Transcript: Understanding the Con | Jan 20, 2016

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, lilac shirt, and striped blue tie.

The caption changes to "Understanding the Con."

He says MOST OF US THINK WE'RE
TOO SMART TO FALL FOR A FRAUD OR
BE CORNERED BY A CON MAN.
OR WOMAN.
BUT GUESS WHAT? -- THAT'S
EXACTLY THE KIND OF THINKING
THAT MIGHT MAKE YOU A GOOD MARK.
LET'S FIND OUT WHY.
HERE'S MARIA KONNIKOVA, AUTHOR
OF "THE CONFIDENCE GAME: WHY WE
FALL FOR IT ... EVERY TIME."
AND SHE JOINS US FOR MORE, FROM
NEW YORK, NEW YORK.

A picture of the book appears on screen. The cover is red, with a fish hook pulling up the C in "Confidence."
Then, Maria appears. She's in her late thirties, with long wavy brown hair. She's wearing a beige sleeveless turtleneck shirt.

Steve continues MARIA, AS I WELCOME YOU TO THE
BROADCAST TONIGHT, LET ME JUST
START BY QUOTING AN EXCERPT FROM
YOUR BOOK AND THEN WE'LL GO FROM THERE.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The real confidence game." A picture of a magic wand and a magician's hat appears next to the quote. The quote reads "The real confidence game feeds on the desire for magic, exploiting our endless taste for an existence that is more extraordinary and somehow more meaningful. But when we're falling for a con, we aren't actively seeking deception – or at least we don't think we are. As long as the desire for magic, for a reality that is somehow greater than our everyday existence, remains, the confidence game will thrive."
Quoted from Maria Konnikova, "The Confidence Game" (2016)

Steve says LET'S START RIGHT
THERE AT THE END, MARIA.
WHAT'S THE CONFIDENCE GAME THAT
YOU JUST REFERRED TO?

The caption changes to "Maria Konnikova. Author, 'The confidence game.'"
Then, it adds "The Mark."

Maria says THE
CONFIDENCE GAME I REFER TO IS
SOMETHING THAT I ALSO REFER TO
AS THE WORLD'S REAL OLDEST
PROFESSION.
IT IS A DECEPTION WHEREBY I GIVE
YOU MY CONFIDENCE FOR YOUR OWN
ENDS AND I DON'T EVEN REALIZE
THAT I'M DOING IT.
THE TERM I THINK WAS FIRST USED
IN THE 1900s WHEN A SAVVY NEW
YORKER WALKED THE STREETS OF
MANHATTAN AND CAME TO OTHER
SAVVY NEW YORKERS AND ASKED THEM
A VERY STRANGE QUESTION.
HE SAID: HAVE YOU CONFIDENCE IN
ME TO LEND ME YOUR WATCH UNTIL
TOMORROW?
AND MANY PEOPLE, WHEN THEY WERE
FACED WITH SUCH A FANCIFUL
INQUIRY, THEY ACTUALLY PARTED
WITH THEIR WATCH BECAUSE SO MUCH
IS LOADED INTO THAT QUESTION.
IT'S NOT JUST A QUESTION OF
GIVING YOU THE WATCH, IT'S ALSO
A QUESTION OF, WHAT KIND OF
PERSON ARE YOU?
WHAT KIND OF PERSON AM I?
WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO WE LIVE
IN?
AND SO WHEN THIS MAN, WILLIAM
THOMPSON, WAS FINALLY CAUGHT, HE
GAVE BIRTH TO THE TERM "THE
CONFIDENCE MAN."

Steve says LET'S FOLLOW UP ON
THAT BECAUSE I PRESUME THERE ARE
CHARACTERISTICS OR QUALITIES OF
THE MARK THAT ARE SOMEWHAT
UNIVERSAL.
WHAT ARE THEY?

