All about con artists

Lesson one Tricking people OBJECTIVE: a) Learn about unscrupulous tactics and the vocabulary and verbs related to them. b) discuss any personal experience related to being a victim of unscrupulous tactics. c) Invent a way of tricking people out of their money. d) learn some other meanings of the phrasal verbs mentioned in this text and how they can be put to use. Con artists confidence tricksters by Paul Davies There is an old saying in Britain “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”. We have all heard stories about charming people, appearing out of nowhere, who smooth talk people, winning them over and buttering them up by paying them excessive compliments, using dialogue which repeats words like trust and loyalty using phrases such as “only you really understand me” or “you’re like the brother sister I never had” enticing them into putting increasing amounts of money into a get rich scheme only to disappear at the moment when the pay off is anticipated. Often, confidence tricksters also known as con artists will try to split up the mark’s existing friendships and family ties so that the mark also known as the victim can be more easily worked on. Many small confidence tricks or short cons involve appealing to people’s better nature for example the con artist asking for money or help with a sob story while in reality the money is needed for other purposes. However, larger, more elaborate cons known as Long cons usually involve appealing to people’s greed or lust. There’s an old saying “you can’t con an honest man”. There is now a famous long con involving fictitious United Nations Aid money. The person claiming to represent a Third World government tells his or her mark, in the strictest confidence hence the term confidence trick and with excessive flattery, that there he or she has access to millions of dollars in United Nations Aid money but needs a foreign bank account in order to smuggle the money out of the country. If the mark / victim can help him or her by opening a bank account that he or she can access they will then split the money. He or she will also need a small amount of money in a bank account to cover expenses usually only 2000 or 3000 pounds and to make the accounts appear legitimate. Initially of course all will go well and the mark may even receive some money as payback. However the con artist will then explain that there is even more money to be made and the con becomes more elaborate. The mark will then reinvest the money he or she has made back into the scheme in order to make more. As the con progresses, the mark will be asked to put more and more money into the account as the stakes get higher and higher. There is an interesting flaw in human nature that dictates the more a person has already invested in the scheme, the more they will invest in order to retrieve that money. It explains the success of the gambling industry. Of course, the con artist will become less flattering and more intimidating as the con progresses. As the idea of stealing money intended for famine relief is in itself highly immoral, the mark will be unlikely to go to the police or tell anyone what is happening and will instead, continue to throw good money after bad in the hope of striking it rich. Internet has proved to be a golden opportunity for many elaborate tricksters and online long cons are on the increase, some elaborate, some comically bad. If someone is an obvious mark we might warn them that a confidence trickster can “see you coming”. We will warn them that “you can never be too careful”.

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