Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chameleon Con Artists



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The Chameleon (pg 20-21)

While there may be some psychological characteristics shared by many con artists and some data that help explain how they become the amoral people they are, that doesn’t change the fact that most people cannot detect the con artist in their midst. Take Jim Bakker, for instance. When he had his ministry, he seemed just as sincere and well-meaning as his colleage Billy Graham. Yet he ended up fleecing his flock. How is it that con artists can fool their marks like this?



One reason is that the good con artist is a chameleon, ready to be whomever he or she needs to be to fleece his unsuspecting prey. A swindler’s greatest tool of the trade is his ability to camouflage his real identity and true intent.

Successful con artists know how to relate to their marks on an individual level. They are very intuitive about a mark’s weaknesses and insecurities. The con man will look you right in the eye and lie to you, telling you he’s a doctor, if that’s what you need to hear – or a lawyer, or a police officer, or a businessperson. And if you are desperate or distraught enough, you’ll believe the con artist in a heartbeat.

On a certain level all good con artists are imposters. Even a con artist who isn’t lying about his name or profession is lying about something; at the very least, he’s posing as someone legitimate when in fact he’s not. But some con artists take posing as someone they’re not several steps further. These are the professional imposters. Most of them operate by assuming brand-new identities. For some of them, posing as someone they’re not is even more important than using their new identity to make money. Perhaps they get a rush out of acting their new roles so well that others are fooled; perhaps they are fulfilling secret desires they’ve had to be doctors, lawyers, princesses, or the like.