×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Neurological Basis of Con Games

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the doubting-thomas dept.

Security 218

Hugh Pickens writes "If we humans have such big brains, how can we get conned? Neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak has an interesting post on Psychology Today in which he recounts how he was the victim of a classic con called 'The Pigeon Drop' when he was a teenager and explains how con men take advantage of the Human Oxytocin Mediated Attachment System, called THOMAS, a powerful brain circuit that releases the neurochemical oxytocin when we are trusted and induces a desire to reciprocate the trust we have been shown. 'The key to a con is not that you trust the con man, but that he shows he trusts you. Con men ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable,' writes Zak. 'Because of THOMAS, the human brain makes us feel good when we help others — this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers.' Zak's laboratory studies have shown that two percent of the college students he tested are 'unconditional nonreciprocators' who have learned how to simulate trustworthiness and would make good con men. Watch a video of Skeptics Society founder Michael Shermer running the classic pigeon drop on an unsuspecting victim and see if you wouldn't be taken in by a professional con man yourself."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

218 comments

Uh... (5, Funny)

jornak (1377831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809087)

How we can we know this article is truthful? Can we really trust the author? He's a con man, after all.

Re:Uh... (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809215)

According to the wikipedia, Oxytocin is responsible for general feel-good behavior such as sexual excitement, trust and bonding, maternal feelings, etc. It's also very involved with the effects of Chocolate and MDMA [wikipedia.org] and, according to aforementioned article, caused spontaneous erections after being injected in rats.

Just be careful before you reach for the MDMA as repeated use may experience a collection of symptoms involving diminished emotions, colloquially known as being an "E-Tard ism".

Re:Uh... (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809853)

How we can we know this article is truthful? Can we really trust the author? He's a con man, after all.

You're right, nothing said above is valid...

Say... did you drop your wallet?

Re:Uh... (1, Insightful)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809923)

"If we humans have such big brains, how can we get conned?"

Ummm... if god is so powerful can he make a rock so big he can't move it?

There is a spectrum of intelligence. Some of the more intelligent people are coming up with cons. People of lower intelligence fall for them. No magic here.

Re:Uh... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810143)

With such a black and white perspective, I'd be willing to bet you are just as susceptible to cons as people of "lower intelligence".

Re:Uh... (4, Insightful)

KevMar (471257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810283)

At the same time, people can be over confident and what they know can deceive them. I would bet there is a set of cons that hit smart people harder.

On that note, I have meet some very smart but very stupid people.

Re:Uh... (4, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810429)


I would bet there is a set of cons that hit smart people harder.

You mean something like this stuff? [wikipedia.org] . Richard Feynman once observed that some smart people get taken because they don't want to believe they can be fooled. He was referring to people fooled by Uri Geller. He said he was different because "I'm smart enough to know that I'm dumb". Which is one of my favorite quotes of anything.

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810051)

Two Guards, Two Doors
Like the question of the two guards and two doors.
You are imprisoned in a chamber with two doors as the only exit. One door leads to death by cancer, filled with complications and malpractice; the other door leads to riches of jewelry, money and fine clothing for the rest of your life. There are two guards standing before you: one guard always lies; the other always tells the truth. Of course, you donâ(TM)t know their identities. You can ask only one question to save your life. What should you ask?
This is a logic question and can be answered if one realizes that the TRUTH of a LIE is a LIE, and the LIE of a TRUTH is a LIE. You need one guard to give you the other guardâ(TM)s answer. Knowing this one could ask a question like, âoeIf I were to ask the other guard which door leads to freedom, what would he say?â
If you ask the guard who always tells the truth, he would tell you the other guard would point you to the door of death. If you ask the guard who always lies, he would tell you the opposite door of the truth-telling guard and point you to the door of death. In either case, both guards will point to the door of death so you should choose the other one.

Re:Uh... (1)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810423)

You come to a fork in the road with no signpost. You know that one path leads to Ogdenville, the other to Shelbyville, but you don't know which. You have to get to Shelbyville.

