Clearly it’s helpful to know more about such people so you don’t get lied to cheated on and stolen from.

Crises sometimes bring out the worst people

Following a series of storms on the East Coast in 2011 Dominic Sadowski and his employees from Precision Builders, a Camden, New Jersey firm would visit neighbors and knock on doors. They’d go into homes and offered to do inspections and explained that anything they did would be covered by insurance.

Sadowski sold his services by presenting himself as a hero, there to save the day.  The real truth was that Sadowski and his crew were criminals. In some cases they would inspect homes that were undamaged and actually create damage with their tools. This is why Sadowski was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years probation and 100 hours of community service .

In other similar cases contractors offer great deals, take deposit money and then disappear never to return. But returning to science, following hurricanes Rita and Katrina researchers at Louisiana State University estimated that over 9,000 households were subject to some type of contractor fraud.

The popular con artist, and the humbler ethical persuader

Contractors like Sadowski were using a very old bag of tricks tricks that we often label the con game. And, you already know, con games and confidence betraying games involve a simple sequence of gaining someone’s confidence and then exploiting it for personal gain.

The con is deeply ingrained in popular culture with movies like The Music Man written by Iowa’s very own Meredith Wilson, starring Robert Preston, The Sting starring Newman and Redford, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine and Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Each movie captures the exploits of a charming criminal or two get their way with smiles and lies. We have a love-hate relationship with con artists and it’s hard not to like the characters played by Preston and DiCaprio since their protagonists of these movies aren’t they. But, in real life con artists are not heroes.

There’s something about them that has led them to refine and improve their influence skills and then use them to take advantage of other people. In the next articles we are going to explore what makes someone a con artist and how such a person is different than a skilled ethical persuader.