What is a Confidence Trick & How To Protect Yourself From This Scam

Updated on June 4, 2024
What is a Confidence Trick & How To Protect Yourself From This Scam

A confidence trick is a common scam in which the victim grows to trust the scammer only to be betrayed and, as a result, becomes a victim of fraud. There are various types of confidence scams, and people must be aware of them to prevent mishaps. Unfortunately, in this day and age, scammers are becoming more competent and adept at scamming people. They have various tricks up their sleeves to fool people into divulging sensitive and confidential information.

However, do not worry because, in this guide, we’re going to walk you through exactly how to detect a Confidence Trick, some of the most common types of Confidence tricks, and what steps you need to take to be rid of them and additional tips and tricks to prevent falling victim to confidence scams. So, if you’re eager to uncover all this wealth of information, keep reading.

What Is A Confidence Trick?

A confidence trick, also called a confidence scam, is a type of fraud that involves gaining a person’s trust to deceive them and ultimately exploiting it for personal gain. Confidence tricks’ perpetrators are con artists, swindlers, hustlers, or grifters. Their targets are called marks or gulls (which is short for gullible.) These con artists exploit human emotions like greed, fear, and compassion to convince them to make poor decisions and trick them.

These tricks can be anything from fleeting to elaborate plots and schemes that sometimes take weeks or months. These con artists spend considerable time building a false sense of security and gaining the victim’s trust. Once they’ve earned their trust, they attack and steal the person’s sensitive and confidential information or rob them of money.

How Does A Confidence Trick Work?

Since con artists are masters at manipulation, they pick their marks very carefully, searching for those who can be easily swayed by their charms and fooled easily.

Their main goal is to win the trust of the person they’re swindling, and they can achieve this by implementing various tactics like targeting the victims with compliments or sharing a fake vulnerable moment with them, all to lower the defenses of the person they’re targeting and so that they’re not on guard. Here is what happens in a traditional confidence trick:

  • Con artists try to develop a personal bond with the victim only to betray them. They may implement psychological tactics, like mirroring the victim’s gestures or exposing their flaws and weaknesses to seem more genuine. These scammers only target some of the most vulnerable people, such as lonely people and the elderly.
  • In today’s digital landscape, confidence tricks have gained even more momentum because of various social networking and chat platforms.
  • The internet has allowed con artists to gain a wider audience and scam many people online, making it easier for scammers to have many identities and manipulate their targets even if they aren’t physically close.
  • They can create fake yet convincing profiles on social media; con artists can create entire fake histories about themselves, making their lies seem all the more believable.
  • The internet also allows these con artists to remain anonymous, encouraging them to carry on with their schemes since they have a lesser chance of getting caught when compared to in-person scams.
  • The internet and the digital era have also led to the rapid spread of information, making it even easier for online scams to go viral.
  • The digital era has also led to the creation of new tools for manipulation, such as deepfake technology and artificial intelligence, which blur the lines and make it even harder to differentiate truth from deception.

What Are The Common Types of Confidence Tricks?

You need to know a list of confidence tricks so you don’t fall victim to this widely growing scam. Some types of confidence tricks that you may end up encountering include:

1) Grandparent Scam

The grandparent scam exploits grandparents’ love for their grandchildren. To execute this scam, the con artist learns the relatives’ names from social media posts and contacts the grandparents by phone or email, pretending to be their grandchild. The “grandchild” in this situation states that they’re in trouble and need financial assistance, but they don’t want their parents to find out, or they’ll get mad.

They may claim they’re in the hospital or have been arrested. They add details such as how, what, and where the incident occurred to make it seem convincing. They even offer the contact details of a lawyer, doctor, or police officer who can explain the situation. Once the grandparents fall into this trap, they send the money thinking they’re giving it to their grandchild, only for that money never to be recovered.

2) Romance Scams

Online dating has become a norm these days, and so are romance scams. Con artists are often seen using dating apps not to look for a potential partner or relationship but for vulnerable people that they can easily manipulate. These scammers develop emotional connections with their marks by creating fake and elaborate profiles. The relationship continues until a fabricated incident (like being stranded abroad) leads to a plea for financial help. Once the money is exchanged, the scammer vanishes out of thin air. They then continually avoid and make excuses when meeting the person they’re “dating” in person, which is quite evidence of a scam.

3) Pyramid Schemes

Pyramid schemes are business models in which people earn money and commissions depending on how many people they recruit. Although companies using the pyramid model sell products, they mainly earn revenue from members recruiting others. Each member of the pyramid earns money based on the recruit’s sales.

Scammers who are members of these pyramid schemes also promise their marks (in this case, the recruits) that they can make easy money by simply selling products and asking others to join. They do this by exploiting people’s living situations, such as stay-at-home moms, promising them an easy way of earning lots of money; however, those at the top are the only ones making money from these pyramid schemes.

4) Phishing

The practice of Phishing involves con artists tricking people into divulging sensitive and confidential information through emails, social media, or text messages by appearing to be someone that the person trusts. Spear phishing targets individuals by specifically tailoring messages, making them look all the more convincing. Phishing can be a standalone scam or can be used as part of a more complex scam.