A man is at the fork in the road. You know (somehow) that he will either lie or tell the truth to a yes or no question, and he will only answer your first question.

How can you get to Shelbyville with any certainty?

Re:Uh... (2, Funny)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810453)

Answer: You ask the question "Did you know they're giving away free beer in Shelbyville?"

A truth teller will answer "No" and head down the road to Shelbyville.

A liar will answer "Yes" and head down the road to Shelbyville.

I'd make a good one (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809113)

I' make a good one I think. My resume and jobs I've landed attest to that a bit.

I think most fairly successful people in business have to have a little con man in them to some degree.

Re:I'd make a good one (4, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809703)

I'd say that the recent con game that the bankers and ratings companies were running proves that the most successful people in business have a lot of the con man in them.

Re:I'd make a good one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809859)

I think most fairly successful people in /the pr0n/ business have to have a little con man in them to some degree.

Re:I'd make a good one (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810321)

I think most fairly successful people in /the pr0n/ business have to have some man in them to some degree.

FTFY

Hey guys, I have a bridge I need selling... (2, Insightful)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809169)

The trouble is, I have to get to a job interview. I have a client coming around right now with the cash. Can you do me a favour? I'll split the proceeds of the sale with you, but because I have to go, I'll grab my share now. That fine with you?

Cool.

---

I was trying to think of something serious to say, but honestly, I couldn't. I even read the first article and loaded up the video and second article. I guess I could make a random attack on capitalism as an economic system, but that would probably be unsubstantiated, so I won't.

Re:Hey guys, I have a bridge I need selling... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809255)

I was trying to think of something serious to say, but honestly, I couldn't. I even read the first article and loaded up the video and second article.

There is always the option of not posting if you have nothing to say.

I must be new here.

It's all about greed (1, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809185)

Forget all the babble about neurochemicals. Most con men aren't particularly smart and 99.9% of all cons aren't particularly clever. Con men are successful for one reason and one reason alone -- their victims are greedy and hoping to get something for nothing. This one sentence from the article sums it up perfectly:

"The greed-o-meter goes off in my head, suppressing all rational thought."

If you aren't greedy, if you aren't looking to get something for nothing, it will be nearly impossible for you to be conned.

Re:It's all about greed (5, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809325)

Forget all the babble about neurochemicals.

Forget all that scientific evidence...what, because you say so?

If you aren't greedy, if you aren't looking to get something for nothing, it will be nearly impossible for you to be conned.

So explain how a person is greedy without using the brain as a part of that explanation.

Re:It's all about greed (1)

oGMo (379) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809809)

Forget all the babble about neurochemicals.

So explain how a person is greedy without using the brain as a part of that explanation.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure his original answer wasn't using his brain, so there you go. ;-)

Re:It's all about greed (1)

DrVomact (726065) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810085)

So explain how a person is greedy without using the brain as a part of that explanation.

In what sense is something like "greed" explained by talking about brain chemicals? What sort of "explanation" is this? How does it clear things up? What is it that you didn't understand about greed before that you do understand after you listen to a guy talk about brain chemicals?

Not everything that is scientific is also relevant.

Re:It's all about greed (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809393)

No, those are just the obvious con men. The ones 'everyone' knows about because after it's over 'everyone' goes "How stupid would you have to have been to fall for that."

Believe me, there are plenty of other people out there who are willing to con you that don't rely on your greed.

Ever been the fall guy? The one left holding the bag?

Ever get suckered into buying a lemon car from used car salemen.

Ever been suckered into being 'friend' that gets the 'ugly one' on a double date?

Ever donate to a charity because the guy on the TV asked you too and said "Your dollars can help".

Greed is a tool to catch the greedy. Compasion is the tool used to catch the compasionate. Pride is the tool used to catch the prideful (as in "You are too smart to ever fall for such an obvious con...)

There are plenty of clay feet out there to aim at, greed is just one of them.

