We live in a perilous world. From city centres to small towns, it seems crime is everywhere in some form; be it victimless, non-violent or aggressive, there's no getting away from crime in even the safest of regions. For some, it’s holding up a jewellery store or breaking a few windows. For others, crime takes a much more dubious form.
It can be easy to catch a criminal when they're seen red-handed or captured on a security camera. But how do you catch a criminal when nobody knows a crime is being committed? This is partly what makes con artists so devious, and so hard to spot. “Con” is short for confidence. As the name implies, confidence tricks take advantage of people’s misplaced and unquestioning trust in the goodness and honesty of others. It's an old school of criminality - con artists have been around since the Middle Ages and they continue to exist today, all over the world, with more options than ever before to trick unsuspecting victims in the digital age.
One of the most famous examples is Frank Abagnale Jr. who was made famous in the Steven Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Abagnale made his living through forgery as a fraud expert and con man extraordinaire. He forged millions of dollars in phony checks and posed as an airline pilot, lawyer, and even a doctor. He was so good at convincing people he was something that he wasn't that, not long after he was caught and imprisoned, he was recruited by the FBI as a consultant on check forgery and fraud.
Abagnale is an extreme case. He was extremely intelligent, persistent, and highly illusive. Most con artists don't use tricks as grand and complex as Abagnale, but sometimes it’s the little “smash-and-grab” cons that are the most worthwhile for the criminals, the small crimes which make the artists that much harder to catch. Gathered from various government scam watchdogs like the FBI and British Columbia's Scam and Fraud centre, we give you the low down on 10 of the most popular cons.
10 The Wedding Con
9 The Mystery Shopping Con
Mystery shopping is when an independent contractor poses as a customer so they can evaluate a business’ customer service. Mystery shopping often works by requiring the contractor to make a small purchase for which they will be reimbursed later. It’s a legitimate industry, and people do get paid for this work, which is why con artists all over the world use it as an easy fraud.
8 The Fake Invoice
7 Blackmail and Exportation
6 The Short Change
5 The Currency Exchange
4 The Gullible Grandparent
3 The Distressed Lover
2 The "Nigerian" Con
1 The Phishing Scam
The phishing scam is one of the most popular cons in the modern digital age. It is used widely in email correspondence. It’s designed to extract personal information by posing as a legitimate website such as Apple or Paypal. The artist will send an an email posing as a real website and, if successful in fooling the mark, will use the personal information — such as name, address and even banking numbers — to steal money or identities. Not only do artists create fake websites that look almost identical to a real one, they will also design their email templates to look like the ones sent by the real company. An easy way to spot a phishing email is by paying attention to how the email addresses you or to the email address it comes from. If the email doesn't address you by your full name, or if the email address it comes from seems to be your own, it’s probably a con. If the email contains spelling errors, it's also likely to be a fake.
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