Con artists are masters of trust
You can learn a lot about trust from the people who violate it for a living. “A hood planning a bank holdup might case the treasury for rudimentary facts, but in the end he depends on his gun. A con artist’s only weapon is his brain,” says celebrity con man Frank Abagnale, author of the memoir Catch Me If You Can. So what do Abagnale and other con artists know that you don’t? For starters, how to earn the confidence of strangers in seconds flat.
Con artists target the vulnerable
If you’ve ever been scammed (and most of us have, in one way or another) it doesn’t mean you’re stupid – it only means you were vulnerable. That’s because scam artists play to emotions, not intelligence. “People who are going through times of extreme life change, for instance, are very vulnerable to con artists because you lose your equilibrium,” says science writer Maria Konnikova. “You end up more susceptible to all types of cons when you, for instance, have lost a job… [but] positive changes also make you vulnerable – you start being more credulous of good things in general.” Other easy targets? The lonely, the elderly, and the insecure (usually men) are notoriously easy targets.
Con artists get you talking – a lot
The most successful cons hinge on desire – what can the con artist offer the victim that will make them abandon rational thought for the promise of fantasy? The best way to discover someone’s desires: Ask. “Victims don’t ask a lot of questions; they answer a lot of questions,” writes a retired telemarketing scammer in this shocking true confession. “Victims don’t look for why the offer is a scam; they look for why the offer will make them money. They want you to make them feel good so they can pull the trigger.” A scammer not only needs to be a master actor but a master listener. And they have tricks for that, too.