What are Confidence Games?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 March 2020
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Also known as con games, hustles, swindles and schemes, confidence games are deliberate attempts to defraud an individual or business. This is usually accomplished by enticing the target, who is sometimes referred to as a mark, into investing financial resources in a project that is never intended to earn any type of return. The exact process of a confidence game may involve selling goods or services that are worthless, or creating some type of scheme to make money that seems to promise substantial returns, but only makes money for the individual running the con.

While confidence games have probably been around since the beginning of time, the actual identification of his type of trickery as a confidence game is usually traced back to the middle of the 19th century. In the United States, a man by the name of William Thompson ran a scheme in which he would initiate conversations with people he met on the street, secure their confidence, ask to see their watches, then run off with the timepieces. While Thompson was eventually caught and convicted, the designation of a confidence game stuck in the popular culture, and took it’s place along with other colorful names for similar activities, such as bunkos, flim flams, and grifts.


Confidence games today can take place in just about any setting, using any type of communication approach. This can include holding seminars that appear to offer people something they want, such as the chance to make money with relative ease. Print media can be used to run schemes as well, such as selling products that make outrageous claims when it comes to dealing with various health issues. In recent years, the Internet has become a favorite tool of scam artists who seek to swindle people out of their money by enticing them to provide personal information, such as bank account and credit card numbers. Confidence games of this type often involve the use of email solicitations that appear to be from legitimate businesses, a phenomenon that is known as phishing.

Individuals who run confidence games tend to focus more on their personal greed, and have no regard for the well-being of those they defraud. While the exact strategies vary, con artists normally are able to tap into and exploit the desire of the victim to attain riches. The victim does not have to desire great wealth in order to be a target; many scams focus on people who are facing hard financial circumstances and are desperately looking for a way to make money to pay for essentials like food, clothing, and shelter. For this reason, no one should believe he or she is immune to being a victim of confidence games, and should always be leery of any purported sure-fire scheme that seems too good to be true. Chances are that the scheme really is too good to be true, and the only one who will reap any financial reward will be the con artist running the swindle.


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Post 1

It's kind of sad how many people are still taken in by con games, but they always think they can beat the game. Some can, but they're not common, and sometimes are in cahoots with the person running the con. They are usually called "shills."

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