1. Intelligence officer just want to be friendly

“The biggest thing was how friendly they were you know just, ‘Hey no problem, you want some money? It’s okay, hey don’t worry, we just want to be friendly with you,'” Shriver said, describing his meetings with officers of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), the country’s foreign intelligence service, that started out as casual chats about life. Eventually, the intelligence officers gave Shriver $10,000, a gift for his “friendship.”

2. People give you business cards with just a name and number

“If someone gives you a business card and all it has on it is a phone number and a name that shows they’re trying to conceal something, I do remember getting one of those, you know just a name and a phone number,” Shriver said. After Shriver answered an ad offering to pay someone money to write a paper on US-China relations, a woman who only identified herself as ”Amanda” contacted him, bought his essay, and later introduced him to MSS officers.

3. Everyone seems really interested in your future

“If someone is telling you that they’re really interested in what you’re going to be doing in a few years in the future that might be an idea that they don’t necessarily want you to work for them in a legitimate way,” Shriver said. With encouragement from the MSS, Shriver applied several times to the US foreign service. He was caught when he tried applying for the CIA.

4. People give you money for nothing

Lastly, Shriver’s best advice: “If someone is offering you money and it feels like you don’t have to do anything for that money then there’s probably a hook in there that you’re not seeing.”

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.