5 Reasons Con Men are Successful

How did Bernie Madoff do It?  How could local con man Tom Petters in con men are successfulMinnesota get people to give him so much money?  Why are con men successful?

Having worked for years with criminals as a lawyer and the fact that my uncle was a con man and went to jail, I have a few ideas.

Have you ever tried to raise money for a local charity, your church, or a youth activity?  It’s tough!!  Even if you hit on all your family and friends, it’s difficult to get money out of people.  So, how can con men (and women) get people to gladly hand over thousands even millions of dollars?

I’ve found three reasons.

1.  As I’ve written about in previous posts, con men for the most part are sociopaths.  Basically, that means they lack a conscience and therefore, can lie convincingly.  Only about 4% of the population are sociopaths.  That gives them an advantage because the rest of us aren’t used to coming in contact with sociopaths.  When we do (but don’t know it) our defenses are down and it makes con men successful.

2.  They’re usually very good salespeople.  Some are handsome or beautiful.  They are likable and have good emotional connections with people.  They practice these skills and when we meet them, they seem trustworthy and nice.  We may even become friends with them over time, enabling the con men to be successful.

3.  They have some degree of legitimacy.  They belong to the same groups we do or work for a legitimate company.  If any of us do some checking, the con man comes back looking pretty good—on the surface.

4.  They always offer an “exclusive” opportunity.  All of us like to feel that we’re special, that we deserve a special break.  So when the con man tells us that his offer is being made to only a select group of people, we respond and agree to get in on the deal.  The con man makes us feel smarter than others and that kind of flattery is a killer because we fall for it.

5.  The most important reason is greed.  Even those of us who say we’re not interested in money or that we’re not materialistic people, have a bit of greed in us.  We want to get ahead.  We want to make some extra money.  The con man simply figures out what we really want, plugs into that want, and tells us he can make it come true.  Maybe it’s some extra money for the kids’ college.  Maybe it’s a bigger home, a new car, traveling, or even security.  The con man determines what motivates us and taps into that motivation with the promise that he’ll give us what we want.  That makes the con men successful.

Have you ever been conned?  Tell me about it and how the con man got to you.

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About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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