DURING THE TIME I lived among the five con artists, they lied to me and gulled me of so much of my money that I was forced to cultivate cunning to survive. In a situation where the clever ones eat the gullible, developing wariness isn’t a matter of choice. Luckily Hardy helped me by providing the kind of knowledge that all but veteran manipulators are ignorant of. Hardy taught me to recognize the subtle markings of a situation that betray a well-laid deceit. If you detect these tipoffs in a situation, you should develop cold feet, and become mule-stubborn about releasing any money to a person who shows these signs. Fact you probably should show him the door, and end your association with him altogether. Watch out for those who protest too much. Remember Shakespeare’s “Methinks thou doth protest too much”? (In other words, ·’You’ve said it so many times that you make me suspect you’re lying about it. “) Note the striking parallel between Shakespeare and this situation, where I took a small financial beating. . As I entered my apartment one night, my roommate told me that Hardy had just called me from jail. He’d been arrested for public drunkenness. Since Hardy considered me his “only real friend in the world,” he asked me to come and post bail for him. Hardy begged me to hurry because he claimed to be in a standing-room-only cell with “a bunch of stinking, vomiting slobs.” Hardy was always meticulous about his personal cleanliness. And he insisted on a hospital-clean apartment, so I knew he must be enduring a living hell. But I also suspected that the filthy jail might prove excellent therapy for his desire to get drunk in the future. A sloppy, heaving deterrent. “You’ll never regret this. Just as soon as I get the money, I’ll see that you’re paid back. You just don’t know how much I appreciate this,” were Hardy’s grateful words. He told me this as we walked away from the jail after I bailed him out. But despite this bountiful outpouring of assurance on his part, I never received a dime of the money. He left town still owing me two hundred dollars. Any time the other person stresses something too much, the street-educated mind begins to doubt him. Often this “protesting too much” provides learned ears a telltale clue that the other party is purposely misleading him. When a liar is pulling a fast one, he often soothe talks you in a too-reassuring, too-demonstrative way. Uncomfortable about his lie, he nervously overcompensates for his lack of substance. When a person tells you over and over how he’s going to make money for you on a deal, and pats you on the back saying, “I want to see you get everything you’ve got coming to you,” watch out. He’s probably patting you on the back so he can feel a soft place to put the knife in. If you stand to gain a lot from a deal a person proposes, the terms of the deal will usually speak for themselves-without his droning on and on about your potential benefits. Look out if he repeats-I say repeats-what you stand to gain over and over. If a person proposes a deal, he must have some-·· thing to gain from it, or he wouldn’t waste his breath. And you can bet that the more the other party harps on about making you money, the more he stands to gain from the deal at your expense. A person who proposes a deal with terms that favor you doesn’t feel a need to sell it excessively. He knows that good terms speak for themselves. So he assumes something of a take-it-or-Ieave-it stance.The same dynamics that are at work in your business dealings also show up in your personal relationships. A person you can trust doesn’t need to remind you of it. His or her behavior in the relationship will speak for itself, if he can be trusted. If a person feels a need to remind you of his trustworthiness, he’s probably trying to use you. Every con man who ever bilked me out of money took pains to remind me that I could trust him before he did it. Here I give you their exact words: Hardy, $200: “You’ll never regret this. Just as soon as I get the money, I’ll see that you’re paid hack. I’ve always paid you everything lowed you.” (Which was true, except for the last $200 that I never recei ved a dime of.) The Dallas man, $800 (I’ll explain this one later): “Rick, just tell me; have I ever failed to pay you a penny lowed you?” (No, except for the last 80,000 penmes you owed me, none of which I ever saw again.) Con man from New York, $40: “I’ll pay you for these long distance calls the minute you get the phone hill. You can count on me.” (He made those calls on my phone while I was at work, and w hen I got the phone hill, he denied owing me for them. So I never saw the money.) Hot-check artist from EI Paso, Texas, $0: “Rick, I’d never cheat a friend.” (I realized that he had an easy out when he decided not to pay me. I would nolonger be classified as a “friend,” and he didn’t promise me that he wouldn’t cheat an enemy. So I hooted at his $ I 25 loan request.) Surely you’ve grasped the moral of the story: When a person tells you several times that you can trust him, or if he tells you how much he’s going to do for you, panic and run. In no case should you enter into any dealings with him that involve legal tender. Similarly you’ll run into people who “protest too much” in your private relationships that don’t involve money. As just one example, if you’re a woman and you meet a man who claims to be a strong supporter of women’s liberation, you might suspect that something is afoot. Men don’t naturally assume such a strong affirmative position on women’s rights. So you should wonder whether the one who does it is trying to use you. I’ve heard several women complain about men attempting to fast-talk them this way. If a man really feels this way, his behavior in the relationship should speak for itself. Then he shouldn’t feel any nervous need to remind you of it — or to compensate with words for his lack of substance. One way to know whether you’re dealing with a trustworthy person Hardy used a commonsense tactic for sizing up a person’s trustworthiness: He listened to that person tell the same story twice. As he listened, his mind carefully tape-recorded all the details to see if they matched in both versions. Then he could tell how consistent the two stories were. This degree of consistency was his gauge of a person’s honesty. If a person relates a story differently each time he