The Gift of Fear: summing up the strategies used by criminals and con men…
Con men use social skills to get close to and manipulate their victims. They are better at doing this than most people are at seeing through them.
Gavin de Becker wrote an amazing book called: “The Gift Of Fear.” In it he identifies 6 strategies that criminals use which can be identified and used to boomerang back on them, whether they are after you wallet or your life.
Reading this is no substitute to reading the book. I wrote this to encourage folks to get it and read it diligently.
1. Forced Teaming – the false “WE” partnership. De Becker gives many examples of what this looks like but it boils down to phrases and attitude that imply that two strangers (one of which is you) have a lot in common and are sharing a moment, getting closer and trusting each other as it were.
Defence – Don’t buy in; make it clear you are not partners and never will be. Who invited him into your life anyway? Raise your voice, be firm, be rude if you want.
2. Charm and Niceness – Charm is what someone does, not what they are. Sincere charm is one social skill that all con men and a lot of street criminals share, but it is fake. They do not mean it and it is very hard to resist.
Defence – If someone is being nice out of the blue, ask, “Why is he being so nice?” Explicitly rebuff his approach with no ambiguous terms. “Go away! Leave me alone!” You may even be rude. If he really is nice, he will listen.
3. Too many details – He knows what he is saying is a lie so he tries to hide the lie with detail to make it sound real. Not just, “Have you seen a small dog go by here?” but “ I’m looking for my small spaniel. She has a ribbon and a collar and likes people. I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t find her.”
Defence – This rush of details is the tip off that it is a lie. Never forget – this is a stranger who has approached you. He wants something from you. Reject him verbally, politely but firmly. Back away if he is too close. Bring anything you might have to hand up between you. You are not engaging him; you are showing him you can and will fight if pushed.
4. Typecasting – this is the use of a mild criticism or insult to get you to prove that you are not like that by doing what he wants you to do. “To good to talk to me, hey? Are you a snob? Just too proud to accept help, hmmm?”
Defence – If someone is trying to get closer to you and makes this type of implication, realise you are now in a fight, perhaps for you life. You don’t have to prove you are not like that, but you do have to prove to him he’s picked the wrong person to insult, even in a kindly or joking manner.
Raise your voice, be firm, be rude if you want.
5. The Unsolicited Promise – Promises are made to convince us he /she is trustworthy and we tend to think they are guarantees. Therefore our trust level goes up. “Just hlp me for a minute and then I’ll be out of your hair, I promise” “
Defence – This is one of the most reliable of all the signals as it nearly always is used to hide a questionable motive.
Ask yourself: “Why does this person feel the need to convince
me he is trustworthy? Why is it so important?” Then, act appropriately, and loudly.
6. Discounting the word “NO!” – Another very reliable signal. If a person is choosing not to hear your “No” then they are trying to manipulate you.
Defence – Never negotiate “no.” The criminal needs you to do something before she can spring her trap. Drive her somewhere, let her into your house to use the phone or get a drink of water, etc. If the door opens a crack, she will be ready to exploit it and smash her way in, so, if someone argues against your “no”, then escalate your safety immediately. If they are foiled, they will go elsewhere.
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