How to Spot a Trojan Horse

How do you know the person courting you isn't a spy, that he isn't simply trying to find out facts to which he has no legal right? When a company needs to get inside information on a competitor quickly it often takes a disgruntled ex-employee to lunch. If that fails they may try questioning a salesman in a demonstration. If that fails they may try the bogus takeover. There are two principal give-aways to this ploy:

♦ Their pleasantries are unnecessary or seem insincere.

♦ The purported negotiator begins to probe deeply at too early a stage. "When are you planning to bring out the next version?"

The spy's main aim is to extract the information and run before he gets unmasked.

Other earmarks of a hoax are that it is unprofessional, talks are peremptorily called off, and no future date is set. Another clue is that the CEO is never available. CEOs will hide facts or create a false impression, but they usually draw the line at flat lies.

Of course, I am talking about amateur inquirers. If you are ever done over by professionals, you may never feel the anesthetic. However, take comfort. Whether or not they ever come to anything, most takeover approaches are genuine.

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