The Con: How Scams Work, Why You’re Vulnerable and How to Protect Yourself

The Con is an insightful, revealing look at scams, why they work and how we can avoid them.

  • How do you protect yourself against the dangers of a pigeon drop? Or rocks in a box?
  • What precautions can you take to avoid the perils of spear phishing and pretexting?
  • Just what is a suckers list and how do you make sure you’re not on it?
  • Includes only scams that are current and in wide circulation.
  • Contains engaging, relatable stories of ordinary people from all walks of life targeted by scams.
  • Examines the psychology of why scams are successful.
  • Provides up-to-date information on recovering from identity theft.

Written in a narrative style, the book goes behind the scenes of real-world cons to examine the logistics and psychology that enable scams to succeed. The goal is to help people understand and recognize deception, and in the same way that they avoid other potentially dangerous situations, take a detour.



“Career magician and identity theft expert Munton teams with writer McLeod to deliver this fascinating, informative, and highly entertaining primer on the various ways the uninitiated may find themselves ripped off by a con artist. Filled with personal stories (told in hindsight, of course), the cautionary tales have a common thread: it could happen to anyone–be they financially struggling college student, good Samaritan, single mom, or scientist. Munton and McLeod’s featured narratives include people who have been conned by a new romantic interest or led astray by greed, curiosity, or basic inattentiveness. Rather than inducing paranoia, Munton and McLeod stress the importance of critical thinking when it comes to our money, identities, and time. For example, Munton schools readers on how to recognize a Ponzi scheme and cautions against giving out a social security number without serious consideration; in most instances, the receiving party doesn’t need the social security number at all. This book will help people recognize a credible opportunity when it presents itself, and avoid those “opportunities” that don’t pass muster.”
Publishers Weekly

“The popular cultural depiction of a con shows an ingenious bit of skulduggery pulled off by a charming schemer or schemers. Think The Sting and Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen. But the prevalence of cons—40 times more common than car theft and burglary—and the range of its perpetrators, from family members to global Internet scammers, demand more vigilance than do other crimes. Magician and experton deception Munton, abetted by writer McLeod, goes behind the scenes to present stories of ordinary convictims to dissect how scams are perpetrated and the elements and tactics of typical cons. The authors go on to detail seven categories of con, from foreign lottery and sweepstakes scams to reshipping schemes tofraudulent home repair. From telemarketing tricks to crimeware, they describe how scammers use technology to gain access to potential victims. They also detail how to protect against the cons, identify possible setups, and reduce the likelihood of falling into conning traps. Finally, they advise readers on recovering from identity theft. Completely fascinating and insightful.”

“Although most people believe that they’re too smart or too protected to be conned, anecdotal and statistical evidence says otherwise. The scams may be small, like someone stealing a prescription drug bottle and refilling it under a fake name, or they could be vast Ponzi schemes that defraud thousands.The range of scams is staggering, and this extremely thorough and timely guide details many common cons that could fool just about anyone. More importantly, it gives concrete tips on dealing with scammers and preventing such traps at the outset. For each scenario, the authors describe a con by using a fictional character who’s been duped, and the device works very well, making the material engaging, accessible, and understandable.For example, in a section on mail-based scams, “Vivian” receives a package of cleaning products she didn’t order, and with it a sizeable bill, followed by threatening letters. She finally enlists the help of her company’s legal department, which helps her draft a menacing letter of her own, one that settles the matter. The authors note that such a tactic is used often, especially against businesses that might not notice a bogus invoice among real ones.In short, straightforward sections, other cons are analyzed, such as telemarketers, emergency phone calls from fake relatives, door-to-door scams, check-bouncing tactics, and identity-theft strategies.The authors bring considerable expertise to the task. James Munton is a magician who’s performed several times at the White House, and is now a speaker on the subjects of identity theft and data breaches, while Jelita McLeod’s journalistic background includes stories for the Washington Post and National Public Radio. That blend works well, since so many cons are much like magic tricks, with sleight-of-hand and misdirection, and it takes a reporter’s skill to really dig into why they succeed.”For every con, there is a corresponding trait in human nature that is being targeted,” the authors warn. Understanding how cons work, why they prey on basic emotional needs, and what can be done to stop them are all vital in boosting protection. This compelling work goes a long way toward putting distance between scammers and their prey.”
ForeWord Reviews

“This is the best book about scams I have ever read. It is a wake-up call for all those who think they can’t be conned. The compelling stories show how real-world cons unfold, why they work and what we must do to protect ourselves. An essential and entertaining guide to spotting and avoiding scams in everyday life.”
Julieann Dimmick, Attorney, formerly of the Office of the General Counsel, Enforcement; US Department of the Treasury

“This book is a must read. Well written, informational and entertaining, it is full of interesting stories that drive home the number and variety of scams in operation, how intelligent people fall for these scams and how to protect yourself. There were scams that I had not heard of even after being in the security business for over 15 years.”
Marta Zaricznyj, CEO and Security Consultant, Znovation, LLC

“I have had the honor of reviewing Jelita McLeod and James Munton’s manuscript on con games, titled The Con; How scams work, Why you are vulnerable and How to Protect Yourself. Looking over each of the chapters of the collection of con games played on unsuspecting victims and the personalized stories, I am reminded of many of the reports I have taken on a variety of scams. As a law enforcement officer and a magician, I have lectured on flim flam to many groups over the years. Jelita and James book is an interesting collection of many of the more popular cons played out throughout the world. The sad part is, how this affects the victim. Suicides have been a part of how the victim dealt with being swindled. Some, of older age, have been confined to a nursing home as their children felt their parents could not cope in the world after being scammed and losing everything they had. I am most impressed with the Warning Signs and Tips to Protect Yourself at the end, along with a vast array of Resources a person can contact should the unthinkable occur. Overall, I recommend this to everyone as a training guide to alert them as to the seedy side of people. I recommend this book to citizens and law enforcement personnel who want to educate themselves on many of the scams that are occurring daily. Jelita and James have performed a great service by writing this book and putting it out so all can understand the mechanics of the con and how to protect yourself. As the old adage goes, if it is too good to be true, it probably is.”
Glenn Hester, Police Officer

“It is unfortunate but in my 20 years in law enforcement I can recall many of the same victims’ stories as told in The Con. James and Jelita have provided historical and statistical information with actual accounts of these frauds through the victims and suspects perspectives. These victims’ stories along with the tips and resources can help raise awareness and hopefully help individuals prevent or recover from these ever prevalent crimes.”
Michael B. Dana, Financial Crimes Detective, Dallas Police Department


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