Hallmarks of a Charlatan

Tales from a software engineer and geek

Hallmarks of a Charlatan

To say I’ve had my share of exchanges with charlatans over the years, would be an understatement. From dentists, to a former boss, revenge porn extortionists, to a local turnkey travel-club scam, and many others, my life experience with fraudsters is clearly above average.

The amusing fact, for me at least, is that I seldom seek these people out. Somehow, they find me; as though I’m a lightning-rod for con-artists.

Common among these charlatans is the sheer audacity of their scams, in addition to the hubris that ultimately befalls them. They spend a great deal of effort to merely maintain the scam once it’s been started. Initially, you could see where they thought it was a quick buck. As time progressed, the required maintenance grew exponentially.

Delusions of grandeur are clear hallmarks for these types. I still couldn’t tell you if it’s a case of them believing their own bullshit, or more of a “fake it ’till you make it” attitude. Whatever it is they’re proclaiming to be, they’re the best. They make sure to wow you with who they are, who they know, things they claim to have done, and much more. The purchases they make are always the best; best car, priciest watch, newest and greatest phone. It seems to be how they measure their success. Their plans for the future are always as grandiose as the lives they pretend to lead; going to space, expanding their business rapidly, buying a mansion with more rooms than would be necessary to house a platoon. And they seem to always have a vanity license plate with their name on it.

Their résumé is always clearly targeted to impress. Rather than a statement of facts lightly embellished of their previous job experience, they focus on their own titles, and the “big league” category of their previous employer; Chief operating officer at Fortune 500 company, chief technical officer at a major law firm, national tech giant, founder of a venture capital backed startup, and the like.

Some people are just impressive. These types tell you why you should be impressed with them, and what exactly you should be impressed with.

Clearly too content in the castle of deceit they’ve built to see the reality of it; that it’s a house of cards about to collapse onto them. Hoisted by their own petard.

The arrogance that helped build their fort of delusion seems impenetrable. They outsmarted people after all, and got away with it. When someone finally sees through their nonsense, they become fixated on that person, an obvious new enemy; the threat to everything they’ve built. Relentless searching, grasping at any straws to deter and deflect the menace encroaching. Subtle threats go from “I’m too big for you to mess with,” “you’re just a nobody, a fly I’ll swat,” and my very favorite: “I know things about you. Things you don’t want released! Things that would destroy you!”

Of course, their goal is to make it seem as though they’re being merciful. “I’m a very important person, and I could stomp you like a bug! But I pity you.” Soon after, the name-calling starts, trying everything they can to get under your skin and rile you up. Then it’s off to threaten your livelihood. You are, after all, threatening theirs.

They hope the world sees exactly what it’s told: A towering colossus, a beast no one dare irk, or hellfire shall rain down upon those who doubt their glory.

In reality, they’re scared children with a papier-mâché mask that few seldom challenge. And when someone finally does, the collapse of the pseudo-empire is spectacular to watch.

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