In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the art of the con – 15 ways to protect yourself from con artists.
First a quick update:
Scientific & Psychological Reasons Women Love Bad Boys
It doesn’t seem to make any sense: why would any woman love the bad boy? Discover the psychological and scientific motivations behind what appears to be irrational, illogical and unhealthy behavior since it almost always results in failure, disappointment, heartache and even worse, abuse. https://www.patrickwanis.com/scientific-psychological-reasons-women-love-bad-boys/
The dangers of gurus & The Secret – 2 years prison James Ray 3 deaths
James Arthur Ray was found guilty of 3 counts of negligent homicide.
Why did the people in James Ray’s warrior retreat stay in the sweat lodge when they knew they were in danger? Watch the video where I reveal the dangers of gurus and how James Ray tapped into people’s weaknesses. Listen to the interview where I reveal the techniques used by cults and gurus for persuasion, mind control and brainwashing.
Now, let’s talk about the art of the con – 15 ways to protect yourself from con artists.
Have you ever been conned?
If you think you haven’t, consider this: the successful con artist rarely if ever lets her/his victim get to the point where the victim finds out.
A con man is someone who deceives you for their own ends!
Being conned refers to a “confidence trick” – a con game, con, scam, grift, hustle, bunko (bunco), swindle, flimflam, gaffle or bamboozle.
The term “con artist” or “con man” dates back to the middle 19th century when a man, Samuel Thompson swindled people by asking them to have confidence in him as they handed over their money or watches: ‘Have you confidence in me to lend me your watch until tomorrow?’ The people handed over their confidence as well as watch and money to Thompson who was eventually arrested in July 1849 and labeled in the New York Herald as the “Confidence Man.”
And if you are wondering how people could be fooled into giving their watch or money to Thompson, let’s start by saying Thompson was impeccably dressed in a suit and top hat.
Profile of the victim – “mark”, “sucker”, or “gull” (gullible)
A con man cannot succeed without a victim; sometimes the con man employs an assistant – the shill.
There is no typical victim or mark; even con men get conned! (In the next article, I will reveal the methods of the con artist.)
The con artist’s manipulative skills and the victim’s susceptibility come together to form the great con or swindle, sometimes with tragic consequences.
James Arthur Ray, a motivational speaker, new-age guru and featured expert in The Secret, was sentenced in 2011 to 2 years in prison after he was found guilty on three counts of negligent homicide following the deaths of 3 participants of his “Spiritual Warrior” retreat. Participants paid $10,000 for James Arthur Ray’s retreat which included a “sweat lodge.”
When giving media interviews analyzing how people could have been convinced to participate in a retreat that resulted in their deaths, I revealed that many of these participants were highly educated. What they all shared in common was vulnerability and burning hope to improve their lives; they were willing to give their confidence and power over to James Arthur Ray, and they wanted to be perceived as good people (spiritual warriors), to receive approval and praise from Ray, so they became blindly obedient, and 3 of them paid with their lives for doing so.
Confidence tricks exploit typical human characteristics such as hope, optimism, trust, gullibility, greed, dishonesty, vanity, opportunism, lust, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, desperation, vulnerability, fear, emotional overwhelm, and naïvety.
Bernie Madoff is the admitted operator of a Ponzi scheme that is the largest financial fraud in U.S. history – approximately 65 billion dollars. His victims included investors, banks, celebrities, athletes, businessmen, housewives, charities and even universities and a law school. How did Madoff con so many people? One of the methods was to appeal to greed, opportunism and to fear of loss: Madoff would offer a 10% guaranteed return on investment and he would initially turn people down saying he didn’t want their money which, in turn, made the ultimate victims even more eager to invest because they feared missing out on a rewarding investment opportunity.
“…it’s not who you are but where you happen to be at this particular moment in your life. If you’re feeling isolated or lonely, it turns out you’re particularly vulnerable. Likewise, if you’re going through a job loss, divorce, serious injury, or other major life change, are experiencing a downturn in personal finances, or are concerned with being in debt. People in debt, in fact, are more likely to fall for fraud that’s completely unrelated to finances, like weight-loss products”.