tells it, you’re probably dealing with an untrustworthy liar. Habitual liars soon get so used to changing stories to fit the purpose at hand that they often forget how they told the story the first time. There’s another closely related clue that should tell you a person’s too crooked to deal with. If you ever hear a person you trust lie to someone else, it’s time you canceled your trust. Hardy told me, “If a man lies to somebody else, he’ll lie to you. What makes you believe he’ll think any more of YOU down the line when it’ll suit his. purpose to lie to you?” You see, people live by an internal code they have. If their code lets them lie to an enemy, they’ll do the same to a “friend” when it will get them something they want. People basically treat their “friends” the same way they treat everybody else. After all, it’s easy to reclassify a friend as an “enemy” when he gets in the way of something you’re after, isn’t it? Never trust a person who lies to somebody else, but says he won’t lie to you because you’re a pal. Your “pal” status isn’t set in concrete, you know. Most of the users and con artists I lived around lied this way-casually and as naturally as they breathed. So you should be wary of dealing with people who don’t stick pretty close to the truth in every situation.They’re likely to be ruthless users. And Hardy’s tactic can tip you off to who these people are. Beware of people who “once had money but lost it.” Near ly every con artist I ever met had amassed a great deal of wealth, but bad luck had robbed him of it-at least to hear him tell it. The Dallas man, who later conned me out of $800, claimed to have once been a millionaire. Hardy claimed to have once had a great deal of money. And the California con man, who lived next door to me, claimed that his father was a millionaire. But despite all this alleged money in their backgrounds, none of these men seemed able to come up with his rent consistently at the beginning of the month-with the exception of Hardy, whose pockets were usually swollen with money. Obviously most of these riches-to-rags stories would prove pure fiction if a person investigated them. But they do serve a valuable purpose to the street-educated listener: They’re a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a charlatan. Of course I’m not saying that no honest man has ever lost his wealth. But even if this is the case, you’re smart to avoid any financial dealings with him anyway. If you hear this old song and dance from someone, you’re probably dealing with a con artist who’s setting you up to play the dupe. A large percentage of the world’s con artists use this line to give people confidence in the idea that a once-rich man has made money before, and can do it again for them.Even if a person you know is honest hands you the riches-to-rags line, you’d be foolish to take financial advice from him. If he knows how to handle money, why did he lose all of his? When a man who’s rich now tells you how to invest your money, you might want to scoop up his advice. Chances are he knows how to make money better than a broke man does. For instance, the Dallas man claimed to have been a millionaire before the recession killed his business. And at one time he tried to convince me to buy a used car he heard about for $300. He said I could resell the car for $ 700 easily within the week, thereby more than doubling my money. After I declined the deal, he somehow got his hands on $300 and bought the car himself. But this “gold mine on wheels” cost him $400 in repairs the first two weeks he owned it. And he wound up having to keep it because he couldn’t recoup the money he had tied up in it. So much for taking financial advice from people who either did have or claim to have had a fortune, then lost it. A dead giveaway that you’re dealing with an incompetent The educational world has a word for a teacher who overlooks the important ideas in a student’s paper, and chooses to criticize instead a misplaced comma or some such trivial detail. He is called a “pedant.” The business jungle also has a term for a person who acts this way. It’s “a failure.” The person who emphasizes details and fails totake care of the most important things first can only fail in the business world. In every business I’ve seen, you can’t take care of all the situations that need attention, no matter how hard you work. So the shrewd person lets the nonvital details go and concentrates on taking care of the crucial problems. For exam pIe, an intelligent manager takes care of sales, the thing that makes a profit, and lets strict enforcement of the dress code go. After all, the most stringently enforced dress code in the world never made a dime in profit for a business. A person can’t satisfy all the demands on his time. So when you see someone emphasizing minor details, it’s a dead giveaway that he’s an incompetent. While he’s squandering his time on the nonessential, you can bet the essential is going undone. As ridiculous as this behavior looks on paper, you’ll find it surprisingly common in the business world. When you see these kinds of perverted priorities in one of your business associates, don’t hitch your wagon to his star — even if he’s your boss. This person is bound to be a failure. And if the two of you are associated too closely, you could go down with him. My first boss fell into this category. Immediately after I attended one of his sales meetings without a tie, he bared his teeth and chewed me out royally for my appearance. But although he enforced whiteglove standards of appearance on his sales force, he somehow failed to notice that, far more importantly, all of his salesmen were losing respect for him. Less than one month after I received my dressing-downfrom him, he had been fired. To the business-sharpened eye, his misplaced priorities would have foretold his failure. Likewise, a few years back, I was named manager of a restaurant to replace a man who had just been fired. It seems that the fired manager had forgotten that the customers paid his salary. As a result, he emphasized jobs like keeping the kitchen clean over his whole reason to be, serving customers good food. Such upside-down priorities signal a lack of judgment that inevitably brings on failure in the business world. So you’re better off to steer clear of business associations with this kind of incompetent.