Con Artists - They steal from you by sneaking in through your emotions instead of through your window... 

...But they can only con you if you let them in.  So, you would be wise to have an understanding of how their minds work and why they do what they do. 

You would be wise because once you have been conned, quite possibly the police will not help you since your close connection with the con artist may make it difficult to prove fraud.  They may tell you it is a civil matter and recommend that you get an attorney.  That means you will have to throw good money after bad.  And the anger and hurt you will feel by the betrayal will be with you for a long time.  Not only is your money gone, your heart broken and your time wasted, but you know the con artist is somewhere having a good time spending your money and maybe even laughing at your stupidity. 

   Sad as it is, your "stupidity" may have just been old-fashioned caring and concern for a down-and-out person who touched your heart or it may have been a common sense business plan that would have benefited you and the con artist or a deep romantic love for the soul mate you thought you had finally found.  You may have actually signed a contract of some kind to "protect" yourself.  But that contract only has value if the other party is a legitimate business person with assets and an address.  The contract may turn out to be the only reason the police won't go after the con artist because the contract "validates" the civil issue.   

So, if it's not already too late - beware and prepare by reading the warnings below!!  If it is too late, complete a CUFF Fraud Report form to see if we can help you obtain justice.

Anyone Can Be Fooled by a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Why Are Some People
 Easier Prey Than Others?
Some Signals that Should
 Make You Suspicious
What To Do After 
You've Been Conned


   Often times we think of con artists as preying on the elderly because they can be mentally disoriented and susceptible to the attention and concern of a stranger.  However, it can happen to anyone. 

  It happened to a Microsoft executive who was conned out of over a million dollars by a con artist in Seattle who even swindled members of his own family.  It took years to find this fugitive, but he was finally apprehended in late 2000 - right in the middle of his wedding rehearsal to a woman who may or may not have known his real identity. 

   Believe it or not, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was actually sold for the scrap metal in the early 20th Century -  not just once but twice by the same con man.  It happened the second time because the first victim was so embarrassed that he couldn't bring himself to tell the authorities about the swindle. 

   In Las Vegas the street-smart shysters actually have names for the con games they play on tourists or anyone they can trick.  If they can trick you within a few minutes or even hours, it is referred to as the Short Con.  But if they have to waste precious time setting you up and "proving" to you their trustworthiness, then it becomes the Long Con.  You can bet the Long Con will have to produce a tidy profit for a good con artist to waste his or her time.

   Sometimes a con can turn into murder when the victim shows suspicion.  In Sun City, AZ, an elderly woman was bludgeoned to death by her trusted financial advisor when she discovered that he was embezzling her investment funds.   

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Why are some people easily conned and others aren't?  The most common reasons are vulnerability, genuine good heartedness or susceptibility to get-rich-quick schemes.

 (1) Vulnerability is the unlocked window through which con artists climb into your confidence. This vulnerability usually involves loneliness or desperation regarding money, such as being heavily indebted or having business financial problems.  Another common vulnerability is just being unhappy with one's life and looking for a quick and easy way to improve it.  Vulnerability opens a person to the kindness or cleverness of strangers and often clouds a logical mind with the haziness of hope and promises.

Like an innocent child trusting an adult who emotionally damages them for life, good-hearted people are sitting ducks for con artists.  How can you tell a genuinely loving person to be suspicious of everyone?  You might as well acknowledge that there is no hope for true human goodness.

(3) Getting rich quick has become a national pastime as state lotteries and casino gambling burgeon all over the country and unsophisticated investors used the stock market as a roulette wheel in the '90's.  So, it is hard to judge people like the victim who withdrew $5,000 from her checking account to give to perfect strangers in a bank parking lot.  She thought the "investment" she was making to a foreign charity would make her a quick profit.  Instead, she ended up with a bag full of shredded newspaper and a life-time memory of betrayal by two men whose names she didn't even know.

    By definition, when you are conned it means you had a personal relationship with the con artist.  They convinced you that they would do something for you - something that would benefit you.  They looked you right in the eyes and said, "Trust me," and you did.   

    And don't think that just because you have an education you are too smart to be fooled by a con artist.  Department of Justice studies show that people with some college or a college degree are the most susceptible to con artist scams.

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    Most people are probably not going to fall for the short con of the carnival barker, at least not more than once.  It is the Long Con - the well laid out plan of a shrewd talker and planner that will trap the truly unsuspecting - like the Microsoft executive, like the Eiffel Tower purchaser.  These are the people that do the serious damage and who must be guarded against.  