5) Gold Brick Scams

Gold brick scams originated from schemes involving selling worthless gold-coated lead falsely advertised as precious gold. But these scams have evolved since their origins. Today, they involve highly sought-after items like smartphones or designer products sold on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Victims can pay upfront for what they think is a valuable item, only to receive something of negligible value or nothing at all.

What Are The Telltale Signs Of A Confidence Trick?

To correctly identify the con artists’ techniques, you must pinpoint the exact signs of a confidence trick to protect yourself from them. Some of the common signs that you need to be on the lookout for include:

1) They’re Too Good To Be True

You may receive offers that seem too good to be true, like guaranteed high returns with little to no risks, which is an obvious red flag. People are also promised free money, and effortless wealth is a sign of a scam.

2) Urgency and Pressure

Con artists often create a sense of urgency, insisting that you must take action immediately or miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They also claim that the offer is only available briefly, so you are pressured to make a quick decision.

3) Lack Of Verifiable Information

Scammers can avoid providing verifiable contact information and official addresses and may use fake testimonials, credentials, and references to build credibility.

4) Emotional Manipulation

Scammers can exploit your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, manipulate your feelings and emotions through emotional appeals and sob stories, and gain your sympathy. They can also exploit a person’s greed or desperation for a better life.

5) Unusual Payment Methods

Scammers may request payments through unconventional and untraceable methods, such as wire transfers, cryptocurrency, and gift cards. They also ask for advance payment before delivering any promised goods or services.

6) Lack of Official Documentation

Scammers will often hesitate or refuse to provide written agreements or contracts. If the documents they provide are poorly written, full of errors, and lack a professional format, you can be certain you’re experiencing a scam.

What Are Some Real Case Examples of a Confidence Trick?

These are some genuine cases of a confidence artist and how they scam and manipulate people to meet their end goal. These confidence tricks can differ in complexity and scale, from standalone schemes to large corporate frauds. Let’s take a look at some widely known confidence tricks:

1) Victor Lustig and The Sale of the Eiffel Tower

Victor Lustig was a notorious con artist who ” sold” the Eiffel Tower twice in the 1920s. He pretended to be a government official and convinced scrap metal dealers that the Eiffel Tower would be dismantled and sold as scrap. He received payments from two different dealers before he ultimately fled. Although he was eventually caught for all his other crimes, Lustig’s Eiffel Tower crime remains one of the most audacious scams in history.

2) Frank Abagnale Jr. – Impersonation and Check Fraud

Frank Abagnale Jr. was an expert at impersonation and check fraud during the 1960s. He had impersonated a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and a teacher, among other personalities, to forge checks and defraud banks and other organizations. His story caught momentum after the movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks was released in 2002. He was eventually caught for his crimes and served four years in federal prison. After his release, he became a consultant for the FBI on fraud prevention.

3) Elizabeth Holmes & Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes is a biotechnology entrepreneur who founded Theranos, claiming that the company had developed revolutionary blood-testing technology. She claimed that the Theranos device could perform various tests with just a few drops of blood. However, it was later revealed that the device didn’t work as promised and that the company was using traditional machines. Holmes was charged with criminal fraud in 2018, and her trial ended in 2022 when she was convicted on multiple counts of fraud.

What Should You Do If You Become a Victim of a Confidence Scam?

What Should You Do If You Become a Victim of a Confidence Scam

If you become a victim of a con artist trick, then these are the steps that you need to be taking immediately to reduce the negative impacts of the attack:

1) Report To The Authorities

If the scam escalates to a criminal offense, you need to report it to the authorities immediately. Provide law enforcement with all the evidence at your disposal, including your communication with the scammer. While recovering the funds you lost can be difficult, reporting the crime will allow law enforcement to track down and stop these scammers. If you’re living in the US, you can easily report this fraud online.

2) Change Your Passwords & Enable Two Factor Authentication

If you’ve shared any passwords with the scammer and suspect they may have compromised your online accounts, you must change them immediately. Choose a strong and complex password with uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers. This will make it difficult for the scammer to intercept your online accounts.

It would help if you also enhanced the security of your online accounts by enabling Two Factor Authentication (2FA). 2FA adds an extra layer of protection, making it challenging for unauthorized personnel to gain unauthorized access to your online accounts. Two-factor authentication can be done through a one-time password (OTP) or biometric verification.

3) Secure Your Bank Accounts

Suppose you’ve revealed your financial details to the scammer. In that case, you need to immediately contact your bank, credit card issuer, and any other financial institution to inform them about the situation and request that they freeze your bank accounts to prevent unauthorized transactions. You should also block and replace your credit/debit cards and continuously monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.

4) Alert Others By Sharing Your Experience

Once you’ve started the legal process and secured your personal and financial information, you can share your experience with others to warn them of falling victim to these confidence tricks. You can warn others about these scams through social media, community groups, and other online forums. By taking these steps, you make it even harder for these con artists to target vulnerable victims since they will be informed.

