Deception Detection: So you thought you had it made?

Julie Levin (an intern's musings)

In this economy, not too many people feel absolutely secure in their financial situation. Well unless you're among the uber-elite .1% of the population made up of oil tycoons, Hollywood movie producers, and select other heirs and heiresses. For these people luxury is a much a part of daily life as say, worrying about money, is for the rest of us mortals. The sobering fact of the matter though, according to the June issue of Vanity Fair, is that even these formerly enviable folks (or spoiled narcissists, depending on your outlook)are starting to suffer under the weight of impending recession and scheming investment bankers, among whom Bernie Madoff is perhaps most infamous these days. Telltale sign of trouble in paradise: newly listed rentals and steep markdowns of pricey Hampton's get-a-ways.

So how is it that men like Madoff were able to pull off their large scale Ponzi schemes (defined by Wikipedia as: fraudulent investment operations that pay returns to investors from money paid by subsequent investors rather than from any actual profit earned) and cheat these apparently business savvy millionaires out of so much of their fortunes?

Well if attendance at Patti's Deception Detection program last night taught me one thing it's that charisma can overwhelm our fairly adept natural ability to detect deception. When we meet a charismatic, attractive individual--which Bernie Madoff by all accounts is--we have an immediate (though often unfortunate) desire to trust him or her. Think of the stud at the bar who bought you a drink and told you that he was single. Note: the good ones never are. So rather than heeding all the warning signs intended to keep us out of trouble, we are much more likely to hand over our money or hearts to these smooth talking, good looking manipulators.

As one of those girls who tends to fall for the attractive "bad boy" types I find this all particularly disheartening. But here's to hoping that I one day have enough money to be worth a scheming investment banker's efforts (and an attractive husband who will advise me against investing with him.)