Re:It's all about greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809513)

Believe me, there are plenty of other people out there who are willing to con you that don't rely on your greed.

Care to point some of them out?

Ever been the fall guy? The one left holding the bag?

"fall guy" for what, exactly? The only thing this could apply to (in the context of a confidence game) would also rely on greed.

Ever get suckered into buying a lemon car from used car salemen.

What does this have to do with a confidence game?

Ever been suckered into being 'friend' that gets the 'ugly one' on a double date?

What does this have to do with a confidence game?

Ever donate to a charity because the guy on the TV asked you too and said "Your dollars can help".

What does this have to do with a confidence game?

"con" is short for "confidence", not "convincing".

Re:It's all about greed (4, Interesting)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809641)

And a confidence game is a scam that involves gaining someone's confidence and then using it to defraud them, which is exactly what every one of the examples above are.

Thanks for the unecessary condescendation though. Look! Another con word.

Re:It's all about greed (1)

memco (721915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810111)

-Citation Needed

"No definitions were found for condescendation."

Me thinks you meant condescension.

Re:It's all about greed (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810229)

Thanks for the unecessary condescendation though. Look! Another con word.

Misfortunately, that isn't a word. Perhaps you meaned condescension?

Re:It's all about greed (5, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809903)

Believe me, there are plenty of other people out there who are willing to con you that don't rely on your greed.

Care to point some of them out?

The Craigslist Bad Check scam [consumeraffairs.com] , where the con sends a check for several thousand more than the asking price. They'll email you saying that their secretary made a mistake, but they trust you, so go ahead and cash it and send back the difference. It's a bad check, of course, but your bank won't notice for a few days, and then they'll hold you responsible for the difference, plus the check you just sent back.

The mark isn't working on greed. They don't expect to get anything more than the original asking price. The con works purely on feelings of trust.

Re:It's all about greed (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810495)

Believe me, there are plenty of other people out there who are willing to con you that don't rely on your greed.

Care to point some of them out?

Sure. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Pat Robertson, etc., etc., These guys get people to give them money in the millions and even billions of dollars, and greed on the part of the suckered has absolutely nothing to do with their cons.
Ever get suckered into buying a lemon car from used car salemen.

I won't comment on the 'fall guy' thing because I'm not sure what he's talking about, either.

Ever get suckered into buying a lemon car from used car salemen.
Ever been suckered into being 'friend' that gets the 'ugly one' on a double date?

What does this have to do with a confidence game?

Lemon car: sually the used car salesmen knows when a car is a lemon. The con is get you (or some other sucker) to buy the car without the dealership investing money into fixing it up properly for sale.
The friend for the ugly chick: A friend of mine was actually the con in this scenario and a mutual friend was the mark. In this case, the con asks a girl out but the girl won't go out with him unless he gets a date for her ugly roommate, whom no one will ever date because -- damn, this chick was just fugly. Anyway, he tells the friend that the ugly roommate was nice looking, but just shy. Anyway, clearly the situation was a con.

Re:It's all about greed (1)

no1home (1271260) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809719)

Ever vote for %POLITICIAN%?

Wait... Let's just make that, "Ever vote?" I still vote, but... wow.

Re:It's all about greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810153)

But McGrew told me that the ugly ones are more likely to put out...

Unsurprising find? (2, Insightful)

Surreal Puppet (1408635) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809195)

Doesn't everyone do this subconsciously, when they feel they would benefit from it? I know i have to stop myself sometimes, when i put myself in "vulnerable mode" to make people trust me more. I don't try to con people, i just do it because it... works? On the other hand, I'm into computer security. Maybe stuff like that is just part of the "security mindset" Bruce Schneier et. al. espouses? 2% sounds like a surprisingly small figure though.

Re:Unsurprising find? (3, Insightful)

mevets (322601) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809715)

2% probably depends on the college. They should sample politicians and inmates.

