People who have narcissistic, machiavellian and psychopathic personality traits that are likely to influence others in ways that involve lying cheating and stealing, but if we know these people are out there how can we avoid becoming a victim? It’s quite difficult to detect these people because some of them can be very charming, but I will offer some tips. 

People who have narcissistic, machiavellian and psychopathic personality traits that are likely to influence others in ways that involve lying cheating and stealing, but if we know these people are out there how can we avoid becoming a victim? It’s quite difficult to detect these people because some of them can be very charming, but I will offer two tips.

Too good to be true

First, don’t believe someone who offers you something that is too good to be true. Money for nothing, a product substantially better than all of the competitors but somehow cheaper, a magical service that does absolutely everything you need. These are things you should be suspicious of. I don’t want you to be on the lookout and distrusting all the time, it is useful to practice skepticism.

You can practice being a skeptic by looking for suspicious claims in newspapers, television and websites. One common is the claim by nutritional supplements to prevent disease, most of these claims have not been independently verified by scientists and the US Food and Drug Administration does not heavily regulated least for now ads for nutritional supplements.

We all want to believe that a single small pill, once a day to prevent a heart attack or cure arthritis, but it’s just not likely to be true given the variety of factors that influence these health conditions. Talk to a few people and look for evidence elsewhere before buying.

Trust but verify

The second thing you can try is this, adopt the advice contained in a Russian proverb trust but verify. In negotiations with the Soviet Union in 1980s Ronald Reagan use this phrase frequently and publicly. It’s also advice that is often followed by investigative reporter seeking to get to the bottom of great story.

I caution against overusing this as an approach to life because it’ll make you unhappy if you are taking everyone’s out to get you. But, the next time someone you don’t know tries to gain your confidence maybe to get your money, double check the story. If it’s email, see if you can verify the source and the nature of the email from an independence source, don’t click on any links from any unsolicited emails.

If you’re interested because it sounds like a good deal do an independent online search to see if others have reported that email as a fraud. If it’s your investment advisor sending you news ask for specific transaction records and a full explanation of your gains not just your losses. Can you verify the numbers you’re being shown from a second source?

When we hear what we want to hear it’s easy to not be critical, but often as in the case of Bernie Madoff’s clients that’s exactly when we need to be.