    You cannot buy a security system to protect yourself from these people.  The only security system you have is your good judgment - something that is not always up to par when you are financially desperate or painfully lonely.  Therefore, here are some warning signals that should be heeded when you are vulnerable and a stranger or even a friend that you do not really know a lot about starts making plans for your money:

                                             "I'll Never Steal from You"  

  Beware of the person who says, "I'll never steal from you," when discussing the "plan."  That's like saying, "I'll never throw food in your face."   If they feel the need to bring this up, it means they are actually imaging the act of throwing food in your face - or stealing from you. Responsible, honest people wouldn't even think the thought. 

                                                  "Any Day Now..."        
  Beware of the person who says, "We're almost there,"  over and over and over and over, or any variation of this concept, such as "Any day now,"  "We've got to get this show on the road," "Next month, I'm going to....", "My big check will be here any day"...The con artist will stretch this anticipation out as long as you will tolerate it.  When the con man suspects you have finally had enough, he will spring his trap and disappear with your money. 

   Most victims will allow this procrastination to extend long beyond a common sense deadline because THEY DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH.  Their denial is no different than denial by a spouse who suspects infidelity in their mate.  The financial and emotional losses that will result when the truth is acknowledged are too painful to face.  As long as the truth is denied, maybe it really isn't the truth.  Inevitably, the con artist will help the victim face the cruel reality of the truth by fleeing with all the money that his allotted time would allow him to collect.    

                            The Contract that Is Supposed to "Protect" You

(3)  The richest man in America knew the value of a contract even when he was a kid.  Bill Gates actually convinced his sister to sign a contract securing some mutual agreement between them when they were still school kids living at home.  He no doubt recognized that the enforcers of legal contracts - the law (in this case, his parents) would have the power to require fulfillment of the terms if necessary.  However, this law is only good for law abiders.  I have watched a doctor who lost approximately $1400 in a Small Claims Court judgment go from "Oh well, do I pay this at the court clerk's window?" to "Never mind, I'll talk to my attorney and get back to you." when he was advised by the judge that it was the plaintiff's responsibility, not the court's, to collect the money.  

Enforcement of laws comes in two forms: conscience or coercion.  A signed contract is only enforceable if you have the money to pursue it in court.  Therefore, when you sign a contract with an employee, business partner, friend; when you sign over a piece of real estate, a  vehicle, etc., you are almost certainly guaranteeing that any fraudulent issues which may arise will go to civil, not criminal, court.  

Never, never sign a contract without an attorney or totally objective third party's participation and notarized signature.  The con man can change any part of  the contract that was made between you and him.  The police may only require him to fax a copy  of the signed agreement - just to get you off their back and close the case. 

However, in Small Claims Court, if you are attempting to collect on a debt, you can be certain that very few minutes will pass before the judge looks at you and says, "Do you have a signed contract?"  Therefore, if you try to collect civilly on a debt, you are already at a disadvantage if you do not have a signed contract with the defendant.  But if you do have a contract, the chances are the police will not help you.     

                                             Too Perfect to Believe

(4)   If you are using your money for a business venture, real estate purchase, etc. with a friend and this person makes overt attempts to perform ostentatiously honorable acts - BEWARE.  For example, the person goes to the trouble of taking your credit cards out of a drawer where you have stored them and brings them to you "for protection" before you leave the house for a few days; the person is too perfect, never doing anything to annoy you or show weaknesses; you open a checking account together and they make a point of showing you each and every deposit slip and calling the bank every so often to check the balance while you are present - just to make you see what an efficient and honest person they are.

                        Joint Checking Accounts that Can Bankrupt You

(5)  If you open a checking account with a person who later turns out to be a con artist - YOU may  be responsible for any monies that were inappropriately deposited, regardless of whether or not you knew about the fraud.  In one case a woman in her 60's opened a checking account with a younger man for the purpose of starting a small business.  The account was opened with checks he provided.  Based on her relationship with the bank, this man was able to withdraw $17,000 on these checks before they all cleared.  Everyone of the deposited checks turned out to be fraudulent.  But the bank considered the older lady to be liable for the $17,000.  