Re:Unsurprising find? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810031)

On the other hand, I'm into computer security. Maybe stuff like that is just part of the "security mindset" Bruce Schneier et. al. espouses? 2% sounds like a surprisingly small figure though.

Been playing with computers all my life. They've warped the way I think. I input data FOO to a system, and the system gives me result BAR.

Other people are also processing systems. I'm a processing system. And while I'm relatively unskilled at hacking them, there are hackers who specialize in hacking them.

I don't trust computers because they're too easily manipulated by skilled hackers. I don't trust humans, for precisely the same reason.

On a network, you manage the risk by trying anticipate all the ways in which you could be hacked, by filtering out as much unsolicited traffic as practical, by not trusting externally-originated content, and as a last resort, by pulling the plug out of the wall and reimaging the OS after a breach.

In wetware, now we're back to this morning's CS/women thread.

Always be skeptical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809199)

"The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found"

--Manuel Noriega

Re:Always be skeptical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809477)

Manuel should have researched how the CIA treats people who stop laundering drug money through their favorite banks.

Explanation (3, Interesting)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809217)

J.R. "Bob" Dobbs explains it eloquently: "You know how dumb the average person is? Well, by definition, half of 'em are even dumber than THAT."

Re:Explanation (5, Informative)

humphrm (18130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809555)

Actually, that's originally a George Carlin joke.

And when most people retell it, they inevitably get into a geek debate about mean vs. average.

Re:Explanation (2, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809643)

You say tomato, I say potato. I call upon my license to fail I paid "Bob" 30 bucks for.

Re:Explanation (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809689)

Assume normal distribution of IQ (as most do), and mean and median are the same. The joke is the truth.

Re:Explanation (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809997)

Oh, man. I just love the old "assume a normal distribution" con. Do you have any idea how much money I have made with that one?

How does that one work? I'll show you.

Let's play a game. Assuming I have a fair coin, I flip the coin and it comes up heads 9 times in a row. What is the probability of the coin coming up heads on the 10th flip?

Re:Explanation (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810357)


What is the probability of the coin coming up heads on the 10th flip?

0%, since of course you switched out the coin with a two-tailed coin after flip 9.

Re:Explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809793)

*cough* it's the median *cough*

Re:Explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809941)

"median vs mean" There, fixed that for you.

Re:Explanation (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810355)

I think you meant: mean vs MEDIAN.

(By the way, Wikipedia says that mean, median and mode are all types of "averages", so in that sense "average person" is correct, although it's not particularly precise.)

Re:Explanation (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810393)

Only about two percent of the population is more than two standard deviations below normal intelligence, but that doesn't work as a punch line.

Re:Explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810519)

So what's the difference between mean and average?

Intresing (1)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809257)

"My research has demonstrated that they have highly dysregulated THOMASes."
so in otherwods if you are bastard it is because you have brain damage ;)

Seriouly though, does anyone know if this kind of research argues for better or an inborn train as opposed to one the 'grew' later on within a person enviourment. ( otherwise known as raised that way?)

Re:Intresing (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809603)

That general line of research might turn out to be useful in answering the nature/nurture question; but it isn't good enough right now. We know that the brain is influenced by genetics; but we also know that it rewires itself like crazy during development, and to a lesser extent for the entire life of the organism. There is also some research out there suggesting that an individual's developmental trajectory can be permanently altered by conditions in utero, which can be affected by, for instance, maternal stress.

If we know what aspects of the brain to look at, that gives us a guide for future research(along with indirect techniques, like twin studies); but we certainly don't know enough yet.

Maybe (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809267)

"Jesus loves you" explained.

Re:Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809273)

Jesus wants you to have some candy. Come in my van.

Action and reaction (0, Flamebait)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809541)

"Jesus loves you" explained.

or perhaps the "Insightful" mod explained. You need only to bait the hook.

Re:Action and reaction (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810053)

Heh, the thread as I read it right now is a perfect picture of the moderation system at work. The flamebait (the AC) has been marked insightful, the insightful comment (westlake) has been marked flamebait. Bravo!

