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A confidence trick or confidence game (also known as a bunko, con, flim flam, gaffle, grift, hustle, scam, scheme, or swindle) is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. The victim is known as the mark, and any accomplices are known as shills.

History

The first known usage of the term "confidence man" in English was in 1849; it was used by American press during the United States trial of William Thompson. Thompson chatted with strangers until he asked if they had the confidence to lend him their watches, whereupon he would walk off with the watch; he was captured when a victim recognized him on the street.

Vulnerability to confidence tricks

Confidence tricks exploit typical human qualities like greed, dishonesty, vanity, honesty, compassion, credulity or naïve expectation of good faith on the part of the con artist.
Just as there is no typical profile for swindlers, neither is there one for their victims. Virtually anyone can fall prey to fraudulent crimes. ... Certainly victims of high-yield investment frauds may possess a level of greed which exceeds their caution as well as a willingness to believe what they want to believe. However, not all fraud victims are greedy, risk-taking, self-deceptive individuals looking to make a quick dollar. Nor are all fraud victims naive, uneducated, or elderly.


Confidence tricksters often rely on the greed and dishonesty of the mark, who may attempt to out-cheat the con artist, only to discover that he or she has been manipulated into losing from the very beginning. This is such a general principle in confidence tricks that there is a saying among con men that "you can't cheat an honest man."

The confidence trickster often works with one or more accomplices called shills, who help manipulate the mark into accepting the con man's plan. In a traditional confidence trick, the mark is led to believe that he will be able to win money or some other prize by doing some task. The accomplices may pretend to be strangers who have benefited from successfully performing the task.

Notable con artists

Born in the 18th century

  • Gregor MacGregor (1786–1845) – Scottish conman who tried to attract investment and settlers for a non-existent country of Poyais


Born or active in the 19th century



Born or active in the 20th century



Living people



See also



US anti-fraud law enforcement agencies



Psychopathology



Further reading



References

  1. Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women, p 6 ISBN 0-300-02835-0
  2. crimes-of-persuasion.com Fraud Victim Advice / Assistance for Consumer Scams and Investment Frauds
  3. A Conversation with James Swain online
  4. Glenny, Misha (2008), McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pp 72-73.


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