What is a confidence trick and how to secure yourself from it?

What is a confidence trick and how to secure yourself from it?

March 11, 2024 privacy 0

A confidence trick is a type of scam in which the victim grows to trust the scammer only to be betrayed and defrauded. Learn more about the different types of confidence tricks and how to spot potential scammers. What is a confidence trick? A confidence trick, also known as a confidence scam, confidence game, con trick, or just “con” for short, is a type of fraud that involves gaining a person’s trust only to later deceive and profit off of them. The perpetrators of confidence tricks are usually referred to as con artists, confidence (or con) men/women, grifters, swindlers, or hustlers. Victims are called marks, mugs, or gulls (from the word “gullible”). Con artists rely on their victims’ gullibility and emotions, such as greed, fear, and sympathy, to convince them to take harmful actions. Confidence tricks range from quick schemes to complex, multistep, and time-consuming scams. Some fraudsters can spend weeks or months gaining the trust of their victims only to rob them of money or personal information. How does a confidence trick work? A confidence trick involves manipulation, not using brute force or threats to convince someone to do something. Scammers are looking for victims they can deceive with their charisma and charm. Their goal is to gain the trust of their “victims,” and to achieve it, they may rely on flattery and appear very empathetic. In a traditional confidence trick, a con artist tries to befriend the victim, only to eventually betray them. They may use psychological tricks, such as mirroring the victim’s body language to seem more trustworthy or showing some human flaws to seem more relatable. Fraudsters often target the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those who suffer from loneliness. Nowadays, the internet is one of the most widely used tools for scammers. Many confidence tricks take place entirely online. In the age of social media and instant messaging, we don’t need to see each other face-to-face to form bonds, and con artists take advantage of this fact by looking online for people to manipulate. Common types of confidence tricks The general category of confidence tricks is quite broad. This type of fraud is characterized by scammers gaining the trust of their victims to deceive them, and there are many ways and tools to achieve this goal. Below are the most common types of con tricks. Romance scams Romance scams are particularly common because many people use dating sites to search for potential romantic partners. Scammers also use these sites, but instead of looking for love, they look for lonely and vulnerable people with whom they can establish fake relationships. Romance scammers create fake dating profiles to lure victims and bond with them through text conversations. Once the victim is trusting enough, the con artist makes up a story about being stranded abroad or robbed and asks for financial support, only to disappear later. Scammers working to defraud their victims often come up with various excuses for being unable to meet in person. This is because they use fake profiles, and meeting the victim would blow their cover. If you’re concerned that you might be the target of such a scam, avoiding face-to-face interaction and talking on the phone for a long time can be a red flag. Gold brick scams The gold brick scam refers to numerous different frauds that involve deceiving the victim into believing they’re buying an expensive item when, in fact, they’re buying a cheap item for much more than it’s worth. The items can be virtually anything that is sought after by potential buyers. This type of confidence trick owes its name to the practice of scammers selling people supposed gold ingots, which turn out to be gold-coated lead bricks. Nowadays, gold brick scams can involve expensive items such as smartphones or high-value limited editions of clothing. Scammers may use advertising portals such as Craigslist to sell their items with upfront payment, but the victim receives something completely different or nothing at all. Fake investment opportunities A fake investment scam is a typical “get rich quick” scheme in which a scammer pretends to be a business owner or experienced investor who will invest their victim’s money and multiply it in exchange for a small percentage of the profits. Scammers often promise victims assured profits, and their investment options are supposedly risk-free. They seek out inexperienced marks and take advantage of the fact that some people may not know that there is no such thing as a “risk-free investment.” Pyramid schemes Pyramid schemes are business models in which each member earns money mainly by recruiting other people into the organization. Companies using the pyramid model sell products, but their main profits come from members recruiting others. Each member of the pyramid earns money based on their recruits’ sales, but this model is unsustainable because it requires members to recruit new employees indefinitely. Swindlers who are also members of pyramid schemes often promise their marks (in this case, new recruits) that they’ll make easy money simply by selling products and recruiting others. They exploit people’s living