Feeling good about hurting (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809287)

If cons work by making us feel good about helping the con man, then how come so many are based on the mark trying to rip off someone? In the pigeon drop, the mark is trying to rip off the con man. In insider-knowledge scams, the mark is trying to rip off honest traders or gamblers. With "white van" scams, the mark thinks he's buying stolen goods.

Re:Feeling good about hurting (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809357)

Someone else said it as well. It is all about "I want." It always has been and it always will be. This is why TV commercials work -- you want whatever they say you want and they do their best to make it look as good as possible. This is why spam works -- they know they are offering something that some people want more than their good senses can control. This is why religion works as well.

Re:Feeling good about hurting (3, Interesting)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809565)

Pack mentality.

In the video there were four choices:

1) Yes, that's my money, hand it over.
2) Give me the wallet, then we discuss.
3) Confusion, look for leaders.
4) Walk away

It's not about greed. The most greedy is choice #1. Choice #2 was clearly possible, that's "fight", choice #3 is what most humans fall under, even if they delude themselves into thinking that's not true, and choice #4 was "flight".

About #1 or #2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810359)

It would be very interesting if he just took it. After all the wallet had no ID and the other two did claim it was not theirs.

Re:Feeling good about hurting (4, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809681)

The con works by making you *trust* the con man. Very different from feeling good about helping. So if the conman makes you believe he trusts you, offers an easy opportunity to rip him off (buy a diamond at a massive discount), you may trust the premise of his offer (e.g. the diamond is real). If he makes you feel good about "helping" him in any substantial way (he needs money for a train ticket), it helps the more honest marks justify it to themselves (I'm making a profit, but I'm also helping the poor man).

Re:Feeling good about hurting (1)

RJBeery (956252) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810103)

I would submit that these types of cons are more prevalent because they alleviate any feelings of guilt from the con men, not because they are more effective. Also, if and when the con gets busted the jury is more likely to go easy on the perpetrators because they were apparently preying on 'would-be predators'...

Re:Feeling good about hurting (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810161)


With "white van" scams, the mark thinks he's buying stolen goods.

Interesting. I didn't realize this was such a well known scam. About 10 years ago in College while walking from my car to class I would occasionally get stopped by slimy looking guys driving around in a van saying they were from "Sound Design", and repeated some ridiculous story about "extra" speakers being ordered, etc. This happened more than once, so I knew there was some form of scam here but didn't find out exactly what until later.

One day a co-worker told me he actually BOUGHT the speakers from these scum-bags. I told him they were likely stolen, or some such. He didn't believe they were stolen, he actually believed the ridiculous story. He actually contacted the police (not wanting to have bought stolen speakers), and they told him the essence of the White van speakers [wikipedia.org] scam. Sadly my co-worker didn't want to believe these guys were bad guys (and he had still somehow gotten a good deal).

Not me. (4, Funny)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809341)

I don't easily trust strangers who inexplicably trust me. I'm not easily conned. I guess I have a doubting THOMAS.

Re:Not me. (4, Insightful)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809539)

I don't easily trust strangers who inexplicably trust me. I'm not easily conned. I guess I have a doubting THOMAS.

Sounds like you have an inherent understanding of Thoreau. "If a man comes to you with the obvious intention of doing you good, run for your life."

Re:Not me. (2, Interesting)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809957)

I don't easily trust strangers who inexplicably trust me. I'm not easily conned. I guess I have a doubting THOMAS.

I wouldn't have fallen for it for one reason only: I would not have touched the money or the envelope with the money in it. Or the envelope I thought it had the money in it. If there is no personal information in the wallet, yet it seems loaded with money, my paranoia kicks in. If there is personal information inside, then I'd rather find the owner and hand it over.
Somehow, I'd rather earn $300 than steal $1000, though I'd give it back even without the finder's fee.

Besides, I remember American Gods and two-man cons.

