Con Man’s Word Games – Don’t be Fooled by a Carnival Barker Pitch

Seemingly eons ago, the word, “mark,” was born. It was in the 19th century era of the carnival barker that the practice of labeling “marks” originated. Once a victim proved his suckerhood, a shell games operator would slap him on the back with a chalk-filled hand, thus making him identifiable to the other crooked operators on the midway. The carnival con man of the day usually got away with these small-time scams because local authorities wrote such thievery off, “because they’ll be gone in 3 days.”

This practice has evolved. No longer must you worry about such messy tracking methods. The skilled con man, now a polished orator, resorts, largely, to spellbinding prose, a strictly verbal assault on your common sense. So, how do you keep the chalk off your back? How do you now detect when you are about to be ripped off?

Listen closely to the language. Hear each and every word penetrating your ears, on into your head, circulating about your cerebrum seeking analytical judgment. When the con man thinks he has got you in his cross-hairs, certain words will spill forth from his lips. Like the intellectual who uses more words than necessary, he will try to overwhelm you with his charm, wit, and charisma, along with his verbosity. Measure him, and what he says, carefully. Examples of the words:

– Anyone can make a killing. Anyone? C’mon. Obvious, even though the con man thinks, a good slogan will stop research for 10 years. It’s still tried, over and over again.

– Sure-fire. Automatic. Easy money. Airtight. Painless. Foolproof.. Safe. Sure, these words reassure alright. Don’t they? Anyone who falls for this claptrap probably also believes in the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, and truthful politicians.

– Confidential. Secret. Then, you must ask yourself, why in the world is he about to spill all of this to a neophyte stranger like me?

– Removes risk. Risk-free. What? Come again. You’re thinking, every morning when I leave the house I must drive carefully to avoid hitting somebody. When I get to work I must avoid second hand smoke. I must be careful not to cut myself when using a knife to peel an orange at coffee break. At lunch time I must be sure the potato salad hasn’t been standing out too long, to avoid food poisoning. And, on my way home I risk what my husband might think when he sees the fishnet stockings and miniskirt I just bought and am wearing–will he think I was wearing these before I got to work, with a specific purpose in mind?. And, now this guy wants me to invest $10,000 with him and tells me there is no risk?

– Lazy way. Easy money. Painless. Automatic. Huh? As in the Geico commercials on TV, so easy a cave man can do it?

– This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. When you hear this you can be sure it is just that: a get-rich-quick scheme. Whom to acquire this elusive wealth? Why, the con man, naturally.

– Insider. Magic. No-brainer. You would have to be living vicariously through the eyes of a gypsy tea leaf reader to believe these words.

– Win / win. When you hear this think, lose / lose.

– Money machine. Offshore. Cookie-cutter. Dead cat bounce. Components of a legal thriller? Sounds more like language uttered by Tony Soprano and his gang of thugs.

In essence, it’s best to be certain the con man’s words fall only into an echo chamber as you turn and walk away. Be sure to avoid taking a friendly pat on the back on your way out.