Have you been seeking money-making opportunities, self-improvement, or even fun adventures? If you are that’s fabulous but sometimes it’s easy to become bamboozled by charismatic con artists who pick up on their victim’s goals and dreams and suck them into their world.
The last thing any of us need as we get older is to be separated from money we dearly need, by someone who does not have our best interests at heart.
My father was a salesman and I worked in sales for over a decade. I’m familiar with the scripts, strategies, and manipulating tactics that shady characters use to draw you in. Once you are in their grasp, your money will fly out of your pocket before you can even blink.
It’s all in the words and phrases
Have you ever been to a motivational event, time-share presentation, or watched a webinar where you were coerced to purchase a big-ticket item? Many of these people are true con artists and can sell thousands of dollars in minutes from their vulnerable customers.
They often use a technique called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). It was developed in the 1970s as a hypnotherapy technique and is a form of communication that combines psychotherapy, motivation, and behavior patterns to achieve a desired result.
Hypnotherapists use it to help people deal with stress, fear, confidence, and grief. This is not to knock hypnotherapy. I’ve been through several sessions with positive results. Affirmations, visualizations, positive self-talk, and anchoring are all part of how it works and are powerful self-help tools. Just make sure the person you are seeing is certified.
However, shady marketers have embraced NLP to promote their products or agendas by offering huge promises that are too good to be true.
Older people are often targets of these marketers because they have retirement accounts, property, or other means of “funding.”
How do you know if a “con artist” has you in their sights?
I’ve attended several of motivational “seminars,” including one that promised to give me a “millionaire’s mindset.” Who could resist, right?
The slick-tongued speakers at the event worked to inspire and encourage the audience by ending their sentences with phrases like “Yes? Yes?”or “True? True?” It’s a programming technique to make the audience believe that their way is the only way and is the answer to their prayers. At most of these events, a huge discount is tacked on to “their product” that is only available if it is purchased on the spot.
At this particular event the audience rushed excitedly to the back of the room where a buying frenzy began. Eager customers handed over their credit cards to purchase $5,000+ programs without taking any time to think about it because they wanted the discount.
Most of these “con artists” are charming, positive, and believable. But what their victims do not realize is that their goal is to make big bucks even even if their customers are financially strapped afterward.
The reality of why you have to be cautious
99% of people who purchase from con artists never act on their purchase. And they could probably find a similar product at 1/10 the cost somewhere else.
A friend of mine gave a company thousands of dollars that promised to build her a successful online website and business. They set up her site but had complete control over her content. When she realized this, she had to jump through hoops to get her content back. The same website could have been created at a fraction of the cost and she would have had complete control over her content.
I also tagged along to a real estate flipping seminar with my late boyfriend. He spent ¼ of his pension buying a membership and never did bupkis with the business.
Be wary of network marketing schemes as well
Many older people are recruited into direct sales or multi-level marketing businesses because they are looking for to reinvent themselves or earn some extra cash. Network marketing offers a pre-made business plan with specific steps to follow if you want to achieve success. Consultants are told, “It’s much easier and less expensive than starting a brick-and-mortar business and there’s always tons of support.”
Sadly, some of these companies incorporate shady sales tactics as well and recruit salespeople with promises of success and camaraderie. I know this from experience because I was “successful” and made it to the top 2% of one of those companies. I went to all the seminars (at great expense), learned the scripts, and bought and sold the products just like everyone else.
It was fun for a while. The company promoted positivity which I believed helped me get through the death of my husband as I was a new widow with young children when I was recruited. However, after a decade of doing this, I realized I was spending more money than I was making. Plus, I always hated bothering all my friends to sell or recruit them.
Almost all network marketing companies have a cookie-cutter method for success. If you follow the steps, you will reach your goals to some extent. The problem is, only about 2 % follow the plan. Most get frustrated, drop out, or get really pissed off. If you decide to join a network marketing company make sure it’s well established because many companies have gone under leaving their consultants hanging.
How to know that you’ve being conned
There are specific sales tactics to look out for. A con artist trained in these techniques will first determine what side of the brain you use the most. A left-brained person is more logical and analytical. Someone who is right-brained is a creative type. They may even encourage you to take an assessment to give them more information about your communication style.
Legitimate companies use assessments like DISC and they are valuable but con artists use them to manipulate you.
They will also study your body language and speech patterns and then attempt to mirror them. This is a way to make you feel comfortable and gain your trust.
If your learning style is visual, they may use phrases like, “Look at it this way” or “Do you see what I’m saying?” If you are more auditory, they will say, “Hear me out” “Doesn’t that sound good?”
Certain words can be used to trigger an emotional state. Those trained in NLP may use a word, sound, or something physical as an anchor so you will respond on command.
You may hear phrases repeated frequently until they become embedded in your brain. Repetition is a powerful technique that we often hear in politics.
Con artists, cult leaders, news outlets, religious organizations, and politicians often use these types of tactics.
Pay attention and don’t take the bait
A con artist will attempt to bend your mind toward an opinion or action like a sale.
If you feel you are being conned ask yourself these questions:
- Is the person I’m listening to repeating phrases?
- Is what he or she is saying actually true?
- Am I being manipulated by what is being said?
- Is the offer too good to be true?
- Can I get the same or better results elsewhere?
- Will I follow up or am I just kidding myself?
The last thing an older person needs is to lose their nest egg by falling victim to a con job. Next time you’re listening to a time-share presentation (we all get talked into them) attend a motivational seminar or watch a TV show, commercial, or news show, take a moment to determine if you are being programmed, especially if you’re the impulsive type:
- Take a breath. Maybe several breaths.
- Before taking action, sleep on it first. (The HUGE discount you are being offered will be there tomorrow)
- Do your research online to see if there have been complaints.
- Ask friends on the outside for advice.
- Use your common sense.
Have you ever been a victim of a con artist? Leave a comment below.