Don’t get bamboozled – how to avoid a con

A couple of weeks ago at IBM BusinessConnect 2015 we had Alexis Conran speak, star of the Real Hustle – the UK based TV show whereby him and a small team conned members of the public on camera and then revealed their fraudulent ways in order to raise awareness of scams. 



Alexis discussed cons and shared some stories about those they had performed and the reactions of people during the act. Conran (what an appropriate name by the way) then went to explain the 5 key psychological principals that underpin all cons.. it’s not stupidity that gets people conned (most of the time) it’s the use of these principals that bamboozle people…

1/ Misdirection 
We’re talking distractions here, teams of people working together to distract you in one direction whilst someone else nabs your wallet. Tubes are a prime target for this as taking things from people can be very invading, whereas on the tube / train people tend to be very close to each other – watch out! 

2/ Good deal syndrome
When something is a good deal, or special, people are much more likely to engage. Everyone loves a great deal or a bargain, but watch out – is it too good to be true? Often con artists will encourage you do something illegal – the beauty for them being, once you realise you’ve been scammed, you can’t report it to the police because you were involved in illegal activity too! 

3/ Time pressure
A classic sales technique – but often scammers will pretend there’s another (better) offer to push you to make a decision. The classic scenario Alexis had used on the TV was when selling a piece of artwork, have another offer come through on the phone, and ensure your buyer overhears the conversation and makes a decision much quicker – so cheeky! 

4/ Social compliance 
If you walk through a huge crowd wearing a high vis jacket, people will just naturally move out the way; figures of authority i.e the Police or security guards, encourage people to comply with rules. Another example is targeting people’s emotions, if you offer them something for free, they tend to feel bad and often they will give something (money) in return. 

5/ Social proof
Not wanting to stand out, people often behave like others around them. Alexis shared a great story whereby he managed to get 8 out of 10 people’s hotel room keys from them outside a 5* hotel. By standing outside the front, dressed smartly, Alexis would politely tell residents that today was the day they were updating the room card readers and could he collect the old key as they’d be able to get a new one when they came back to the hotel that evening. 8/10 people complied – during the show, if anyone paused and questioned him, his team mate Jess would come over saying “ah, is today the day we give the cards in?” and -hand over her key-card – this would always influence the confused person to hand over the card. Incredible how certain scenarios and the influence of others can get people to do something they’re not actually comfortable with! 

There’s so many digital cons around these days; virus emails from “friends” for example, but they too are underpinned by these principals – a few things to watch out for, don’t get bamboozled, remember the con in con artist stands for confidence! 

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