“Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It” is a book by Stephen Greenspan (no relation to the former Fed chair, who could serve as the poster child for gullibility!). Most of the book is more entertaining (great dupes throughout history) than educational, but in the last chapter Greenspan outlines several rules to limit your vulnerability.

I will save you the time and expense of reading the book by summarizing them here:

– Don’t rush a big decision. Sleep on it. Life is too important not to have the benefit of reflection on the major choices of your life.

– Avoid high-pressure sales situations: The more you are pressured, the more you should be skeptical. Yes, you might, maybe, possibly, lose out on a good deal by taking your time. But it is much more likely you will avoid being duped.

– Admit your limitations. As you have your strengths, you also have your areas of vulnerability. Know them, accept them. No one can be an expert in everything. Just because you are knowledgeable in a certain area doesn’t mean that you should not seek additional help and advice in that area. Remember, the saying “the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client,” has broad application.

– Learn how to say no and buy time. Learn a few polite, universal phases to disengage from a situation. By practicing a few verbal time-buying, distancing tactics in advance, you may be able to exit quickly, easily, and smoothly. My favorite is a simple but firm “Not today, thank you,” accompanied by whatever physical action is appropriate. Turning and walking away if in person, or hanging up without waiting for acknowledgement if on the phone.

– Adopt a “prove it” attitude. It is only smart to demand objective, impartial proof. A polite but skeptical attitude makes a good companion in life.