4 March 2013

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6 Tricks That Impostors Use To Deceive People

The idea of impostors sounds like the type of thing that you only encounter in movies or fiction. But real-life impostors happen far more than you'd think. Whether their intention is a straightforward one of defrauding people out of money or a much murkier psychological one in which they worm their ways into people's lives using a false identity for no real identifiable material gain, all impostors are experts at reading and manipulating people. There are generally two types of impostor. One type simply pretends to be a kind of person they are not. For example, there have been several cases of adults passing as teenagers and enrolling in high schools. The other type of impostor actually pretends to be a specific person. This may be a person who was missing for many years and returns to the family left behind. Read on to learn about some of the tricks of the impostor trade.

Disguised

The idea of impostors sounds like the type of thing that you only encounter in movies or fiction. But real-life impostors happen far more than you'd think. Whether their intention is a straightforward one of defrauding people out of money or a much murkier psychological one in which they worm their ways into people's lives using a false identity for no real identifiable material gain, all impostors are experts at reading and manipulating people.

There are generally two types of impostor. One type simply pretends to be a kind of person they are not. For example, there have been several cases of adults passing as teenagers and enrolling in high schools. The other type of impostor actually pretends to be a specific person. This may be a person who was missing for many years and returns to the family left behind. 

Read on to learn about some of the tricks of the impostor trade.

Observing the Behavior of the Culture
This is an early step for the impostor in learning about the new environment. For example, an impostor hoping to pose as a student would hang around the school noticing how people behave, how they get in and out of buildings and how they show that they belong. By cultivating this familiarity, the impostor is able to appear like a person who belongs in the environment as well.

Information Gathering
There are a number of ways that impostors gather information from researching documents available to the public to going through the trash of people the impostor plans to deceive. The impostor will need to gather more information if the deception will involve pretending to be a specific person. An impostor can also get a great deal of information from seemingly casual conversation with the right person such as a janitor or housekeeper if the impostor will not have further contact with that person once the deception has begun.

A Good Cover Story
Once the impostor has done the proper research, a cover story can be concocted. impostors are skilled at putting together plausible-sounding stories to explain their sudden appearance in a place. Often, it is a story that puts the impostor in a vulnerable position and makes others want to offer help. impostors are also good at maintaining trust even when their story starts to slip by offering what seems like reasonable explanations for inconsistencies. In short, they are good liars.

Preying on Vulnerabilities
This is particularly significant when the impostor is pretending to be someone a family has thought lost. When French serial impostor Frédéric Bourdin told a Texas family in 1997 that he was the son who had vanished at 13 in 1994, the family desperately wanted to believe that their beloved Nicholas had come back to them. 

Preying on the desperate wishes of bereaved family members gives impostors the extra edge when inconsistencies appear such as Bourdin's French accent.

Physical Disguise
Many impostors are masters of physical disguise. This is particularly true when people in their 20s or even older have tricked people into believing they are teens attending high school. impostors understand the importance of not just physical features but dress and body language in giving the impression they are someone else.

Exploiting the Trust of Others
Ultimately, impostors are skilled manipulators who exploit one of the most basic tenets of the social contract: we are who we tell people we are. They are practiced at charming people using eye contact and telling people what they expect or want to hear.
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License: Creative Commons image source 

About Today's Guest Writer:
Jamie Reynolds has worked as a forensics examiner for 22 years and was happy to lend his expertise to the guide on How To Become A Forensic Investigator.


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