     The Super Salesman Who Uses His Skills on You Instead of Your Customers

Beware of the super salesman whose selling skills are limited to you.  You may hire a manager because of his exceptionally smooth salesmanship.  He's a gifted persuader and almost always gets the sale.  Beware when this gift is concentrated on you and not the customer.  If he is a con man he has learned that the period of time that he can stretch out his promises is limited.. But during this time period, he knows his lies will be interpreted by you as reasonable explanations for delaying action on certain issues.  (The bigger the lie, the more believable.)  

Some super salesmen are lazy people who have learned to use their persuasion skills to make a living.  And they've learned that it is a lot easier to persuade one person to give them a lot of money than it is to persuade many to give them a little.  If you have signed a contract with him, even if it is based on commission, it is possible for him to disappear with your business property and money and claim that you tried to cheat him and he's just taking what is fairly his.  The police may wish you the best in civil court - if you ever find him, that is.

                                      If You Fall In Love, You're a Goner  

If you fall in love with a con artist - you are a goner.  Most of us at one time or another have donned the protective armor of denial when love wanes.  But when you add the love ingredient to a possible con involving your life savings or your credit, denial becomes temporary insanity.  You need to talk to someone objective, even an attorney or counselor.  You need to receive a reality slap by someone who knows the whole story and can tell you what the situation appears to be.  And don't think this is limited to women.  Go to the CUFF database and select the General Crime Description of FRAUD with the gender "FEMALE".  You will see some attractive ladies who have successfully convinced someone to hand over their savings.  And just because these women didn't have the sophistication to protect themselves with the trappings of a civil agreement doesn't make it any easier for the victims.  These women still got away with the victims' money and even a warrant didn't helped them get it back.  

We frequently hear from people who have had an intimate friend or significant other steal from them and the police have relegated the theft to the civil arena simply because of the close relationship.  One lady lived with a man for three years.  The house and the car were hers before they met. When he decided to end the relationship, he simply drove away in her car which was financed by a credit company.  The police refused to consider it a theft because he had driven it while they lived together.  Yet, the credit company told her she was liable for the debt.   Finally, 18 months later, the car was found and impounded by the credit company and sold.  This woman was granted relief by the credit company for the difference between the value and the sales price.  But her credit was ruined and she lost her car.  The only disadvantage to the thief was that after 18 months, he had to get his own car.

The best advice given for a scam involving a love relationship is the same advice that can be applied to any con: Make people EARN your trust.  Don't give it away.  Take time to get to know the person and to check them out.  Let them do some kind, gracious things for you before you start graciously showering them with your credit and money.  

                                           The Victim as the "Traitor" 

(8)  The con artist will attempt to gain control of your thinking so that you won't use your common sense.  He may even become belligerent at times in the hopes of intimidating you into compliance.  He will never do this at the beginning of the scam before he gains your confidence.  He will wait till the end when you are tiring of the excuses or procrastination.  He will attempt to make you feel like a traitor to the "cause" or a fool who doesn't have the patience to wait just a little longer to make a lot of money.

   Never fall for this.  Use your common sense.  What are the reasons that he is procrastinating?  Check them out for yourself.  If he won't tell you or won't give you someone to contact, allow your common sense to take over - and end the scam before you lose more than you already have.

                                          The Victim as the Middleman

The essence of a con or scam is that the con artist has nothing to lose and everything to gain and you, the victim, have everything to lose and only the promise of gain.  There is no middle ground.  Carefully analyze the proposal, "deal", relationship, plan, etc. that the con artist is offering you.  What can you lose - your life savings, your job, your reputation, your house, your car, your credit.  What can he gain?  Possibly, all of the above, except your reputation and your job.

   If a con artist is able to use you as a "middle man" in a scam, he will use this against you when you attempt to pull away.  He will tell you that you are as "guilty as I am" in this and that you will be prosecuted as well.  He will make every attempt to intimidate you into extending your participation, at least until he can flee with the booty.  Don't pay attention to any of his threats.  Go to the police before they come to you if it turns out that you have unwittingly been participating in an illegal scam.  Go to to learn how to write a police report that will put the con artist behind bars and prove your innocence.

                                Previous Employers Who "Pass the Trash"

   If you do a background check on an employee, don't expect that this is necessarily sufficient to authenticate their work history.  Other employers are often reluctant to tell you if the employee stole from them. They may be glad to get rid of the problem, but rarely will they volunteer this information for fear of lawsuits.  The best way to determine this is to ask the direct question, "Did this person ever steal from you?"  They will usually answer yes or no.  Document this with the person's name and date of the call.  If this employee turns out to be a con artist, you will be able to prove in a court of law that you made an effort to screen them before hiring them.  

