Integrated Wisdom

The Creative Con

Some of America’s most ingenious swindlers.  

Con men have been around forever. They’re so pervasive that powerthesaurus.org lists 150 synonyms for this particular type of criminal. That’s revealing, especially when you consider that Eskimos only have about 50 words for snow. There’s also lots of words for this type of crime — a con, a scam, a grift, a hustle, a bunko (or bunco), a swindle, a flimflam, a gaffle, and a bamboozle, to name a few.


Americans love a good con man. Take a look at how many have been featured in movies and books, and good ones at that — “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “The Wizard of Lies”, “Catch Me If You Can”, “American Hustle”, again, to name a few. And pretty often we’re rooting for the criminal.

What’s the fascination? Maybe it’s because the average citizen isn’t the victim of the big scam. Con artists want their marks to be wealthy so they can maximize their return. Or maybe it’s because  we feel pretty good about ourselves when we learn how their victims were swindled — we would never be that stupid, would we? Unfortunately, that’s not true for me — when I was in my early twenties, in graduate school and broke, I lost 20 bucks I really didn’t have on Three Card Monte. I chalked that up to being young, stupid, and desperate; now I lose money in more legitimate and rational ways, at the casino.

Anyway, on the following pages are some of the most notorious and nervy individuals in the business. We skipped the big guys, like Madoff and Ponzie, and instead went for creative. We really should despise these folks, but at the same time we have to question the character of their victims. They were looking to beat the system and get rich quick, and that’s why they got screwed.

Well, as they say, a fool and his money were lucky enough to get together in the first place.

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