The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David Maurer (1999)

This is a reprint of a book published in 1940 by a linguist studying the language of con(fidence) man, and who was getting really familiar with their methods and with them in person. Details are provided for the three big cons (the wire, the rag, and the payoff), where the mark is sent (to get the money and bring it back), as contrasted to short cons (like the smack, the tat, the hot-seat, the tip, the money box, the last turn, the huge duke, the wipe, and others), where (mostly) only the money the mark has on him is taken. The characters and action described inspired the movie The Sting. The book also describes how local judicial and law enforcement were on the take, resulting in no prosecution and lenient sentences (if any at all). There were also special methods of cooling the mark, making sure that the law enforcement is not involved at all. The book is somewhat dated, as the feds were cracking down on many of these scams as mail frauds and many of the con men moved over to the stock fraud, as a more profitable passtime. As the book states, in many of these cons, an honest man is wanted to complete a dishonest transaction (which should remind one to the current Nigerian scams), and the smarter the person is, he maybe more suspectible to be hooked.

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