situations, for example, targeting stay-at-home parents, promising them an easy way to make money at home while being able to stay with their child. In reality, those at the top are the only people who make money in pyramid schemes. Phishing Phishing scams are a category of fraud in which scammers pretend to be someone else – usually a trusted person or organization – to obtain money or personal information from their victims. Phishing scammers use communication tools such as emails, social media, or text messages to contact victims and trick them into believing they’re communicating with someone else. Sometimes, they invest time in investigating their victims one by one. In this case, the technique is called spear phishing because the scammer “fishes” for victims and selects specific individuals or small groups. Other times, scammers send messages en masse, knowing that most people will ignore them, but someone might fall for them somewhere. The latter are often text spammers – people who send spam texts to large numbers of people, hoping to attract the attention of at least a small percentage. Phishing can be a standalone scam or used as part of another, more complex scheme. For example, the grandchild scam often involves phishing, as the scammer first obtains information about their victim and then contacts them via email or phone, assuming the identity of their relative. Fake calls Fake phone calls are a modern type of scam in which the victim receives a phone call from someone pretending to represent a well-known company. Very often, scammers pretend to be support agents employed by Microsoft or internet providers and claim to be able to help with technical problems. These unwanted calls are often the result of the victim seeking technical support but stumbling upon a fake, malicious website redirecting them to the scammers. After the scammers contact the victim, they are prompted to provide their bank account information or download malicious programs such as data stealers or remote connection software that allows the swindlers to control victims’ devices from afar. {SHORTCODES.blogRelatedArticles} Signs of a confidence trick Being tricked by a con artist doesn’t always mean you’re naive or foolish. Scammers often target people who are inexperienced in fraud or vulnerable to manipulation and promises. That’s why so many fraud victims are elderly or people in difficult circumstances. In addition, scammers can be very good at their job and are often masters of psychological tricks. They know exactly what drives their victims to act and are able to spend a lot of time gaining their trust. It’s worth knowing how to spot a con artist when you come across one. Some can be convincing, but knowing their tricks can save you a lot of stress and potential financial loss. Promises that are too good to be true Many con artists look for victims who want to make money quickly and easily, so they sell them promises of excellent investments. They may even pay their victims once or twice to make them believe they’re making money and convince them to “invest” more. If something sounds too good to be true, it’s a red flag. Leveraging your life situation Scammers look for weaker victims and use their situation against them. For example, a scammer may use the fact that you recently became a parent or lost your job to convince you to give them money to invest because they know that you may be desperately seeking quick money instead of a safe and stable income. Similar experiences and interests Scammers use psychological tricks to get closer to their victims, and pretending to share experiences and interests is one of them. They may tell you they’ve been in a similar situation, come from a similar background, or try to bond with you on your favorite topics. You may get the impression that they’re very similar to you. Some may even mirror your body language or speech patterns to make you like them more subconsciously. Being very charming and kind Of course, not every charismatic or friendly person is a swindler. There are genuinely kind people out there. But on the other hand, a con artist can be very nice and empathetic towards you right from the start of your relationship. They may use compliments and praises to stroke your ego and make you trust them. Some may even shower you with gifts. (Over)sharing weakness and humanity Experienced scammers know that being perfect is unrealistic, so they will also show some flaws. They will talk about their emotions or make up tearful stories about their lives. They may share how difficult it was for them in the past, especially if you’re also in a tough situation, in which case, they may use their misfortunes as an example of how they overcame fate, and you can do the same by entrusting them with your money. Real examples of confidence tricks Confidence tricks can have many names and faces. Here are some examples of con scams that happen in real life. The Spanish prisoner scam The classic Spanish prisoner trick is a social engineering scam that originated as far back as the 19th century. It involved a con artist pretending to be imprisoned in Spain and convincing the victim to finance their release. The scammer promised to return the favor upon release, often claiming to be a wealthy and important member of the upper class. Of