"It’s a startling and disconcerting read that should make you think twice every time a friend of a friend offers you the opportunity of a lifetime.”
—Erik Larson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dead Wake and bestselling author of Devil in the White City
Think you can’t get conned? Think again. The New York Times bestselling author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes explains how to spot the con before they spot you.
“[An] excellent study of Con Artists, stories & the human need to believe” –Neil Gaiman, via Twitter
A compelling investigation into the minds, motives, and methods of con artists—and the people who fall for their cons over and over again.
While cheats and swindlers may be a dime a dozen, true conmen—the Bernie Madoffs, the Jim Bakkers, the Lance Armstrongs—are elegant, outsized personalities, artists of persuasion and exploiters of trust. How do they do it? Why are they successful? And what keeps us falling for it, over and over again? These are the questions that journalist and psychologist Maria Konnikova tackles in her mesmerizing new book.
From multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds, Konnikova pulls together a selection of fascinating stories to demonstrate what all cons share in common, drawing on scientific, dramatic, and psychological perspectives. Insightful and gripping, the book brings readers into the world of the con, examining the relationship between artist and victim. The Confidence Game asks not only why we believe con artists, but also examines the very act of believing and how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We got totally wrapped up in Maria Konnikova’s colorful examination of con artists and the marks that who fall for their deceptions. The Confidence Game is a thrilling look at the psychological underpinnings of every con, from a rapid-fire game of three-card monte to an elaborate Ponzi scheme years in the making. With fascinating anecdotes and character profiles, Konnikova shows us how swindlers and “aristocrats of crime” thrive during periods of social upheaval and capitalize on the fundamental human desire to live in a world that can rise above doldrum existence to deliver flashes of magic and good luck.
Konnikova (Mastermind) opens a door to the fascinating world of truly brilliant con artists not the quotidian hustlers, but the Madoffs of the world. She asks whether they are psychopaths, epic narcissists, or just regular Joes with extraordinary confidence and a skill for telling a good story. Konnikova provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of some of recent history's smoothest talkers, covering the setups and executions of some of their extraordinary scams. From consumer fraud and online scams to complex, multiyear grifts and bald-faced lies, readers are reminded that these scams could happen to anyone and are far more common than is commonly realized no one, after all, wants to admit to having been duped. As for why people fall for these cons, Konnikova shows that it's because humans want to believe great stories and don't necessarily recognize the fine line between a legitimate story and an illegitimate one. Told with vigor and enthusiasm, this study of the psychology of the con artist is riveting and cleverly told.
A fascinating, enjoyable, and important read.
I haven’t been able to stop talking about this book. I love the many fascinating accounts of con-men (and women) spinning their webs, and yet, even more intriguing are the author’s explanations for how the con’s work so elegantly on our psychology. As a fan of dramatic structure, and human behavoir, I can see myself referring to this book for a long time to come.