It is said that the goal of a confidence game (con, scam, rook) is to gain the confidence of the mark. Of course, the goal is actually to gain the property of the mark, the rest is incidental.
One con most of us are familiar with is 419 fraud. If you have an e-mail account, someone has probably tried to send you one of these letters. The fact is, however, this scam has worked hundreds if not thousands of times.
If the letter is to be believed, you are being entrusted with secrecy, money (in your account) and more valuable than those, the trust of an important and powerful individual. This alone has been enough to swindle many gullible and not-so-gullible people. Especially when perpetrated via mail or fax, this process can be deceptively attractive to the unwary.
Or take The Spanish Prisoner. A powerful prince enlists your trust, describing his former imprisonment, exile, escape, trials, crimes, etc. He buys you dinner, maybe takes you for a ride in his fancy car. He exhibits refinement, confidence and wealth. For days, you are entertained by him until word comes from his sister (who has been in hiding) that she is now in a position to escape—with a small fortune. All that's needed is your assistance and you'll receive thanks that fits a king's remembrance.
Is this not a friend worth helping? If his cards are played right, you might be willing to put forth time, effort and money to help him rescue his (beautiful and marriageable) sister—and the loot. Perhaps you are too polite to ask what's in it for you. Perhaps you aren't. In the end, though, you'll surely be asked for a little money to help speed her escape. Or perhaps it's something else they want.
As David Mamet suggests in his House of Games, more often than not, the confidence is given to the mark rather than gained. As a form of exchange, the same is expected in return. The mark is led to believe that the con operator is placing legitimate trust in him, when the truth is that it is simply an illusion.
For more information, read on:
Con Operators (in loose order of importance)
- yellow pages
The Short Con
- The Badger Game, noded by bitter_engineer
- Three Card Monte, noded by many
The Long Con
- The Wire, noded by tokki
- The Rag, noded by tokki
- The Pigon Drop, noded by spring
- Nigerian Mail Scams, noded by consumagenerica (see also 419 fraud, noded by cecil36
- Advance Fee Fraud, noded by some_guy
- cover girl
Other confidence terminology:
- confidence game
- big game
- little game
Movies and/or Plays
- The Spanish Prisoner, written and directed by David Mamet, noded best by BaronWR
- Heist, written and directed by David Mamet
- House of Games, written and directed by David Mamet, noded by joedoc
- American Buffalo, written by David Mamet, noded by Qeyser
- Glengarry Glen Ross, written by David Mamet, noded best by Simpleton
- The Sting, directed by George Roy Hill, Written by David S. Ward, noded by mblase
- The Color of Money, directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Walter Tevis, noded by NothingLasts4ever
- The Grifters, a novel by Jim Thompson, a movie by Stephen Frears, noded by GirlMontag
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, directed by Frank Oz, written by Dale Launer and Stanley Shapiro
- Confidence, directed by James Foley, written by Doug Jung
- Matchstick Men, directed by Ridley Scott, written by Eric Garcia, adapted by Nicholas Griffin and Ted Griffin, noded by Jallak
- Paper Moon, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, written by Joe David Brown, adapted by Alvin Sargent, noded by Kit
- Criminal, directed by Gregory Jacobs, written by Gregory Jacobs and Steven Soderbergh based on a film by Fabián Bielinsky (Nueve Reinas)