16 Ways to Know If the Person You Met Online Is Lying to You

online liar

We all know what dishonesty is. Unfortunately, we usually know after the fact. After we’ve learned we’ve just been had. If we are lucky, the price for that learning is embarrassment and regret. If we’re not so lucky, the price can be misery and death. And everything in between. Loss of money, reputation, friends, status, as well as your sense of safety.

Researchers call this deception. That word just doesn’t cut it for me. It’s too bland. Just for kicks I went to the thesaurus and found some other words. Words that give me the sense of feeling around being lied to.

Feel free to add your own words to this list in the comments section here.

  • lie
  • deceit
  • double-dealing
  • fraud
  • cheat
  • treachery
  • crookedness
  • trick
  • sham
  • fake
  • con
  • catfishing
  • predator
  • abuse
  • jerk

When someone lies to you, they know that what they are telling you is not true. Last year I went to the academic literature and read everything I could find about lying online. There was so much information, it was difficult to digest. This is my attempt to make the information more accessible to you. More useful to anyone attempting to date online.

  • Their words and actions don’t match

The first hint that a liar will give you is that their words and online behaviors do not belong together. The word used for this is congruent which means align together or in harmony.

  • They leave things out

People leave things out. That’s a clue. Missing information. If you listen carefully, you can hear the gaps and holes in what they say.

  • They alter the truth in some way

People distort the truth. Making things bigger, smaller or different than they are. Often when this happens, what they are telling you just doesn’t make sense. The pieces don’t quite fit. It’s not logical. Their writings don’t fit together. The words and ideas in their writing don’t always belong together.

  • They are vague and unclear in their speech and writing.

When what we hear, see, or experience is vague and unclear, we fill in the blanks for the other person. This is a normal conversation trait. Liars use this to manipulate you because you are more likely to make a positive sense out of them than a negative one.

  • They act like they believe someone who is truthful will act

This you can see. Again, by looking carefully, you can tell because they cannot quite pull it off. Something is always out of sync.

  • They offer you your deepest heart’s desire

If you look carefully, they are offering you a fantasy of something you desire. Most people, however, once they hear this, they stop looking critically. They stop questioning. Most importantly, because they want this so badly, they don’t listen to their inner voice whispering, “danger, danger, this cannot be true.” The rule to use is one you’ve heard before. If it looks too good to be true it is.

  • They change the subject, don’t answer, create a distance, and stop writing to you for a while whenever it seems like you are getting close to the truth.

You can see this a bit easier online than in person. This is because there is a time lag between messages. They are self-monitoring. Self-monitoring takes time and creates a lag in time and space.

They are making sure that what they show you matches what they imagine you need to see to trust them. They want their lies to be consistent. They want to match their lies to your state of mind. And they want to make sure that their lies are getting the response from you that they desire. All that takes effort. And effort takes time.

  • Liars don’t reveal as much of themselves as most people online.

For me what the academics wrote was fascinating. They looked at the frequency of the words liars and people who are honest use. And liars don’t use words that refer to themselves as often as honest people do. These words are “I,” “me,” and “myself.”

  • Liars are more negative than honest people.

In profiles and conversations, you’ll see more angry statements. Liars tend to argue more often and point out other people. Even without an interaction, liars will defiantly make contrary statements about what someone else has said or written. In conversations, they usually say ‘‘no,’’ ‘‘not,’’ ‘‘never’’ more frequently than honest folk.

  • Their online dating profiles are shorter.

Liars, in general, use fewer words. They tell you less about themselves. Their thoughts seem simpler. When expressing emotion, they use more negative words.

  • Liars often get defensive.

When it seems like you are finding out their lie or lies, they might express mixed feelings about it. But usually, they argue and get defensive. Try to make you wrong somehow. They want to throw you off balance so you won’t pay attention to what you see, think, and feel.

  • Liars use simpler ideas and fewer words.

Liars have to remember the lies they have told you. One way they do that is to tell you less. Shorter sentences. Fewer words. Less complex ideas. And less new ideas. Much less personal information.

  • Liars use words that create barriers of time and space.

They don’t often put things into a time frame. They don’t use words like “tomorrow” or “yesterday.” They won’t give you a time that something happened or will happen. They won’t tell you when you will hear from them, for example.

  • Instead of thoughts or feelings, liars frequently talk about activity and actions.

They will tell you what they are going to do, not what they think about it. And not what they feel about it. Some writers have suggested that this is an attempt to distract you from seeing them more clearly.

  • Liars write or talk in a way that takes less personal responsibility.

They communicate in a way that makes them sound more helpless. Things happen to them and are done to them. They say, “you,” “your,” and “yours” instead of “me,” “my,” and “mine”.

  • Liars take charge of the pace and content of the conversation.

Most conversations have a rhythm and balance to them. People take turns. A liar controls this pace by aggressively interrupting, arguing ridiculous points, and questioning unimportant points. This keeps you from thinking and noticing what’s happening.

This writing is not the be all or end all of online safety. It’s simply one little piece of information in your safety toolbox.

I personally think the Internet is much more dangerous than when I was dating online 15 years ago. Even then we met people at a coffee shop or restaurant for a time limited interaction. We used safe calls with details of who we were meeting and where and when.

Today, you need a lot more research on safety to protect your well-being. I hope that you do that research.

Here is a chart of the characteristics of an online liar.

The references I used for this writing are here.


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