How Con Men (and Women) Use Sociopathic Manipulation to Steal From You
“The really successful con man has the ability not only to make people like him, but also to (almost) believe his own lies.” ~ Megan McArdle
In the article from which the above quote was extracted, Ms. McArdle shares her opinion on how notorious schemers such as Charles Ponzi, Dona Branca, Marc Stuart Dreier, Sergei Mavrodi, Reed Slatkin, Bernie Madoff and, most recently, Zeek Reward’s Paul Burk were able to con so many people out of so much money.
“The best con men,” she suggests, “succeed mostly because we are so desperate to believe them. We are most vulnerable to Ponzi schemes and other confidence tricks when we start to believe that we can cheat the universe—that we can get something for nothing.”
Which brings me to the proliferation of get rich quick schemes on the internet.
The people who respond to these ads want to believe they can make quite a lot of money without working.
They eventually realize it’s not going to happen and they start dropping out like flies (often moving on to the next “sure” thing).
Some, denying the inevitable, hold on longer than others .
Sooner or later, when the well runs dry, the con men move onto a new group of victims.
When the whole thing blows up, people wonder how it could have gone on so long without anyone noticing. Actually many people do notice. They just choose to remain silent and hopeful that everything is going to work out just the way the pitchman promised it would.
Some stay silent out of fear of having the opportunity taken away from them;
“Madoff’s victims certainly didn’t give the books a closer look, in part because Madoff discouraged the ones who asked a lot of questions. As The Economist wrote shortly after the scandal broke, his customers accepted that ‘to ask Bernie to reveal his strategy would be as crass as demanding to see Coca-Cola’s magic formula.’ Angering Bernie might kill the goose that laid the golden egg; he had tossed a couple of disrespectful clients who got too nosy about how the money was being made. In retrospect, this was brilliant sociopathic manipulation. People didn’t question Madoff’s absurdly, unrealistically high returns because if they did, they would lose their shot at making that risk-free 10 percent a year.”
Here’s a little story about how ugly things can get when a con game is so effective that it effects an entire nation;.
“In 1996 a Ponzi-scheme craze swept the nation of Albania so thoroughly that within a year two thirds of the country had invested in one pyramid scheme or another. The inevitable collapse was horrific. According to the International Monetary Fund, there was uncontained rioting, the government fell, and the country descended into anarchy and a near civil war in which some 2,000 people were killed.” ~ Megan McArdle
So, what’s the moral of the story? Well, for one thing, you can’t get something for nothing, and for another, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
“We make money by making friends, and we enlarge our circle of friends by making money for them, by helping them, by being of service to them. The first law of success then is service, and this in turn is built on integrity and justice. The man who at least is not fair in his intention is simply ignorant; he has missed the fundamental law of all exchange; he is impossible; he will lose surely and certainly; he may not know it; he may think he is winning, but he is doomed to certain defeat. He cannot cheat the Infinite. The law of compensation will demand of him an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” ~ Charles F. Haanel
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