You really cannot cheat an honest man. Not until you become greedy do these tricks work.

Paging David Brin (1)

StarEmperor (209983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809355)

We feel good when we help others?

"You just stay the hell away from me, ALAS [davidbrin.com] . I won't be your patsy. I won't be your vector."

Greed (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809381)

Because of THOMAS, the human brain makes us feel good when we help others -- this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers.

I suggest this guy needs to read Dostoevsky as a matter of urgency. He clearly has limited experience with actual members of the human race. Greed is the primary motivation for most of the species.

Fragile, needing help, seeming vulnerable... (4, Insightful)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809387)

Con men ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable...

Sounds like a few women I've dated. Sometimes, love and romance is also a con game, now isn't it?

Re:Fragile, needing help, seeming vulnerable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810203)

Sounds like a few women I've dated. Sometimes, love and romance is also a con game, now isn't it?

Oxytocin [wikipedia.org] , the hormone this article is about, plays a huge role in romance.

Re:Fragile, needing help, seeming vulnerable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810543)

Exactly my thoughts! I wonder if we've dated the same women?

Confused (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809401)

"You've got my fifty bucks, I've got the envelope with half the money, he's going to that building - we've got a 3 way thing going on here"..

No, you've got a two way thing going on - I don't know either of you two guys, that wallet wasn't there when I started talking to you, this smells funny and I'm out of here.

Cons work because some people are greedy or lazy and want something for nothing. There's no need to resort to talking about neurons or computers or whatever.

two percent are bastards? (3, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809489)

So about 6 million in America alone.

Say, isn't that about the population of Los Angeles and Manhattan (just the island, not the rest of NYC) combined? That would explain a lot.

Re:two percent are bastards? (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809611)

I have to say, I just moved to Manhattan a few months ago, and in general I haven't noticed a lot of meanness/bastardliness (though presumably *someone* is peeing in the subway entrances). People are in fact generally helpful when it doesn't benefit them at all (providing street and subway directions). Of course, you can't trust me saying this, since now that I'm living here, I'm obviously a conman.

Pointless conclusions (1)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809521)

The example they give is ridiculous... The swindle has NOTHING to do with it. They could have just as easily been honest and carried on the act, giving the guy his share of the money afterward.

The point was to win someone's trust. Betraying him afterward is an afterthought, and completely irrelevant.

Being a jerk... (1)

AdamTrace (255409) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809523)

It takes a certain amount of 'nad to appear weak and helpless, get people to help you, and then rob them blind and walk way.

I certainly don't have the stomach for it...

Adman

Obligatory, I suppose (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809639)

Request for urgent business relationship

First, I must solicit your strictest confidence in this transaction. This is by virtue of its nature as being utterly confidential and 'top secret'. I am sure and have confidence of your ability and reliability to prosecute a transaction of this great magnitude involving a pending transaction requiring maxiimum confidence.

We are top official of the federal government contract review panel who are interested in imporation of goods into our country with funds which are presently trapped in nigeria. In order to commence this business we solicit your assistance to enable us transfer into your account the said trapped funds.

The source of this fund is as follows; during the last military regime here in nigeria, the government officials set up companies and awarded themselves contracts which were grossly over-invoiced in various ministries. The present civilian government set up a contract review panel and we have identified a lot of inflated contract funds which are presently floating in the central bank of nigeria ready for payment.

However, by virtue of our position as civil servants and members of this panel, we cannot acquire this money in our names. I have therefore, been delegated as a matter of trust by my colleagues of the panel to look for an overseas partner into whose account we would transfer the sum of us$21,320,000.00(Twenty one million, three hundred and twenty thousand u.S dollars). Hence we are writing you this letter. We have agreed to share the money thus; 1. 20% For the account owner 2. 70% For us (the officials) 3. 10% To be used in settling taxation and all local and foreign expenses. It is from the 70% that we wish to commence the importation business.

