by Dr Boyce Watkins
One of the most exciting things about being black in the 21st century is that we are in the middle of one of the most significant economic revolutions in history. The wealth inequality problem will be solved, not by white folks who decide to give us jobs, but by black people who’ve learned the importance of creating jobs of our own.
We are educating our own children more and more everyday, yanking them away from corrupt public school systems that have proven their ability to ruin black youth by the boatload. We are also buying from each other in ways that were previously unimaginable, using digital technology as one of the critical tools to developing a global economic village.
Yes, being black has come back into style and even oblivious, “color blind” celebrities are starting to get the memo. There is quite a bit to celebrate.
But while most of us truly understand and respect the significance of the great black economic movement, there are a few snakes lurking in the grass. These clowns will use the word “brother” and “sister” at every turn, puke out fancy words whenever possible, and wear Dashikis of every color to convince you that they are down for the community in every single way. These individuals, who are no different from the bootleg pastors who rap and dance their way to the collection plate, are the ones who seek to take advantage of the trust and opportunity being created by black people who are determined to build an industrious nation in the 21st and 22nd centuries.
I’ve been taken by a few people who took my kindness for weakness, some of whom I’ve sued in court or smoked out in public. These individuals burn me to the core because a black man who will rob his brother is far worse than the Klan could ever be. Every fortified community must protect itself from all enemies, both foreign and domestic, so it’s important to have this conversation.
So, to help with this issue, I’ve put together a quick list of signs that might help you to know when you might be doing business with a con artist. This might be someone you’re working with, building a company with, considering going to work for, or even starting a family with. Con artists are more likely to be men, but they come in every gender. Maybe this list will help you avoid being their next victim:
1) Lots of talk, excuses and delays, but very little action: One sign of the economic snake is that he’s learned that talk is cheap and affordable, which means he uses it at every available opportunity. He was gonna come up with the money by the 23rd? Oh, his dog died. He was supposed to get the deal signed by Tuesday? His little sister just got cancer and needed him to visit her at the hospital. The con artist knows that his greatest asset is the gift of gab, and he’s going to be gabbing at you as much as possible. Like a fast-talking pimp luring in potential employees, the con artist chooses his victims carefully, uses the same language that you use, agrees with you at every turn and “just happens” to have all the same values. At the end of the day, he’s more talk than action, because he’s hoping you’ll never notice the difference.
2) Afraid to put any money on the table: Always beware of the name-dropping businessman who claims to be doing multi-million dollar deals, but then happens to have “forgotten his wallet” when it’s time to pick up the tab at Denny’s. The con artist is the person who won’t put up any of his own money most of the time, but will always get you to put up yours. Don’t move a muscle until he puts skin in the game – that means a cleared check, in your bank account, which shows that he’s serious about doing business. If he can’t write a check to get access to your time and resources, then that means that he’s not yet doing the business that he claims he’s doing. I have yet to meet a millionaire who can’t come up with $500 to prove that he’s serious, but I know a lot of fake millionaires who are trying to fake it till they make it. This might be OK if no one gets hurt, but it’s unfair to let someone waste your time and real money on something that might not be more than an illusion.
3) You see them lie, cheat and steal from other people: You can always learn a lot about a person by how they treat other people. Never think that you’re the beneficiary of preferential treatment – if they lie to others, they are probably lying to you too. So, when you hear the con artist talking badly about other people and how he’s deceiving them, just realize that you’re probably dealing with a deceptive person. As Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
4) He doesn’t do business in a clear and direct fashion: A legitimate business person will do business in a legitimate way. If the person you’re doing business with wants all of their money in cash, has multiple aliases, or asks you to put the money into their cousin Pookie’s bank account, this can be a sign that the person you’re dealing with isn’t on the up and up. Sure, everyone has a struggle every now and then, but some people can be ridiculous.
5) Your gut tells you that something doesn’t seem right: Always trust your instincts. Your subconscious mind has an extraordinary ability to pick up on subtle cues that you might miss with conscious thinking. If your gut is telling you that something doesn’t seem right or you feel that you’re being taken for a ride, then back up, get a second and third opinion and don’t let go of any money until everything has been verified and you’re being informed of the business deal every step of the way.
6) Gets super offended when you start asking difficult questions: One of the best defensive tactics known to man is to go on the offensive. So, the day you start to realize that you might be getting ripped off, the con artist will begin to play with your emotions. He’ll remind you that it’s going to be impossible for you to do business without trust, or he may remind you that others are dying for this same 0pportunity. He might even name-drop to remind you that you’re screwing up the chance to do business with someone who has a lot of big names in his pocket. Don’t fall for any of this. Keep asking questions and when they aren’t being answered, run and keep your money. Anyone who can’t tell you exactly what they are doing with your money is probably doing something they don’t want you to know about.
7) Puts pressure on you to pay money right away: Anyone who plays mind games with you to get you to pay money quickly is typically not your friend. Sure, some deadlines are legitimate, but if a person seeks to bully you into giving him lots of money or tries to make you fear that you’re going to “miss out” on an amazing (yet unproven) opportunity, be extremely careful. One thing that the con artist understands is how to psychologically manipulate other people, and part of that manipulation involves bullying those whom he believes to be green, uninformed and vulnerable.
8) Keeps you on a need-to-know basis: The sharing of information is critical in business, love and life. One of the ways to know that you’re being swindled is that the con artists keeps you in the dark on critical aspects of the project. If you ask for details, they either tell you they’re going to get back to you (which they never do), or they tell you not to worry about it. Then, when you press them, they begin to act as though they are offended that you are asking so many questions.
9) He “gets you pregnant”: One tactic of the con artist is what is called the “Bait and switch” method. This is where you allow the victim to believe that the situation is one way and then you switch things up after they’re already committed and invested. For example, the con artist might say, “Yea, I thought it was only going to cost a thousand, but I found out that we’re going to need another $200 to get the rest of the deal done. Can you get the money to me by Friday?”
10) He plays to your greed and fantasies: One of the keys to success for the con artist is that he knows what you want. He listens carefully and promises whatever your heart desires. You want to be famous? He can get that done. You want to make millions? He’ll tell you a story about a friend who did the same thing under his watch. This person might disguise himself as a mentor and confidante to earn your trust, when the truth is that they are seeking to exploit you. Typically, the promises are huge enough that the investment you’re being asked to make is miniscule compared to the long-term rewards. For example, you expect to earn $100,000 from the business deal, so why not invest another $1500? By getting into your head in this way, the con artist can turn you into his personal ATM machine.
The reason for this article is to provide a warning to those seeking to build businesses in the black community. There are lots of unscrupulous people who have no problem taking advantage of the growing trust in the black community and it should leave us furious. This happens in the street, in the church, in the boardroom and nearly everywhere else. So, be cautious when doing business, not everyone loves the black community the way you do.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and founder of The Black Business School. To learn more, please visit BoyceWatkins.com.