When trying to defraud you, a confidence trickster uses definite, well-worn tools for the task. So, in order to help you See those tools First, we’ve devised this handy acronym to remember them all: C FURST. The letters stand for Confusion, Fear, Urgency, Rapport & Reciprocity, Scarcity, and Trust.

A huckster will act to create a sense of:

Confusion: “What’s going on?”

Think of Scientology’s “personality test,” or any of the jargon invariably shot at a “mark.” Putting things in new and unfamiliar terms creates confusion, which fosters –

Fear: “Something bad is happening.”

Think of all the predictions of Armageddon used by innumerable cults to bring people in and keep them in line. But even a telephone fraudster will use fear, such as a phantom lawsuit, poisons in your basement, or your hard drive imploding. This leads to –

Urgency: “And you’ve got to act now.”

If you have to “Buy Now!”, don’t. It should come as no surprise to anyone that we don’t think as well when we’re rushed. One bully I encountered would get decisions made in his favor by counting down the seconds until we “had” to make up our minds – not one of the people I saw him manipulating (including myself) thought to ask him why he had the right to dictate how long it took us to choose. Of course, intimidation isn’t half as effective as –

Rapport & Reciprocity: “I’m on your side – see; I’m giving you something.”

When I was a teenager visiting Paris, I went to Sacre Coeur Cathedral in the Montmatre district, where a sweet-faced little old lady complimented me on my hair, my dress, and my very good French (which was probably horrible, to tell the truth). Then she gave me a blessing, a small tin crucifix worth perhaps a centime, and, after she then demanded “un peu d’urgent,” she also gave me a lesson on how easy it is to get grifted by sweet-faced little old ladies in metropolitan areas. If Mme. had really been on her game, she might have tried to convince me that the relic was rare, thus giving me a sense of –

Scarcity: “This is a limited offer!”

Not only does this give us a sense of being one of the elite (haha! I’m getting in on this sweet deal now, and everyone else will wish they had had the chance!), but it ties in with the sense of Urgency, because you have to move fast, and also creates Rapport, as you’re being picked out for special treatment.

All of the above combines to give us a sense of –

Trust: “Trust me …”

Aficionados of Disney movies will remember that iconic scene in the studio’s adaptation of Kipling’s Jungle Book, where Kaa, the wily serpent, sings a hypnotically sweet song to Mowgli, while leading the hapless “man-cub” into his coils. And although the young hero of the film has Bagheera the Panther to rescue him, putting your trust in someone who is using the tools above is never a good idea.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree?  Do you have a story about a con artist, grifter or huckster that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!