Please,note that this transaction is 100% safe and we hope to commence the transfer latest seven (7) banking days from the date of the receipt of the following informatiom by tel/fax; 234-1-7740449, your company's signed, and stamped letterhead paper the above information will enable us write letters of claim and job description respectively. This way we will use your company's name to apply for payment and re-award the contract in your company's name.

We are looking forward to doing this business with you and solicit your confidentiality in this transation. Please acknowledge the receipt of this letter using the above tel/fax numbers. I will send you detailed information of this pending project when I have heard from you.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Clement Okon

note; please quote this reference number (ve/s/09/99) in all your responses.

Re:Obligatory, I suppose (1)

ReverendLoki (663861) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809817)

How passe' - The current version of this scam tries to bilk you of $700B. And judging by the news, it still works.

I actually hadn't seen one of these (the real scam, not the parodies) for some time until I received one just the other week. I actually felt a tinge of nostalgia when I saw what it was.

When you get conned... (5, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809673)

...it's because you're a gullible fool. When I get conned, it's because someone "took advantage of the human oxytocin-mediated attachment system". Well, who wouldn't fall for that?

Re:When you get conned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810145)

When I get conned, its because of Human Oxytocin-Meidated Oligophrenia. Yes, its the fault of a HOMO.

That explains charity cons (2, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809733)

That explains all the suspicious "please help me" posts on Craigslist.

One of these days I'm going to open CL and see this:

Dear Esteemed Sir;
I represent mYself, a poor Nigerian pe asant with FIVE MILLION CHILDREN to feed. I beg of you please do not send food or it will be STOLEN by corrupt officials. Instead please wire THE SUM OF 10 MILLIION US DOLLARS to [Western Union recipient information deleted for posting to Slashdot] so that I may buy food for my fAamily and pay off the police so they don't rape my daughters.

Thank You and God Bless.

I feel I must apologize for the truth. (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809841)

"If we humans have such big brains, how can we get conned?"

Because, of the miserably depressing truth. That perhaps only a tiny percentage of human beings are actually smart, they get to design and engineer stuff and ponder quantum mechanics and zip about in orbit and fly jet fighters, these few are what we measure the success of the human endeavour on. While the rest of us do the equivalent contribution in intellectual terms of plowing fields and shoveling shit. Going further, there are also many of us who actively work against the continued prosperity of the human civilization and some even outright threaten our long term survival. In reality were are defenseless overclocked monkeys that are easily duped.

Conclusion: The human brain is incredible bit of computational kit, but it doesn't necessarily follow that it is any good. It is a unstable, bloated and virus ridden computer, with numerous security flaws, and rather than merely crashing and rebooting, by design it never stops, it continues running producing bad data until corruption overruns it and causes the human to get killed (hopefully not breeding first).

Further reduced conclusion: Humans are as stupid as possible for an intelligent species.

Re:I feel I must apologize for the truth. (4, Interesting)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810351)

Remember how complex the task of navigating the world in any sort of functional manner is. As evidence look at how successful AI is in navigating across a room with furniture. For all its flaws, the mind has an amazing capacity to navigate it's environment and accomplish goals, even if you don't agree with said goals. Every brain is a marvel, even as screwed up as we are.

Most of that 2 percent work on WallStreet. (1)

Bonzoli (932939) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809909)

Its the bottom feeders you see, the smartest of that 2 percent aspire to Manage large multinational companies where they play the role of Neutral Evil Management. Treating you like crap, pilfering the company, and making you think its a Career.

Wall street anyone? It looks like the biggest Pidgen drop game in the world. AIG has to be the biggest winner here.

Re:Most of that 2 percent work on WallStreet. (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810409)

JP Morgan has AIG beat by a long shot. Check out what they did/are doing to Wamu and be amazed.

Conning may be one end of a spectrum of behaviors (1)

ksynr (1410339) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809973)

If you view a targeted con as one extreme of a continuum of interpersonal behaviors designed to "influence" the target (the conner) in some way for the "benefit" of the connee, and establishing oneself as vulnerable in some way is a way to establish trust, then there are probably a variety of situations where such vulnerability could be effective in achieving a desired outcome. The con may just be someone who "consciously" and systematically exploits this mechanism for material, physical, emotional or social gain. We may all use the mechanism in certain situations, even unconsciously, so it doesn't have to be nefarious. But being conscious, mindful, that vulnerability is in play in a situation might enable us to mitigate it's more "automatic" effects. Of course, if you're dealing with a predator, which is how we usually describe a hard core con, being vulnerable to the predator only insures your loss or demise. So we have to recognize when we're dealing with a smart predator / con, who can lull us into unwise actions by appearing vulnerable and engaging our trust. That's where that gut level feeling comes in of "uh oh", this doesn't sound, seem, smell right, or the con detector. I assume we can differ in ability to detect cons, just as cons can differ in their level of sophistication.

You can't con an honest man (4, Insightful)

istartedi (132515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810005)

When dealing with $3,000 a light has to go off in your head that says "there are procedures for dealing with this". Go to the police. Tell the guy you'll walk to the nearest police station with him, or that you'll call the non-emergency number with your cel phone. The police will hold the money for a statutory limit, and if nobody claims it, THEN you might get it. YMMV on the laws in your jurisdiction and how honest the cops are.

Now, if you're not a totally honest man a different light goes off in your head. That light says "How can I get this money, nevermind the victim or due process".

Re:You can't con an honest man (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810241)

A totally honest man doesn't exist. Remember in DnD (2nd edition I believe, wow i'm a nerd but at least I was young) when one of the suggested methods of destroying an artifact item was to have it crushed under the heel of an honest man? I believe one of the other ones was to throw it into the center of the sun.

Re:You can't con an honest man (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810435)

A successful con needs only a single lapse in judgment, regardless of the mark's character. Anyone can be a victim, and most everyone is at one point in time or another.

Beware of modern neurophrenology (5, Insightful)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810201)

There is no doubt that functional imaging such as fMRI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fmri) PET (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positron_emission_tomography) and MEG (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetoencephalography) have been a tremendous boon to the field of neuroscience. But seeing localized activity in the brain and then drawing a conclusion about the mechanisms of behavior is the wrong way to interpret the data. I hate Psychology Today for pulling this crap all the time, activity in the brain is simply data to be interpreted, not a conclusion in itself. This is like when a segment of DNA is implicated in some sort of behavior or developmental trait, and we see the headlines "X gene discovered!!!". The question is simply too complex to answer with that kind of analysis.

We cannot view the brain as a simple modular system, which merely needs a circuit diagram drawn to discover its mysteries. Functional specialization no doubt exists, but in an interconnected and complex way that resists simple explanations of "oh, this part of the brain lit up during this therefore this". Localization alone tells us little, it is only in complement with studies of neurotransmitter mechanisms, single cell recordings, computational theories, and numerous other techniques of brain exploration that any real answers are going to be found. THOMAS doesn't explain anything, its just a piece in the puzzle.

Because even smart people do stupid things (3, Insightful)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810211)

Germany during World War II, for example, most believed and followed Hitler. Germany had some smart people, but they made stupid decisions and fell for Hitler's scam.

The same is true of Democratic and Republican US citizens falling for their candidate's scams. Once elected into office, do you really think they will keep every promise they made and do what they told their supporters they would do?

If it sounds too good to be true, most of the time it isn't true at all, it is a scam.

If, for example, you get an email saying you won the UK lottery chances are it is a scam, or Bill Gates giving out millions if you forward this email to 20 of your friends and family, it is a scam, or someone dying in Nigeria with your last name and has $10 million waiting to be wired to you and need your contact info and banking numbers etc, it is a scam.

Is Paul J. Zak the Treasurer of Zimbabwe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25810491)

... Because he just asked me to wire him $50,000 to help him get the funds out of the country.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...