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ESSAY — THE CON MAN by Christiaan A. Hart Nibbrig

By   /   May 6, 2014  /   No Comments

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Christiaan A. Hart Nibbrig.  (photo: N.E. Hart Nibbrig)

Christiaan A. Hart Nibbrig. (photo: N.E. Hart Nibbrig)

To the con man, the world is divided into three groups: sharks, marks, and the law.

Sharks, like himself (and they are mostly men), prey on the marks, while trying to avoid capture by the law, whose aim is to protect the marks and catch the sharks.

Ponzi or pyramid schemes are what used to be known in the language of old-time criminals as a “long con.” The ‘long con’ takes vision, teamwork, and a plan.

The charming trickster has been around since the ancient past.

The trickster relies on theft by guile, not violence.

As a group, con men are difficult to categorize. They tend to have diverse educational backgrounds. Some had problematic childhoods, others well-adjusted. Some held a number of jobs; others consistently employed with a single occupation. They’re all over the place.

As for the con man’s motives; they are not always solely monetary. He may enjoy the exercise of power and feeling “important.” He might like to “prove” cleverness over others. He may just get a charge out of lying to people.

Psychologically, it is evident that the con man has, to a degree, a lack of remorse, empathy, or concern for his marks, his victims. It takes a certain amorality and callousness to exploit the trust of others and steal from them.

The con man often rationalizes his thievery by claiming the swindle is the fault of the victim. “They were greedy; they deserve what they get,” justifies the swindler. In this rationale, both the con man and victim are “guilty.”

  • The con man needs to appear to be honest. But he is not. His greatest skill is as a liar. He has mastered the act of lying to someone face-to-face, over and again. Not everyone can do this.

The con man has a certain enjoyment of acting, performing. He is usually skilled in salesmanship. In American society, salesmanship is valued. Commerce is often based on the ability to persuade a consumer that his product is worthy. This is not abnormal dynamic. In a normal business context, it is rewarded.

Viewed like this, what the church con man does is simply an extreme, albeit illegal, example of the dynamic of a normal business sales transaction. That makes him dangerous.

His, the thief’s, appearance is“normal” ; that is, he looks like the people from whom he is stealing.

The swindler embraces the values of his target marks. In the case of the Greater Ministries International swindle, the marks were mostly fundamentalist Christians, anti-government fringe groups, and ‘horse & buggy’ Amish and Mennonites. There were thousands and thousands of them.

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