R. Paul Wilson On: Being Your Own Con Artist

R. Paul Wilson On: Being Your Own Con Artist

Imagine that this time next year you are in a completely unpredictable situation – something no one at this exact moment could have expected – a scenario where new and novel con games might arise.

How can you anticipate these future scams and protect yourself?

The Numbers Game

Be a con artist.

Okay, not really.

I don’t mean BE a con artist; what I really mean is that you should learn to think like one.

If you’re a gambler, why not look at scams from a similar perspective?

What are the chances any of us might be targeted and what are the chances we might avoid getting caught out and escape a hustler’s trap?

Pickpockets we can control by adjusting our choices of where we go, what we carry and how we carry it. Make it obvious and easy in a busy public place well-known for pocket pinchers and the odds of us getting ripped off go way up.

Take a taxi, blend into your environment and protect your belongings somewhere neither obvious or easy to access and the odds swing into your favour.

In other words: we control the conditions of the game.

But not always.

Our luggage might be stolen while in transit but even here our choice of suitcase can lower the likelihood of having it “go missing”.

A friend once told me her entire Louis Vuitton luggage set was stolen from a hotel baggage room despite holding nothing but cheap clothes and shoes.

The bags themselves, of course, were brand new and worth a fortune so even if they were filled with dirty socks, the thieves were guaranteed a score once they aired out her sweaty bags.

My friend took some satisfaction in the fact that the bags were actually fake but as I pointed out, they looked real-enough to be worth stealing and she might still have her belongings if she’d bought some genuine, less ostentatious luggage that isn’t just begging to be stolen.

There’s A Scam For That

Close up woman shopping, paying by credit card
Image: Shutterstock

Common theft can target anyone but each of is vulnerable to specific scams associated with our businesses or leisure activities.

Do you play the stock market? There’s a scam for that.

Do you use online banking? There’s a scam for that.

Do you carry “no-contact” credit cards? There’s a scam for that.

Do you gamble online? You guessed it— there’s a scam for that, too.

If you follow these articles, you’re probably hip to many scams that might affect you but as I recently pointed out, the COVID-19 pandemic has opened countless doors of opportunity to criminals and it’s impossible to keep abreast of every wrinkle on any swindle that’s out there.

Each of us needs to watch our own backs to some extent so while taking the time to search the internet or read articles like this one, a powerful protective strategy is to jump the fence and see your own situation from the other side of the tracks.

Be Your Own Hustler

Hacker in front of his computer
Image: Shutterstock

If you ever need to know how vulnerable your home is to burglars, try to break in sometime and you’ll soon find out how easy it is to get inside.

Similarly, whenever presented with new processes for business transactions, gambling scenarios or day-to-day activities, ask yourself: how would I take advantage of that if I happened to be a crook?

With so many meetings taking place over online conference providers, it’s not hard to believe that extremely sensitive corporate, personal or political conversations are happening all the time and are therefore ripe pickings for anyone who can break into those calls.

Security has been beefed up across the industry with passwords, two-factor authentication and encryption offering confidence to clients around the world.

But while those clients are talking on a perfectly secure conference platform, what other devices, apps or software is available for motivated hackers and thieves to take advantage of?

Perhaps our phones could be listening to the call we are making on our laptop.

Just a few months ago, a ubiquitous piece of software proved easy to use as a way to connect to any user and open their microphone and while that flaw may have been identified before it could be used, the chances are excellent there are plenty of other back doors or trap doors out there.

Perhaps if we know where a target might be, we could simply climb a tree, point a piece of hardware at their home-office window and listen the old-fashioned way?

Maybe we can mail them a gift with a cellular device hidden inside.

Stay Fresh

I ruminate on all of these possibilities based on any activity I find myself participating in and I recommend you do too.

And while most of us are now familiar with Zoom and Skype and FaceTime and Facebook calls, I remain hyper-aware that this new trend has opened up a buffet of opportunities for anyone seeking to do wrong for fun or profit.

In my country (Scotland) we’ve all been asked to install a Test & Trace app to help control and monitor the spread of COVID-19 and while I’m glad to comply for those reasons, I can’t help but wonder how secure these apps are in the long run or if there’s already an available method to take advantage of.

Coronavirus Tracking App
Image: Shutterstock

Reading through the instructions for these apps, there’s a brief warning about scams and what might happen, but I can quickly conceive of how many opportunities are now available to con artists able to weasel their own logic around new and unfamiliar procedures.

It beggars belief that governments or companies don’t take more time to consult on the feasibility of deception. 

Just as white hat hackers can help identify potential means of attack or existing weaknesses in a system, experts on deception can spot potential opportunities for those with a criminal mindset.

Only you really know your own vulnerabilities and while most of us are susceptible in similar ways, it’s worth paying attention to anything that might be particular to your own online or real-world activity and either educate yourself or assess your own weaknesses by thinking from the other side of the tracks.

Why wait to get caught out when you can be your own con artist; after all, you know more about your potential weaknesses than almost anyone.

For more tips and tricks to keep you safe from scammers, check out: