Normally we can keep our guard up against obvious e-mail scams and get rich schemes. We’re smart after all. But once that crap comes in the form of a well-dressed dude who drives a $150,000 Bentley and throws around money like it’s in his way, things aren’t so simple.
He hits you up with a slick story, flashes some fancy things in your face and makes you believe he will help you earn some obscene amount of money because he really “believes in you and what you are doing.”
A few weeks later, you’re waking up freezing in a bathtub full of ice in Tijuana with a note taped to your forehead telling you to “get to the doctor fast if you want to live,” because your new friend just harvested your kidney and took equity in your new company.
If you like your organs and don’t want to feel like an asshole, remember the below red flags next time something doesn’t feel quite right.
1. Nothing Ever Verifies Online.
If someone has done something of any note, there should be a trail of evidence online that lines up with their story. If they are dodging social media for “privacy” and you can’t find anything credible online about them, you may have a bullshitter on your hands.
Taken a step further, even if you do find an article or blog post about someone, don’t take that on it’s own as any kind of ironclad proof. If the person is bullshitting you, it would have taken them about 10 seconds to convince a content hungry blogger to write whatever they wanted said about themselves.
2. They Mysteriously Shutdown “Successful” Projects and Businesses.
When you see someone with a long list of “successes” that have mysteriously disappeared into oblivion (“Oh, I spent the last two years working on this website. It was getting a lot of traffic and making money, I just wanted to do something else so I shut it down”), you can bet the farm they are overhyping things and lying about why the projects are no longer around.
If something was legitimately making money or worth having, they would have kept it going or sold it to someone else. If neither happened, there is something important missing from their story.
3. Immediately Latches Onto & Identifies With Other People’s Projects.
Some of the most common bullshitters I’ve seen over the years are the people who unjustly claim involvement and ownership in things that they have little-to-nothing to do with. Similarly, you’ll get the people that you’ve barely met and now they are trying to get business cards and a title under your company. Aka: Weasel their way into your business.
Ask yourself, if this person is so successful and was already making so much money, why are they now telling everyone they are your business partner? That doesn’t happen in real life. It would be like Richard Branson suddenly telling everyone he was a SilentRich.com contributor when he first met them. Ain’t gonna happen.
4. They Are A Little Quick To Show Off.
A person of legitimate wealth, success and influence is usually acclimated to the lifestyle and the kinds of people who surround them as a result. They are used to them in the same way that you get used to a new car after a few months. You may have been excited and telling people about it at first, but the new car smell is long gone and now you’re just driving it to get from Point A to Point B.
The opportunist and bullshit artist needs you to be impressed, because that’s all they’ve got going for them. They will namedrop like it’s going out of style, bombard you with (unsubstantiated) tales of glory, and damn near run over your foot so that you can see them driving a luxury car.
If their “success” feels a little forced upon you and unnatural to them, it probably is.
5. Holes In Their Timeline, Unexplained Successes.
I knew a guy for about a decade who bounced from job-to-job while he was trying to start various businesses. The jobs never lasted much longer than his business ideas, but I respected his hustle and was legitimately rooting for him to eventually succeed.
Then, out of nowhere, he was bending over backward to show off how much money and (alleged) success he had. Every other day it was something new. And every other week his life story and professional biography grew even more ridiculously embellished and completely out-of-line with his actual past.
To someone who had just met him, they could easily have taken it face value and assumed he was Elon Musk’s long lost twin. If you can’t follow someone’s life story and see a verifiable timeline of things that make sense, you’re dealing with a red flag.
6. Won’t Answer Questions Directly.
When someone doesn’t know what they are talking about, or is simply trying to avoid the question you’re asking, they will always give vague answers and then segue on to talk about something else. If you leave a conversation with unanswered questions and don’t fully know what the person even just said, that’s a massive red flag.
7. They Don’t Talk About Their Failures.
No one in business hits a home run every time they go to bat. Period. And some of the most important lessons that any entrepreneur will ever learn, are the result of expensive losses, missteps, and blunders. If someone never mentions or admits to tripping here and there, that’s a red flag.
8. They’ve Previously Worked Closely With Known Bullshitters.
Birds of a feather do, in fact, flock together and it takes a while to get a bullshitter’s stink off. If someone was working very closely with Shady McShadster for any length of time, it would serve as a pretty good indication that they either have a terrible sense of judgment or were in on things with similar intent. Especially if they don’t go to great and honest lengths to apologize for the association.
This doesn’t always mean they are not worth working with, but they are definitely on probation.
9. You Catch Them In Lies.
I once had a guy bring me into a meeting in my own conference room with someone he was trying to sell his services to. Brazenly, he started hitting his mark with all of the same lies he had told me about how he was going to help my business, and then even took it a step further in calling me a business partner (we had just met) and using a barely-existent business of mine (I’d just come up with the name) as the brand that had done all the wonderful things he was selling him on.
For obvious reasons, if you catch someone lying to someone else, you can assume this a red flag that they are probably lying to you.
10. They Never Live Up To Expectations.
Last, but by no means least, are the people who don’t live up to their promises. Ever. There is always a reason for why something didn’t happen and it’s never their fault. All the increased sales or investment they promised never materialized. They are almost never on time. Something is late because a third party didn’t deliver on time. The person they referred to you ended up being a quack who dropped the ball. On and on and on.
If they over promise and under deliver even one time, keep your guard on high alert. It’s likely to keep happening. – JC