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Why You're Susceptible To Con Artists (And What To Do About It)

Whether you’re out Christmas shopping or ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant, a con artist could be right behind you trying to change your decision in his or her favour. Psychology Today suggests that our brains aren’t wired to detect these scams, but you can avoid falling victim to them if you just get the con artist out of your face.

Picture: Alex Proimos/Flickr

A good con artist manipulates you so you don’t even realise you’re being manipulated until after the fact. So, what’s really going on? Psychology Today explains:

The most natural answer is that sly or fraudulent, yet persuasive, salespeople signal to our brains that everything is as it should be. Their smooth behaviour raises our confidence, thereby boosting our serotonin levels. The well-being chemical serotonin can turn off our critical sense and increase our feeling of content — so much so that our initial beliefs never are subjected to scrutiny in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the anterior insula never gives us the warning sign that would make us step back and think… Our grey matter can distinguish honesty from dishonesty and alarming situations from unruffled ones but it cannot instinctively detect dishonesty and fraud cleverly disguised.

Essentially, a good con artist or scammer will never give off any warning signs, so you won’t know to fight back. While you can usually identify a manipulative sales pitch on paper, it’s a lot harder when you’re face-to-face with a person.

Instead of training your brain to root out these people, Psychology Today recommends you always walk into a sales situation with a critical attitude. Make it a habit to take a breather before making decisions. You should also walk away from the situation to make your decision if you can. If not, buy yourself more time by asking to look at a menu or information sheet one more time. Get the person selling something out of your line of sight for a few minutes so you can make the choice on your own, and you’ll be less susceptible to their tactics.

Our Brains Weren’t Hardwired To Catch Con Artists [Psychology Today]