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Confidence trick facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

A confidence trick, or con for short, (also known as a scam) is an attempt to intentionally mislead a person or persons (known as the mark) usually with the goal of financial or other gain. The confidence trickster, con man, scam artist or con artist often works with an accomplice called the shill, who tries to encourage the mark by pretending to believe the trickster.

Some well-known confidence tricks:

  • Three Card Monty, The Three-Card Trick, Follow The Lady or Find the Lady. The trickster shows three playing cards to the audience, one of which is a queen (the lady), then places the cards face-down, shuffles them around and invites the audience to bet on which one is the queen. At first the audience are sceptical, so the shill places a bet and the trickster allows him to win. This is sometimes enough to entice the audience to place bets, but the trickster uses sleight of hand to ensure that they always lose.
  • The Spanish Prisoner scam, which is essentially the same as the Nigerian money transfer fraud. The basic come-on is "we need your help to get some stolen money out of its hiding place". The victim sometimes goes in figuring he or she can cheat the con artists out of their money: anyone trying this has already fallen for the essential con, by believing that the money is there to steal.
  • Pig-in-a-poke originating in the late middle ages, when meat was scarce, but apparently rats and cats were not: The con entails a sale of a "suckling pig", in a "poke" (bag), the bag seemingly containing a live healthy little pig actually contains a cat. If one "buys a pig in a poke" (a common colloquial expression in the English language, meaning "to be a sucker"), they get what they paid for. This is also the origin of the expressions: "Let the cat out of the bag" (meaning to reveal that which is secret), and "left holding the bag" (meaning to find oneself with nothing for their efforts, as the cat is quite likely to flee when the bag is opened).

Famous con artists

  • Lou Blonger, organized massive bunco ring in Denver in early 1900s
  • Louis Enricht, US chemist who claimed to have made a substitute for gasoline
  • Susanna Mildred Hill, US woman who fooled potential suitors
  • Megan Ireland, Australian con artist and Lottery scammer
  • Henri Lemoine, French diamond faker
  • Victor Lustig, sold the Eiffel Tower
  • Gregor MacGregor, Scottish conman who tried to attract investment and settlers for a non-existent country of Poyais
  • George Parker, who sold New York monuments
  • Charles Ponzi, the inventor of the pyramid scheme
  • Christopher Skase
  • Franz Tausend, German fake alchemist
  • Joseph Weil, a.k.a. the Yellow Kid, one of the inspirations for the Academy-award winning film The Sting.
  • Billie Sol Estes, who was paid to produce millions in quotas of cotton, which never existed. LBJ was implicated by Estes in taking payoffs to ignore the scam, which took place in Texas.
  • Tino De Angelis, who sold rights to $175 million in soybean oil stored in tanks, which was actually a thin layer of oil floating on water.
  • Bernie Cornfeld ran what is to date the greatest scam in history, taking in just under $2.5 billion (yes, billion) in what was later realized to be a Ponzi scheme.
  • Frank Abagnale, masqueraded as a pilot, doctor and professor
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Confidence trick Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.