Con Artists?

I know a guy who spent over 40 years in a job where he is required to interrogate people for a living. Don’t ask for details please, as it is all very cloak and dagger.

He once told me “Doubt someone? Send him to me. All I have to do is to ask a couple of quick questions and from the answers I can immediately tell you everything you need to know about a person.”

I believe him but I didn’t have to use this human polygraph.

In my profession – which requires me to ask questions and engage in “active listening” – I too can easily tell a person’s character or if he’s lying or not by just asking a few quick questions.

Why do I have to find out if a person is lying?

Well, I usually don’t have to but sometimes when you want to know the real reasons why people decline your invitation to dinner, so you ask the right questions – the questions you have been trained to ask. Sometimes when you meet or bump into an old acquaintance on the road, you tend to ask some questions just to catch up.

You don’t usually get the truth. You know if you’re getting a load of crap by deploying several ways to verify the truth.

Sure, some people are in situations where they are perhaps in dire straits and they don’t want you to know, because they are embarrassed; some perhaps have ugly wives they don’t dare to show, some are in top secret clandestine government projects to eliminate alien invaders from outer space and what they do is all hush hush, yet there are those who simply don’t want to tell you anything and come up with diddly-squat. Then they are those who hum and haw maybe because they are doing something not quite legal or living off their wives or girlfriends or have become toyboys of rich old ladies.

Some examples of recent conversations I’ve had:

Acquaintance: Oh, how am I doing? I’m doing great. What am I doing? I’m into some projects in China helping my second cousin’s brother-in-law’s sister’s husband’s neighbor who is this Communist Party cadre once married to Bo Xilai’s nephew’s son’s driver’s daughter. When this thing closes, we’ll all be so rich it’ll stagger the imagination.

My interpretation: This guy is a con artist. Must ask the government to deport him.

Acquaintance: Oh, I’m on the faculty of the Singapore Institute of Management. I’m also a vice dean with a tertiary institute in the region. I’m also on the board of the Singapore Society of CEOs; we help local CEOs grow their company. I’m like a consultant to them.

My interpretation: He teaches one or two seminars at SIM. He claims to be a vice dean from a school he dares not name. He’s living from hand to mouth. There is no entity here called the Singapore Society of CEOs. He suffers from an extreme case of inferiority complex. He calls himself a “consultant” meaning he basically doesn’t have a steady job.

Acquaintance: Oh, I’m in investment and financial planning. The returns are amazing. But kinda slow. I’m taking it easy. Simplicity is strength. I’ve gotten rid of most of my assets, I travel by MRT now.

My interpretation: He watches the stock market and tries to make some money; he is unemployed and is flat broke plus he’s a freelance insurance agent or is engaged in some other apocryphal means of getting income.

Acquaintance: I’m in the biggest thing in the world now – I’m making money from the Internet. The Internet allows me to make money even when I sleep. By the way, how much did you pay for that watch?

My interpretation: He’s into Internet “marketing” – that is, spamming others on behalf of people with dubious products to sell or making use of search engines to draw suckers to some sites that sell junk like penis enlargers, etc. Plus he doesn’t seem to know that it is rude to ask people how much they pay for stuff.

Acquaintance: I’m in headhunting now and I also dabble in real estate. I am also a master executive coach helping business owners to succeed.

My interpretation: He’s an employment agent recruiting manual laborers from third world countries for building contractors and he’s a part-time real estate agent. And many who claim to be coaches making the kind of money they boast about are simply lying. Moreover, I’m always wary of anyone calling himself a “master” of anything.

Acquaintance: Oh, I’m presently compiling my recipes. Look out for it.

My interpretation: He is a cook who just got fired from the restaurant he worked in.

Acquaintance: Oh I’m in the process of setting up my own bakery. You know Singaporeans are getting tired of places like Bread Talk and Bengawan Solo and our family is a treasure trove of good old-fashioned recipes that will easily put people like Bread Talk and Bengawan Solo out of business.

My interpretation: Out of politeness, some people have complimented this person’s baking; thus encouraged, she’s now ready to take on the big boys. I’d say “good luck” to her and all the bullshitters – and masters of self-deception – mentioned above.

And good riddance to bad rubbish. All should be deported, if they are foreigners, or euthanized.

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