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How could he break up with me – I’m so pretty

A lady friend of mine recently broke up with a boyfriend and was heartbroken. She kept saying, “I’m so pretty, how could he break up with me.” After a while, she confessed that her behavior towards him wasn’t exactly angelic and I didn’t know how to tell her that being pretty was only good for attracting the guy (heaven knows how many times I’ve screwed myself over a pretty face or a sexy body) but it required something else to keep the relationship going.

I bring this up because I work in an industry which is effectively the laundromat of businesses gone wrong. The story is not uncommon. People are presented with something that looks really good or the presenter is someone that they trust implicitly. They are duly impressed, put in their money and before long they end up fighting for bits of paper that has long diminished in value. I think of a trial in a trade mark dispute over a bar in Bali, where a group of high-powered English and Australian businessmen kept telling the court, “But we were mates.” When you run into enough of these incidents, you end up wanting to bash the buy over the head and yell “Dude – you’re a high-powered person – how did you fall for this.”

In all fairness, the saying that “first impressions count,” is exceedingly true. How we judge people often depends on our initial meeting and unfortunately, humans (particularly men) are visual creatures. We mistake what looks good for actually being good. I think of the wise words of my Uncle Jeffrey who once hired me. He was particular about how his employees dressed. His reasoning was simple – “Cosmetics count.”

This is something that the conmen of the world are all very aware off. One only has to look back at the movie “Catch Me if You Can,” staring Leonardo DiCaprio. One of the key scenes in that movie comes from a piece of advice that a young Frank Abagnale receives from his father (played by Christopher Walken) as to why the New York Yankees always win:

Like it or not – looking good is big part of the game.

We need to remember that the term “con” comes from “confidence” and conmen used to be known as “confidence tricksters.” If you want to run a successful scam involves gaining the confidence of the people you are going to scam.

As such, people running scams do their best to ensure that first impressions are all powerful. The entire high end fashion industry depends on the image that it creates in the minds of people. Who doesn’t notice the Rolex watch or the Armani jackets? Think of who buys high end cars and property? When you know that a person drives a Mercedes, the instant impression is that that person must be doing well – how else could they afford the Mercedes.

Think of a former US President who went through great efforts to stress that he was a billionaire. He saw to it that we saw his private jets and swanky apartments. It created an image that everyone believed in. When he said “drain the swamp,” everyone clapped and said that he was a politician who couldn’t be bought because – well he had shown us that he had all the money in the world. The fact that he using contributions from his campaign donners to pay off personal liabilities was another story that got ignored.

In order to stay safe from being scammed, one does need to do something called due diligence. It’s easy to believe someone is successful when you notice that they drive a Mercedes and seem to be very generous in all the places that one should be seen in. Few people will bother checking if the Mercedes is being financed by say, resistance to paying manual labourers who do work for them.

Being a good con is, however, is more than just about being pretty. There’s also the ability to get the right reference. A former head hunter once explained that the key was getting into one bank and staying there for a reasonable amount of time. After that, getting the next job would become considerably easier because the other banks would assume that if you made it past the first one, you’d have to be a good chap. One only has to think of how the legal fraternity got scammed in EnvyTrading. How did Mr. Ng scam the great and mighty? It was most likely that hescammed one and that one proceeded to sell his scam for him.

Most people tend to be cautious in the initial interactions ie, “let’s try it out until we get to know each other,” type of mentality. As such, the best crooks usually do what the ordinary ones don’t. They invest in time. They build up genuine reputations for being reliable and then they pull the plug. Most people don’t really care about how or what you as long as their getting paid. I think of the dealer in high end goods who invested years in building up a reputation as a solid paymaster until one day he claimed he couldn’t pay because his customers had gone under. Reputation as someone from Kroll once said, “Is a nebulous thing.”

It’s always nice to see the best in people. It’s easy to fall for things that look pretty. However, we always need to have that element of skepticism in all our dealings, even with our nearest and dearest.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

9 Responses to “How could he break up with me – I’m so pretty”

  • No Blame Culture:

    Same same, not all general without a single day practical working experience can solve problems or win a war. Therefore, change to bra bra black sheep have you any cotton…

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  • #08-193 Vanessa Wan KKJ:

    I know of graduate women who get all the 5Cs through marriage. Why bother to work when the men can give you everything? Just be pretty, lazy and let the men do all the work.

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  • John Richards:

    It seems without Trump you won’t be able to build any narrative. You should look at our Ministers instead. Without the millions they demand, they believe, the people would not consider them the best men for the job. And this con still works in Singapore.

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  • con u:

    how many times have the dafties being CONNED? the year long CONversation and those countless CONs dressed up as feedbacks etc.??

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  • boutique watches:

    //“Dude – you’re a high-powered person – how did you fall for this.”//

    hahaha ? high powered person “like” to to be fooled by equally seemingly high powered & slick people (especially when they also drive posh cars & live in posh areas & houses, dressed in impeccable suit and tie and adorned themselves with expensive boutique watches, etc, etc) ??

    think MAT-DOFT and one will understand why ????

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  • DeBarge:

    Dude,
    The con artists really have to work at perfecting their art. So they are amoral but they put in the work. Pretty girls by contrast get everything handed over to them on a silver platter with no sweat on their part. Many of them, not all, use that to treat people with disdain, especially guys. However, your point is, looks good does not mean good. When it comes to pretty faces, guys never learn. The smarter of the pretty faces learn never to push their luck and to get the most mileage out of their looks while it lasts. The less intelligent ones think their looks last forever.

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  • AhLi's 2¢ worth of wisecracks:

    A Conman, Moron and Crony walks into a Bar.
    And the Bartender asks “What would you like, Mr. Prime Minister?”

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  • Shenkoji Buchikonya:

    John Richards:
    It seems without Trump you won’t be able to build any narrative. You should look at our Ministers instead. Without the millions they demand, they believe, the people would not consider them the best men for the job. And this con still works in Singapore.

    Ha, ha, ha ! You’re being awfully charitable. You simply can’t compare the people you are trying to compare. Cons flourish when the population is suffused with uneducated simpletons. Makes one wonder if grifters do serve a purpose?

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  • Disgusted:

    You are a loser whining about rich women.

    If you not happy, you can follow them. Marry a rich woman. Just be handsome, lazy and let the women do all the work.

    Disgusting whining.

    #08-193 Vanessa Wan KKJ:
    I know of graduate women who get all the 5Cs through marriage. Why bother to work when the men can give you everything? Just be pretty, lazy and let the men do all the work.

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