– “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time” by Maria Konnikova
The victims of a con man always have a weakness, and the con man is highly talented at being able to pick up on that weakness or weaknesses; he is selling hope.
The con man is an intuitive ‘psychologist’; he understands human nature and behavior, and has an uncanny ability to scan a crowd, read the body language, spot the individual’s weakness and select the perfect ‘mark.’ He cases. He observes. He profiles. And then once identifying the weakness, vulnerability, hope, dreams and the victim’s ideal (what he or she most wants to do or yearns for), the con man does his bidding, selling and persuasion.
The con artist identifies the individual’s interests, personality traits, self-image and self-perceptions. He proceeds to cultivate casual familiarity or trust and sets the victim up by making him/her feel powerful and in control, fooling the victim into thinking that he/she is the one calling the shots, making the choices, doing the thinking.
To prevent being conned, self-knowledge, self-worth and self-identity are much more critical than knowledge or understanding of the con man and his tactics.
15 Tips to guard and protect yourself against con men
Con artists are referred to as “artists” because they are skilled at what they do. Guard yourself from being prey by paying attention to your:
1. Vulnerabilities: when you are feeling vulnerable, you are more apt to accept a wild or absurd offer. “When we’re feeling low, we want to get out of the slump. So, schemes or propositions that would look absurd in another light suddenly seem more attractive.” – Maria Konnikova
2. Emotions: intense emotions create impulsivity and reactivity, and prevent you from making rational decisions
3. Emotional overwhelm & stress: when there is too much stimuli, it is difficult to analyze and rationally process the offer or potential con
4. Upheavals in your life: lead to loss or uncertainty about self-worth and identity as well as desperation for a solution or temporary panacea
5. Mental and emotional crises: create confusion about direction, self-worth and self-identity, and prevent rational responses
6. Financial crises: create fear and desperation: reacting out of fear prevents rational analysis
7. Feeling lost and looking for meaning: makes you vulnerable to giving away your power to con artists who spin stories to give your life meaning and purpose or who try to reassign a new identity to you
8. Ego and false pride: prevent you from asking for advice and guidance; ask trusted friends for opinions and insights before engaging in risky plans and offers which may not even seem so risky to you
9. Dependence upon or obsession with your reputation & self-image: leads to you searching to get approval and acceptance, particularly from a charismatic person who sells himself as an authority, expert or someone with a rare ‘opportunity.’ the desire to be seen, recognized and validated as good, nice and decent leads to saying ‘yes’ when you should be saying ‘no.’ It is OK to say “No” and respond firmly or harshly when faced with a con man or someone pushing us to be ‘good, nice and decent’ while their motive is self-benefit. There are times to not be nice!
10. Self-esteem: if you don’t feel worthy, special, unique or valuable then you will easily be led astray looking for people to validate you to give you lots of attention
11. Confirmation bias: believing only what you want to see and hear and thus ignoring facts to the contrary, leads to unhealthy choices and decisions
12. Selection bias: choosing only the things you want to see and hear results in missing the truth and reality of a situation, offer or ‘opportunity’
13. Optimism bias: believing the future is going to be better than the past without any evidence and ignoring or dismissing current signs, prevent you from seeing the truth or reality of a situation or person. Optimists tend to be the most trusting people and they get burned often. We all want and need to trust; trust builds teams, relationships and communities. However, you still need to be discerning!
14. Over-exposure: giving out personal information on social media such as daily activities, geo-tags and schedules, check-ins and tweets from specific restaurants or stores make it easier to fake knowing you and how you think and behave
15. Superiority & the belief that you’re too smart be a victim: dismissing red flags to convince yourself that you’re intelligent and not being conned results in being conned! Remember this rule: “It’s too good to be true” applies to everyone – you are not the exception to the rule!
In the next article, I will reveal The Con Artist – Psychopath, Narcissist & Machiavellian– the same skills that many attorneys, politicians and businessmen use!
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist