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The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  2,329 ratings  ·  338 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of Mastermind, 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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by Viking (first published 2015)
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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,329 ratings  ·  338 reviews

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When I was in my mid-teens I came home from school one day to find my father reading a letter. He asked me to look at it, and it was a badly typed message full of misspellings that was my first encounter with the Nigerian prince con although I didn’t know it at the time.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“It’s a scam,” I replied.

At that point he actually got irritated with me and started pointing out a bunch of reasons why it could be legitimate. I was beyond shocked that the man who had constantly
Sep 23, 2016 rated it liked it
I wasn't wowed by this book, slow beginning.... uses pseudo science to back up some of its claims and it really doesn't offer any advice in how to avoid getting scammed .. so what was the point .... I read a 300 page book just to be told what I already know , people who want to believe are the ones who get lied to ..... really is this new? ....
Clumsy Storyteller
“We aren’t robbers, you and I. To rob a fool, you don’t need knives: Just flatter him, tell him sweet lies, And he is yours for life. ” 

Before i start reviewing this book i want you to understand what doesn the word "con man" mean ! A man who cheats or tricks someone by gaining their trust and persuading them to believe something that is not true. It’s all about manipulating someone’s beliefs, Con artists are evil human beings, with malicious intentions and no conscience sounds familiar ? oh ye
Shweta Ramdas
Why is the 'oldest profession in the world' the con-man? Why do perfectly educated and intelligent people fall for cons that are immediately obvious to onlookers? And how did people like Bernie Madoff lure hordes of people? Maria Konnivova dives deep into the art of the con: the steps that lead up to it, and those aspects of human psychology that con-men exploit. Our ability to trust, our circumstances in life, our belief that something exceptional *can* happen to us, our over-exaggerated optimi ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
There's nothing like a good scam. I love scams in books and movies -- Ocean's Eleven, Catch Me If You Can, The Sting. I suspect I'd be a lot less charmed if I were to encounter one in real life though.

I feel simultaneously prepared for scams and resigned to being a dupe after reading Maria Konnikova's The Confidence Game. She describes different types of scams and cons with plenty of examples. People who have impersonated others, grifters, shell game artists, they're all here, and it's fascinat
Lance Charnes
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who want to know why The Sting could be a documentary
Whenever we read about some con job that nets a sucker or ten, the first thing across our minds is: how could they possibly have fallen for that? It's such an obvious scam! What were they thinking?

According to psychologist/author Maria Konnikova, they were thinking the same way we would. In their shoes, we'd have been saps, too.

In the 1950s, linguist David Maurer called confidence men the "aristocrats of crime." Unlike most other crimes, the con requires us to become willing participants in our
Nov 20, 2015 rated it liked it
This book has a wealth of information about those who con and those who are conned. It’s also easy to understand. But it’s not organized in the reader’s best interest. It’s organized in a way that best suits the author, who has no problem continuously jumping around from century to century, and who can easily remember every con mentioned in the book. That’s a shame, too, because Ms. Konnikova's book could have been a better help to the general public. Although when it comes right down to it, mos ...more
Kressel Housman
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Maria Konnikova is an expert on con artists. A year or so ago, she did a podcast based on this book called “The Grift,” which is the original name for a Ponzi scheme. She’s also a frequent guest on Mike Pesca’s podcast in a regular feature they call, “Is That Bulls***t?” So I went into this book with a fair bit of familiarity with what she’d say, but I really recommend both the book and the podcast. There’s definitely overlap, but there are also unique stories in each, and let’s face it: there’s ...more
Julia Milner
I was drawn to this book because I recently came thisclose to buying into a multi-level marketing scheme and, as a result, felt compelled to learn more about why we are all susceptible to manipulation and persuasion by con artists. I thought Maria Konnikova's explanations of the psychology and methods of cons/scams were engaging and well-researched. I particularly enjoyed the detailed true stories of cons, both recent and historic, and Konnikova's ability to link her findings to general statemen ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Good but... repetitive, and as others have mentioned, oddly organized. Could have been shorter by a third. The research is there--interesting and impressive--but no bibliography or footnotes. An easy, even breezy, read but for the repetition, the constant circling back.
Peter Mcloughlin
Gets into the psychology of the con artist and the psychological quirks and weaknesses of ordinary psychology which can make all of us prey to con schemes. We are not wired particularly well to resist the cunning tricks of the confidence artist. We are all susceptible to the grift by our natural cognitive biases. More about our weaknesses than the mechanics of the con it is a reminder that honest good and smart people can fall for the con.

I picked up an audiobook version of this book wi
Don Gorman
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
(1 1/2). This book is a good news, bad news proposition. The chapters are mostly set up with a case study describing the kind of con or deception that it is about. Those recounts are very interesting and seem very contemporary, regardless of when they occurred. The rest of each chapter then goes into the psychology of why we (humans) react in the manner that we do and why we are duped. Like in many business and other non-fiction books (Tom Friedman for example), that part gets very repetitive an ...more
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book--not so much about specific types of cons, though some are mentioned in detail--focusing on the psychology of con artists and their victims. Of particular note, it looks at some of the newest psychological research to examine why people fall prey to these crimes, and why they work so well. I'm sure the subtitle is going to jar some potential readers, since we all have our pet theories as to who 'deserves' to be conned and why we ourselves won't become victims. But as ...more
Nov 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I won this book on goodreads and started reading it when it arrived on December 3rd. On January 8th, goodreads sent me an email asking me what I thought of the book with a link to this review page. OK, goodreads, this is what I think so far (page 184 of 321):

The title irritates me. If it didn't have the "Every Time" tag at the end, it would be fine but we don't fall for every con game. Many many con attempts fail. (Check your email spam box if you want a few examples of ones you didn't fall for.
Dick Reynolds
Jan 20, 2017 rated it liked it
We’re treated to examples of and the rationale behind real life “cons” in such chapters titled The Put-Up, The Play and The Rope. There is also a chapter at the book’s end highlighting the (real) oldest profession. Hint: It’s not prostitution.
The common denominator in all these cons is the incredible gullibility of the “mark” or the person who is conned. But what about the con man (it’s almost always a man) who commits these white collar crimes? The true con man doesn’t force us to do anythin
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review is based on an excerpt from The New Yorker.

A 25 year old woman pretends to be a 14 year old victim of sex trafficking and an entire country falls for the insane ruse. This is a remarkable piece by Maria Konnikova about the psychology of the confidence game and how people fall for stories. Con artists are fascinating characters (think The Gentlemen Bastards in Scott Lynch’s “Lies of Locke Lamora”, Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”, or Sawyer from “Lost”). The woman Konnikova points to pre
Daniel Siegel
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book should be a hit with people who have a passing interest in cons and psychology, but I was hoping for something a little more focused. The writing flits capriciously between dense with psychological facts and breezily anecdotal, which lead me to fatigue a bit by the time I was halfway finished. I would have rated this book 2 stars had I not found a number of interested takeaways (and no, not takeaways in how to run cons).
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading the stories, background, and perspectives of these cons. I feel that by reading this, I'm better equipped to spot a scam and avoid being taken. Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm super glad I read this book. It was a little heavy in the examples (there was an index at the back of the book to look up last names of con artists or people who had been conned), but it deconstructed the con in an elegant way that made a lot of sense.

Some thoughts I had after reading the book:
-It's pretty fascinating how thoroughly we punish con artists when we catch them. If someone conned us of 20 dollars, I think it'd be pretty hard to sue them. However, if someone cons enough people of
Stephen Gallup
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The 16-year-old in my family is disturbed by the "cynical" topic of this book. The author acknowledges her perspective, noting that our civilization has to operate on a general assumption that interactions are supposed to be win-win, not predatory. Nevertheless, con artists are a reality in this world. I have probably encountered more than my share of them. The Confidence Game describes the phenomenon in a way that is both enlightening (from a psychological standpoint) and empowering.

First, an
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
None of us are truly safe from the effects of a con-artist.
Everything I know about confidence tricks has come from the BBC program Hustle so I was eager to read about a more true-to-life perspective of con artists. I have actually been on the receiving end of a scam that left me £175 out of pocket and to this day I still have not figured out how he got me. I have always been fascinated by the behavioural and psychological aspects of everyday cons so I was pleased when I received a copy of The Co
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I was set to spend a decent bit of time writing a review here but fortunately before I started I saw that Kemper's review basically said everything I could have wanted, and more.

All I could add to differentiate from his review is that I felt Konnikova got a bit wordy (hence my 3 stars instead of his 4) and that each chapter was formulaic. At times I found myself scanning for paragraphs that listed a year (1944, 2014, whatever) in the first two sentences because I knew that would be a transition
Donald Schopflocher
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
The topic is compelling; the structure is a familiar one for trained academic psychologists attempting to write a popular book; the anecdotes about con artists appealing; the reviews of psychological experiments clear.

What doesn’t work? The analysis of what a con game consists is sketched but not argued, primarily as an organizing principle for the book. The con game anecdotes often seem removed from both the schema under which they are presented and the psychological experimentation discussio
Leo Walsh
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Maria Konnikova's THE CONFIDENCE GAME reminds me a lot of a Malcolm Gladwell book. It examines real-world social issues in the light of cognitive science. But despite how much I've enjoyed Gladwell's writing, I think that Konnikova's approach here is better and closer to the science.

Plus she tells stories of successful long-con artists, using standard-issue psychological experiments to answer the question, "Why do so many people fall for conmen and grifters?"

All told, a fun book. by turns hilari
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was indifferent to this book club selection, and then ended up being pretty fascinated by it; the psychological concepts bleed over into a lot of life (not exclusively being the victim of a con).

Konnikova weaves true stories of historical cons in with the different stages/principles behind how a con works.

Towards the beginning of the book, she mentions that people who are more trusting are generally happier...and then proceeds to make you increasingly cynical about what other people might wa
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Meandering read through history, psychology, true crime and sociology. Enjoyable and you won’t feel taken when you’re done, though you may recognize a dozen ways you have been already...
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting and eye-opening book about grifters/con men and how they function and manipulate our minds.
Mark Lenz
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the psychological strategies con artists use to deceive people. Big takeaway- all people are looking to believe in something to rationalize our reality and actions. Also that all psychics are fake.
Luke Blanchard
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Interesting topic, but dry, dry, dry...
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intressant och välskrivet, dock lite för mycket av upptagning av exempel.
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