  If this person is using a pseudonym, they may have used it with the employer before you.  If at all possible, try to compare the person's employment application with the personnel departments in the companies where he worked previously.  You may be shocked to see different information, ranging from schools attended to jobs held during the same time period.  If it is possible, compare the driver's license the applicant gave you with the one he gave the previous employer.  You may find two totally different ID's, except for the name.  

  If the references' phone numbers have been disconnected or the previous employers have "gone out of business," make sure the employee can produce at least two legitimate references that know him and his work.  Also, beware of reasons given for not calling the previous employer.  It is human nature to want to side with the person who can help you even if they don't want you to confirm their accusations about the third party.  You may want to believe that the other employer was a bully who mistreated his employees and tried to short them on their hours and your new recruit had the moral fortitude to stand up to him and tell him off.  You may want to believe this story because you need this employee badly.   Do yourself a favor and sleep on it.  

  All of the above hiring procedures are important, but you can embellish them with every hyperbole you can think of when you interview that sharp, eager beaver who shows up out of nowhere with no money and a beat-up car.  You can be sure if you ask too many questions of a person like this, it is they who will do the rejecting and not you, for an application inquisition is a brick wall to a con artist. 

  Unfortunately, honest, hard-working employees are difficult to find, so when an applicant shines in the interview, you may subconsciously NOT want to know about their past.  You need them so badly that you will hire them and hope for the best.  In other words, your desperation has made you VULNERABLE and easy prey for con artists fleeing from some past indiscretion.  You are better off working longer hours yourself than bringing in an unknown who may cost you more than he ever earns for you.  After all, employee theft is linked to 30% of all failed businesses.  

                          Compulsions and Addictions - The Fuel for Fraud

  Most thefts, which includes cons, are perpetrated out of desperation for money.  Most people have jobs and earn their money honestly.  But sometimes even people with good jobs become desperate for money and will steal from you to obtain it.   Generally, their desperation is borne of compulsions that are in control of their lives - gambling, drugs, the need to impress others.  

  A friend or employee who is otherwise likeable and trustworthy will turn on you in a heartbeat when their master comes calling.  Whether it is the loan shark or just lady luck, their drug dealer or just a depression that needs "medication," you can be sure they will go to the quickest and easiest source of income to meet these needs.  They may even feel bad about the theft, but that won't stop them from committing it.  And what difference does it make to you whether they feel guilty or not.  Your money or property is long gone - and more than likely, so is your former friend or employee.  

Never trust your money with anyone who has a compulsion that needs constant refueling.

                                         The Employer as "Babysitter"  
  Beware of recent check fraud laws that banks may use to avoid paying you back if they accept deposits of your business checks with forged endorsements into someone else's account...or if they cash one of your checks with an actual forgery.  These laws place more responsibility on an employer to "baby sit" their grown up employees and can force you to seek restitution from an employee or friend or even a stranger who simply finds the endorsed checks and deposits them into their account.  Click
Beware of Recent Check Fraud Laws  to review some of these laws. 

                                                    "Trust, but Verify"

  The immortal words of President Ronald Reagan  - "Trust, but Verify" - can best describe how to protect yourself if you suspect that you may be involved with a con artist.  It worked with the Soviet Union.  It will work with any deceptive, self-centered person bent on taking what you have through stealth.  A con artist counts on you needing them to fulfill a particular goal that you have.  They have recognized that you are not able to obtain it yourself and they know that you want it bad enough to believe someone who claims they can help you achieve it.  In other words, you are vulnerable and the con artist knows it.  One successful con artist, interviewed in his jail cell, summed it up tersely: "We sell you your dreams."   

   You may be a lonely, single person looking for companionship; you may be a business in financial trouble; you may be a person unhappy with his life who is eager to find a way to change it for the better; you may be someone who likes the idea of making quick money.  You may also be an investor who is simply handing your life savings over to a person you believe is a professional.  The person may actually have a functioning business - may even be a CEO of a large corporation.  Con artists come in all forms and from all income levels. 