course, there is no actual prisoner, and the scammer would either disappear after receiving the money or make up stories of complications to drain the victim further. The Spanish prisoner scam is still widespread, with the most common variant being the Nigerian prince fraud scheme, in which the scammer asks the victim for support by posing as a member of the aristocracy from a distant country who is in dire straits and has all accounts frozen. The scammers look for victims on social media or send out phishing emails en masse, hoping to catch someone who believes their story. The grandchild scam The grandchild scam targets the elderly. In this type of fraud, the con artist tricks the victim into believing that they are their grandchild and that they need financial support because they’ve had an accident or are in trouble with the law. Often, the scammer will do some research to get to know their victim and their own fake identity. Today, such research is easier than ever because people share so much of their lives on social media – learning the names of a person’s children and grandchildren is not so difficult. Fortune-telling frauds The fortune-telling scam involves deceiving a victim into believing that a fortune-teller can predict the future and guide them, when in fact, the fortune-teller is simply experienced in reading people’s emotions and can determine their life situation by asking the right questions and observing reactions. The teller’s clues are simply general enough to fit most people’s stories. Scammers also trick victims into believing that a curse is upon them and that only they can remove it. Fortune-telling scams still exist, both in the real world and online. Scammers may seek victims on social media or esoteric forums. A modern version of the fortune-telling fraud is a fake virus hoax. In this situation, the victim is convinced that their device is infected, and only the scammer can remove the virus (for a fee), similar to when a fake fortune-teller removes a non-existent curse. How can you secure yourself from a confidence trick? Anyone can fall victim to fraud. However, someone who takes care of their security is much harder to deceive. Here are some tips to help you avoid confidence scammers in the future: Check the company Whenever someone offers you a great job or promises you big investment returns, check out the company they represent (or claim to represent). When it comes to pyramid schemes, just Googling the name of the company and checking reviews about it will help you gain some insight. The same goes for investments. Never invest in miracle or secret companies and projects without names or history but promise great returns. Don’t give money to strangers Con artists may make up sob stories about needing money to escape a dangerous situation, but unless you know the person, you shouldn’t give them any money. Always be cautious when meeting new people online. The internet is a great place to make new friends, but it is also full of scammers, so don’t feel bad for being wary and saying “no” to people. Research the sellers When shopping online, always use reputable stores and ad portals. If possible, use shopping platforms that also process transactions. This way, you can be protected by the operator and get a refund if the seller turns out to be a scammer. If you buy from strangers locally, opt for in-person meetings and payments in public places. Don’t send money in advance – you may never see the item you purchased. Strengthen your online security Con artists can exploit any information they obtain, and strengthening your cybersecurity can make things harder for scammers hunting for personal data. Protect your social media profiles by updating your privacy settings so it’s more difficult for strangers to get the information you share. Also, don’t share any personal information with random people online. When using public Wi-Fi networks, connect through a VPN to encrypt your online traffic and protect it from potential eavesdroppers who might want to use it against you. Be a skeptic Always ask yourself, “Is this offer too good to be true?” This is often enough to protect yourself from a con trick. If something or someone seems too perfect, it’s probably a facade, and you’re being targeted by scammers. What should you do if you are a victim of a confidence trick? If you have fallen victim to a con artist, the best thing you can do is go to the police and tell them everything. Take all the evidence you have, including your conversations with the scammer. Unfortunately, getting your money back isn’t always possible, but a crime is a crime, and by reporting it, you can help the authorities catch scammers and potentially help future victims. In the US, you can file a report online to make things quicker. If you’ve been scammed and have given the scammer any personal information, such as credit card information or passwords, contact your bank immediately and ask the agent to freeze your accounts. It’s also a good idea to ask for new payment cards. As for account passwords, change them as soon as possible. When creating strong passwords, remember that they should be unique, so if one leaks in the future, it won’t be used to hack into other accounts. Also, enable 2FA if possible.

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