Spot the lies: Social media expert reveals red flag words to watch


ORLANDO, Fla. – Have you ever suspected someone was lying to you in a text message, email or even online dating?

About 85 percent of communication is body language, so without face-to-face contact it can be a tough call, unless you know the signs someone is lying to you.

There are plenty of people who pretend to be someone they're not when using Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets to fool innocent victims.

In one episode of the MTV show "Catfish," 27-year-old John met Kelsey online in a chat room and their only communication was via the Internet.

John describes Kelsey saying, "I have been in a long-distance relationship with a very beautiful and bright girl."

When they finally meet face to face, John sees that Kelsey is really Adam, who has been lying to him all along.

Tyler Cohen Wood is a social media expert for the Defense Intelligence Agency. She said there are blatant signs that are giveaways a person is lying.

"In the online domain we don't have body language to go by, all we have are the words. Really pay attention to the words. Pay attention to the words you're saying, but also the responses you're getting back," Wood said.

One clue to look for is the use of non-committal words like pretty sure or probably. For example, if someone responds, "That would be great. I'd love to do that sometime, or possibly, or maybe," they leave themselves an out.

Another red flag someone is lying: omitting personal pronouns and references to themselves in a story. This shows the person is trying to distance themselves from the lie.

"They are doing it subconsciously, so they aren't even aware they are giving you all of these red flags and clues," Wood said.

Another clue is tense-hopping, or using past and present tense.

"If suddenly they start tense-hopping they are seeing the story happening in their mind's eye and making it up as they go along," Wood said.

Also, look out for unanswered questions. For example, if you ask someone a question and they don't answer your question and maybe try to distract you in another direction, that's a sign of being deceptive and trying to focus your attention on something else.

Wood said as for John's story, the red flags were there and unfortunately deception online happens all the time. So if you are dating online, look out for any of these clues to pop up.

"These predators are very good at what they do, they are very savvy and very charismatic," Wood said.

According to social media experts, most people don't want to lie and feel uncomfortable doing it.  But if you know the red flags you can apply those same rules to text messages, emails or any online communication with someone, whether you know them or not, to see if they are telling the truth.

Tyler Cohen Wood's blog.
Tyler Cohen Wood's book Catching the Catfishers