How Can You Protect Yourself From A Confidence Trick?

Protecting yourself from the confidence tricks of these scammers is the need of the hour in this day and age, where scamming has become even easier online. Here are the most effective strategies that you can start implementing to ensure that you’re protected against confidence tricks and never have to worry about them again:

1) Research Sellers

When shopping online, stick to well-known and reputable platforms. Reputable websites often have security checks to protect your online transactions and can offer you a refund if the seller is a fraud. If you’re buying something from an individual, it’s preferred that you meet the person in a public setting and exchange the item for payment in person to avoid getting scammed.

2) Investigate The Company

If someone offers you a “too good to be true” job or promises you amazing investment returns, you must check the company they represent. If it’s a pyramid scheme, you can easily verify this by looking it up on Google. The same goes for investments. You should not invest in companies that don’t have a reputable name or are not well known but promise you great returns once you start investing in them.

3) Don’t Give Your Money To People You Don’t Trust

Con artists often create emotional stories to convince people to send money or help them escape tricky situations. However, if you don’t know the person that well and have reservations, you should not send them any money. Also, be cautious when dating or meeting new people on different online platforms. However, the internet has become the new normal for meeting new people; it has also become a breeding ground for scammers to exploit and exploit people. Always be cautious when meeting people online, and also be wary of unsolicited contacts, especially those that ask you to share confidential or financial information.

4) Use AstrillVPN

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your internet traffic and masks your IP address, ensuring that malicious actors and other third parties aren’t able to intercept your sensitive and confidential data, especially if you’re using a public network. AstrillVPN is your go-to VPN provider, offering you the ultimate protection with extensive security features such as a Kill Switch, Smart Mode, DNS leak protection, and robust encryption protocols like StealthVPN, OpenVPN, and Wireguard. It also adheres to a strict No Logs policy, making it the ideal choice when you want to take your privacy and security to the next level. Here’s how you can sign up for AstrillVPN:

  1. Download the AstrillVPN app from the website directly.
  2. Choose the link of the operating that you use.
  3. Register for your account and once you receive your login credentials, sign up.
  4. Connect a server of your preference.
  5. You can also choose a protocol that meets your needs and requirements.
  6. Turn on the VPN connection and enhance your privacy and security.

4) Enhance Your Online Security

The digital landscape has made it even easier for scammers to gain unauthorized access to people’s sensitive and confidential data since so much information about individuals is already online and on social media. You need to level up your cybersecurity practices to ensure that these scammers aren’t able to intercept your sensitive and confidential data easily. Some of the steps you can take include:

  • Keep Software Updated: Keep your operating system, browser, and installed apps updated. These updates involve security patches that help protect against different vulnerabilities.
  • Verify Your Online Transactions: You should use secure payment verification services for online sales and purchases, especially on platforms that connect buyers and sellers. These services can hold the funds until both parties are convinced they’re not getting scammed.
  • Keep Backups Of Your Data: Backup all your sensitive data to an external drive or cloud storage, as this can help you recover your critical information in case of a scam or cyber attack that targets your sensitive and confidential information.
  • Monitor Your Online Accounts: Monitor your online and bank accounts for suspicious activity. Detecting suspicious activity early on is the key to reducing potential scam damages.

Wrapping Up

Confidence tricks have become even easier to implement in the digital landscape, as they allow scammers to target a wider pool of people and carry out their antics from a distance without arousing suspicion. It can be tricky for marks to determine that they’re being scammed since con artists are masters of deception and can easily fool people. The key is to figure out the telltale signs of confidence scams and what steps you must take to protect yourself from them immediately. This guide details the ins and outs of confidence tricks and how to prevent them, ensuring that no con artists can take advantage of you ever again.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What legal protections exist against confidence tricks?

If you’ve been tricked through a confidence scam, you have the legal grounds to sue the person who did this. You need to consult with a lawyer who understands your area’s laws and jurisdictions and can help you determine the best course of action.

Is it possible to recover money or assets lost to a confidence trick?

Recovering the money you lost due to this scam can be tricky since con artists often use complex methods to conceal their identities and assets. However, with the help of a lawyer, it can be possible to recover some of the stolen funds.

How can I recognize a confidence trick?

The scammer creates a sense of urgency. The things they offer appear too good to be true. They coerce you to get what they want through emotional manipulation and often ask you to make payments through sketchy payment methods. Beware these signs so you don’t fall victim to a confidence trick.

How to stay safe from scam calls?

You can use a call-blocking app to identify and disrupt scam calls and other scams before they reach your phone. However, sometimes, these services can be unreliable and label a legitimate caller as a scammer.

Is a confidence trick illegal?

A confidence trick is illegal in most jurisdictions. It is considered fraud; the perpetrator can face criminal charges and penalties if caught.

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About The Author

Urfa Sarmad

Urfa is a business management graduate who delved into the world of tech, data privacy and cybersecurity and has been writing tech and privacy related content ever since. In her free time.

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