                4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
                5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

                How to Spot a Wolf

                  Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

                  Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

                  A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

                  A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

                  Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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                  Ask Questions, the More the Better

                  There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

                  When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

                  Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

                  They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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                  Wolves Are Everywhere

                  As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

                  Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

                  Reference

                  [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
                  [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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