   Go ahead and give the benefit of the doubt to your new friend or investment counselor.  But, before you fork over a penny, verify everything they tell you about themselves.  Ask for references and make sure you check them out.  And always pay attention to your inner voice.  Studies have shown that the "gut" feeling we get is often more accurate than hard data.  Interviews with federal law enforcement personnel have revealed that at least 50% of the executives kidnapped by rebels in South America felt something was wrong prior to their capture but never did anything to investigate their concerns.  If individuals will disregard their inner suspicious when their life is at stake, it is not hard to understand how fraud victims can walk innocently into a scam even when they aren't completely comfortable with the situation.

    There IS no better con artist repellent than a thorough background check.  Yet, as simple as this seems, many victims, in spite of their inner suspicious, hesitate to do it.  Why?  Often it's because, like the spouse of a cheating mate...they really don't want to know the truth.  They would rather cling to the hope that this amazing new friend can actually deliver the dreams they have promised.  It is a conundrum of human nature.  Everyone knows there is no fairy godmother, but, well, if you are vulnerable enough, you just might think...who knows, maybe something magical WILL happen.  (Not that farfetched today when lotteries are not only sanctioned by the government but the winners are even selected on live tv.) Believe us, what will happen is anything but magical. Thousands of former fraud victims will tell you that you should: STOP, bail out, cut your losses right where you are, forget trying to make back what you have lost by giving the con artist "just a little more" and go after the person legally and criminally, if possible. The only magic that will ever come out of a con artist encounter is the magic of a court judgment that will either send the con artist to jail or will allow the victim to attach the con artist's assets.

   If you have been the victim of a con artist or you suspect you might be involved with a con artist at the present time, tell CUFF about it.  We will attempt to help you identify the person and investigate possible past indiscretions of this person for the purpose of identifying outstanding warrants or aiding in your criminal and/or civil prosecution.  Complete a Fraud Report Form and we will contact you within 72 hours.

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   Unfortunately, the only real protection against con artists is to become a hard-nosed, self-centered, suspicious, ungenerous, uncaring individual who never does anything for anyone that doesn't benefit Number One.  That way the playing field will be level - that is, reduced to the level of the con artist.  But what a terrible, hate-filled world that would be and very few of us are willing to assume those traits just to protect ourselves from potential theft. 

   So, barring that as an answer, the solution is to continue to practice genuine graciousness and fairness with our employees, friends, co-workers, loved ones and hope that they will return the favor.  But when they don't, when they actually steal from us, then we must take them to court if the justice system won't prosecute.  We must make them understand that while we may be soft in our hearts, we are hard in our pursuit of justice.  These people must understand that a network of people exits that will close ranks on the cons of the world and eventually make their "trade" so costly that they will think twice before practicing it.  Citizens United to Find Fugitives (CUFF) is part of this network.  Let us tell the world about the con artist who tricked you so others won't be tricked...and so that you can obtain justice. 

    If your con artist has an outstanding warrant of any kind, put the person in the CUFF fugitive database:
Submit A Fugitive.  When you obtain a civil judgment against the person, put them in the database under the Civil Judgment category.  If you are still reeling from the shock of being defrauded by someone you knew and trusted and don't know where to start or you just need to talk to others who have been through the experience, complete the CUFF Fraud Report.  We might be able to help you identify the person if he used an alias, research his background for a criminal history that might encourage a prosecutor to charge him with fraud and even help you find him if an extraditable warrant is in effect.  If the person doesn't have a warrant but you think he will continue to defraud others, enter him or her in CUFF's Internet Swindler's Database.

    Go to our Get Even Legally Page and find out how to sue the con artist in Small Claims Court without an attorney - even if you don't know where the person is.  Get that judgment so you can have the defendant's wages and bank account garnisheed and/or his personal property seized.   It is actually very easy, but it takes some patience. Once he is in the database, you may be surprised to discover that you are not the first victim of your con artist as others who recognize him begin to contact you with their stories of fraud and deception.  Then, collectively, you might produce enough information to convince a prosecutor to issue charges against the con artist on the basis of fraud schemes.  

    Guaranteed - you will feel the thrill of justice course through your veins as you close in on your prey and you imagine the look in his eyes when he discovers how he was caught. And, if he already has a criminal history or if he is prosecuted for your fraud and goes to prison, when he gets out, his future employers, potential business partners and girlfriends can check him out for free in the CUFF fugitive database since his criminal history will remain a permanent record, thanks to you.  He might even be forced to become an honest citizen - just to survive.

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