As the old saying goes, there’s a sucker born every day, and there’s also someone waiting to take advantage of that sucker. Confidence tricks, also referred to as cons, are an attempt to defraud a person by playing off their emotions and level of trust, often stealing money or objects from them right in front of his or her eyes. The American press coined the term “con artist” in 1849 to describe people who play off others’ greed, honesty, compassion, or naivete to obtain objects of value. This is a criminal offense and repeated offenders could face serious jail time.
The best con artists are so convincing that you never even think that whatever he or she is saying is too good to be true, so you must be careful with whom you trust or get involved with. Some classic confidence tricks include Ponzi schemes, bootleg videos, charity collection, and ATM security fraud.
Famous Con Artists
The purpose of a confidence trick is to get someone to hand over money or other valuables without thinking twice about it. This usually happens in plain sight of the owner. Some famous con artists of the past century have been:
- Bernie Madoff, who ran a Ponzi scheme to defraud investors
- Frank Abagnale Jr. forged checks while posing as many different individuals
- Clifford Irving claimed he was writing a biography on Howard Hughes and used forged handwritten letters to convince his publishers
- David Hampton passed himself off as the son of Sidney Poitier and played off the naivete of wealthy New Yorkers
Con artists can face serious jail time, especially the good ones, because they repeatedly trick people for personal gain.