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

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]


  • or you know, you could do that thing called research before making a purchase,
    and never believe a salesman, their one purpose is to sell you anything for any reason at any price at any time

  • You guys seem to think that sales people are con-artists, for starters a completely different thing. Con-artists pretend to be somebody whereas salespeople are just salespeople, sure they are out to make a dollar but who isn’t. This article isn’t about salespeople, so just understand what you are saying.

  • This article doesn’t even begin to describe the characteristics of successful con-men! Firstly, they are frequently friendly & charming and tell people what they want to hear. They strive to become familiar more quickly than reasonable. They pretend to give trust far too quickly & easily, hoping that you will trust them. They don’t know you at all……why are they so trusting? They build themselves up & highlight their generosity & willingness to go out of their way for people. It all sounds too good to be true…..and it is! They often apologetically ask for something from you before the end of the fist meeting……..they say they wish they didn’t have to ask BUT they always do!! They drop names, tell you how important they are etc. They seem to know all the right people. They frequently drop hints about their power or physical strength. Invariably they claim to have a black belt in some martial art & they talk about how lethal they could be if they had to be……..subtle intimidation & standover is classic! Most important, their friends are not who you’d predict…..they’re more likely to be hangers on who wait for crumbs from the master. My advice, BE BLOODY CAREFUL!!!! A few dollars often leads to lots of dollars, a request often leads to a demand & a favour close to the line of the law, often shoves u over it the next time!!

  • You people are getting taken away with definitions again. There are 2 types of people to consider in this scenario regardless if they are a salesman / con-artist / aggressor etc etc
    1.) You
    2.) Person that wants something from you

    The real questions you should be asking yourself.
    1.) What do I want
    2.) What do they want

    If these 2 things don’t line up, your interactions are entirely pointless.

    Also, if you find yourself purchasing something , or making a decision you normally wouldn’t or don’t agree with- it’s your own fault. Cultivate some self awareness you mindless clones!

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