From my first days as a street cop, I was truly amazed at the level, degree and consistency that people would lie right to my face. They lied about everything, even when they knew that I knew the truth…even when the truth would save them. It got to the point that I didn’t believe anything that anyone said to me.  It seemed, I couldn’t even catch people telling me the truth. Since then, I’ve softened up a bit.  Probably because I’m not dealing with the same criminal element on such a consistent basis anymore.

The Tactics of a Lie: Misdirection, Deception, Distraction

Misdirection Sign

The people we deal with in the private investigation business don’t lie quite the same way as street criminals. They are usually a bit savvier.  Our subjects will usually employ more sophisticated tactics such as misdirection, deception, distraction and other indirect approaches when they tell a lie.

Here’s a recent example.  Just this morning, we were going over some GPS tracking results of a business executive whose wife had hired us to check up on his behavior. The GPS tracker revealed some interesting data. The day before, his vehicle had gone to a small apartment building on the east side of town and had parked inside the detached garage behind the building. The vehicle spent a little less than an hour at this location before heading back home to the west side of town.

Technically, Not a Lie

Now, when we followed up with the client, the client relayed that her husband had told her a different story.  He had told her that he’d gone to work out at his racquet club after work. The racquet club was also on the east side of town, but about a 15 minutes drive from the apartment building. A closer look at the historical GPS tracking report revealed that the wayward husband had, in fact, gone to the racquet club immediately before going to the mystery apartment. His vehicle was only there for about 10 minutes, though.  This was hardly enough time for any kind of workout. Probably enough time to sign in, say “Hi,” to a club employee or two and maybe even have a short conversation with a mutual friend in the locker room.  In his mind, this was, technically, not a lie.

PinocchioThis is a very, very common tactic of dishonest people. We see it almost on a daily basis. Obviously, the idea is that when our subject arrives home and his wife asks him where he was, he can say that he went to the gym (or wherever) after work. If she questions him further about it, he can point out the obvious pieces of proof that he has left in his wake. He might even drop these hints preemptively without her asking…”I saw Dave at the club. He said to say, ‘hello’ to you.” In his mind, he has rationalized this set of lies as “the truth.” He has a clear conscience. He could probably even pass a polygraph exam if the questions weren’t asked properly. If she were to probe deeper, he would become indignant at her “interrogation” of him and refuse to take part.

Dealing with people who lie in this way can be tricky.  Care must be taken to when questioning them so as not to tip them off as to your intentions, less they change their tactics or shut you out completely. The best approach is to know with certainty what the answer is before you ask any question, and then to not let them know that you know they are lying until it is much too late for them to recover. The absolute best response is to make sure the lies are documented and not show your hand until much, much later.  This can be difficult when emotions and the stakes are running high. But this is how you beat someone like this at their own game.

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Paul Baeppler is currently a full-time police lieutenant with 25 years on the job. He also runs several private investigation and security businesses, licensed in Ohio, California and New York.

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