Con artists start small
In the card-counting scam above, the con artist lets the victim win a $ 500 pot before taking him for thousands. Other scams start by asking the victim for progressively larger favors, starting small. Konnikova calls this the “foot in the door” technique. “Clearly, if I’ve said yes to you in the past, that means that you’re worth it,” she says, “otherwise it would have been very stupid of me to say yes before.” In one devastating online dating story, a woman was seduced by a dating site scammer who asked her for progressively larger money transfers—first $ 8,000, then $ 10,000, then $ 15,000—with the promise that it would help him clear customs and permit a long-term relationship together. She ended up giving him more than $ 300,000 before the scam was exposed. If you ever hear this four-word phrase when you pick up the phone, hang up immediately.
Con artists dress the part
“This was lesson No. 1,” admits one retired conman, “Swindling is really acting, and you play a character who will help you appear legitimate, confident, and successful … even when you are not.” At age 17, Frank Abagnale famously bought a pilot’s uniform so he could pass fake checks at any hotel, bank, or business in the country without question. “Airline pilots are men to be admired and respected,” he wrote, “Men to be trusted. Men of means. And you don’t expect an airline pilot to be a local resident. Or a check swindler.”
Con artists rely on your embarrassment
“It’s crazy how often you have people who, even when you present them with evidence that they’ve been the victim of a scam, refuse to believe it,” says Konnikova. “We often don’t want to let other people know, because we’re embarrassed.” Such was the case when early con man Victor Lustig convinced a Paris metal dealer that he was selling the Eiffel Tower for scrap to the highest bidder. Lustig conned the man out of a $ 70,000 bribe in exchange for rights to demolish the Tower and take possession of 7,000 tons of metal. Of course, this was all a lie. But the dealer never reported the scam; he was too ashamed. Beware of these 10 summer travel scams you need to take seriously.