Maria says WELL,
UNFORTUNATELY, THEY AREN'T AS
MUCH -- OR FORTUNATELY, THEY
AREN'T AS MUCH PERSONALITY
TRAITS OR CHARACTERISTICS THAT
ARE INTEGRAL TO A PERSON.
SO, FOR INSTANCE, IT'S NOT LIKE
BEING MORE INTELLIGENT IS
PROTECTIVE, IT'S NOT LIKE BEING
LESS INTELLIGENT IS PROTECTIVE.
IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER IF
YOU'RE SMART, IF YOU'RE
TRUSTING, IF YOU'RE GULLIBLE, IF
YOU'RE GREEDY.
ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE NOT THE
HALL MARK OF A VICTIM.
PEOPLE WILL SAY THINGS LIKE YOU
CAN'T FOOL AN HONEST MAN.
FALSE.
MARKS ARE ALL GREEDY.
AGAIN, FALSE.
ONE THING DOES UNITE MOST MARKS,
AND THIS IS WHERE THEY HAPPEN TO
FIND THEMSELVES AT THIS POINT IN
THEIR LIVES.
WHEN PEOPLE ARE IN MOMENTS OF
TRANSITION, WHEN THEY'RE
PARTICULARLY EMOTIONALLY
VULNERABLE, THEY BECOME
EXCEPTIONAL MARKS, THEY BECOME
THE BEST POSSIBLE VICTIM FOR A
CONFIDENCE ARTIST, AND THIS CAN
BE NEGATIVE.
SO SOMETIMES IT'S SOMETHING LIKE
YOU LOST YOUR JOB.
OR SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY DIED.
IN FACT, ONE PARTICULAR TYPE OF
CON ARTIST, THE PSYCHIC, LOVES
TO COMB THROUGH OBITUARIES TO
SEE, IS THERE ANYONE I CAN
EXPLOIT?
BECAUSE AT THAT POINT YOU'RE
WEAK.
YOU REALLY WANT TO BELIEVE.
YOU NEED MEANING.
YOU NEED SOMEONE TO TELL YOU
THAT EVERYTHING IS OKAY, THAT
THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON.
IT CAN ALSO BE VERY POSITIVE.
SO SOMETIMES YOU ARE MOVING
ACROSS THE COUNTRY BECAUSE YOU
HAVE A NEW JOB AND YOU'RE
REALLY, REALLY EXCITED, AND YET
YOU REALLY -- YOU KNOW, YOU'VE
LEFT YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK BEHIND
AND EVERYTHING'S DIFFICULT, ALL
THE FACES AROUND YOU ARE NEW.
AGAIN, YOU'RE IN A POINT OF
TRANSITION.
YOU BECOME EMOTIONALLY
VULNERABLE.
AND WHEN THINGS ARE CHANGING,
WHEN THINGS ARE UNCERTAIN, WE
START CRAVING MEANING,
CERTAINTY, THINGS THAT MAKE
SENSE.
THAT'S WHAT THE CON ARTIST WILL
OFFER US AT THAT PARTICULAR
MOMENTS IN OUR LIVES.

Steve says WE ALL KNOW THE OLD
EXPRESSION, FOOL ME ONCE, SHAME ON YOU.
FOOL ME TWICE, SHAME ON ME.
AND YET YOU'VE GOT THAT EXAMPLE
IN YOUR BOOK OF THE REPORTER
FROM SLATE MAGAZINE WHO
PRESUMABLY IS A FAIRLY SAVVY
PERSON WHO GETS FOOLED TWICE IN
A VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME BY
VIRTUALLY THE SAME CON.
THIS IS BUYING MILES OFF THE
INTERNET.
HOW COMMON IS IT TO BE CONNED
TWICE IN SHORT MEASURE BY
BASICALLY THE SAME CON?

Maria says I WAS
SHOCKED TO FIND IT IS INCREDIBLY COMMON.
IN FACT, SOME CON ARTISTS THINK
THAT THE SINGLE BEST MARK IS THE
MARK THAT'S ALREADY BEEN TAKEN.
AND THE WAY THAT IT WORKS IS,
NOBODY WANTS TO THINK THAT THEY
COULD POSSIBLY BE A MARK.
NOBODY WANTS TO THINK THEY COULD
GET CONNED.
SO WHEN YOU'VE BEEN CONNED, A
LOT OF PEOPLE WON'T ADMIT IT TO
THEMSELVES.
THEY GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS OF
MOTIVATED REASONING.
THEY RATIONALIZE AWAY THE CON AS
JUST A MATTER OF BAD LUCK.
YOU KNOW, STUFF HAPPENS AND I
WAS UNLUCKY.
AND THEY ARE SO INCREDIBLY GOOD
AT THAT PROCESS OF
RATIONALIZATION, THAT WHEN THE
SAME CON COMES ALONG, THEY SAY,
AH, MY LUCK HAS SHIFTED.
THIS TIME I'M GOING TO BE LUCKY.
THEY DON'T THINK, UH-OH, HERE IT
COMES AGAIN, I MIGHT GET
SUCKERED AGAIN.
BECAUSE IN THEIR OWN MINDS, THEY
AREN'T SUCKERS, THEY ARE PEOPLE
WHO ARE STILL SAVVY, WHO ARE
STILL SMART, WHO WOULD NEVER
HAVE BEEN TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF IN
THE FIRST PLACE.
ONE THING I DISCOVERED IS THERE
ARE ACTUALLY SO-CALLED SUCKERS'
LISTS THAT CON ARTISTS BUY AND
SELL.
THESE ARE LISTS OF PEOPLE WHO
HAVE ALREADY FALLEN FOR A SCAM
AND THESE ARE QUITE VALUABLE
BECAUSE THESE A VERY GOOD MARKS.
CHANCES ARE YOU'LL BE LUCKY AND
A LOT WILL FALL AGAIN.

Steve says I ASSUME TECHNOLOGY
AND THE ABUNDANCE OF IT MAKES IT
EASIER TO DO, RIGHT?

Maria says YES, FOR
SEVERAL REASONS.
ONE, WE ARE ALWAYS SO MUCH
INFORMATION ABOUT OURSELVES
ONLINE WITHOUT REALIZING WE'RE
DOING IT.
EVERY TIME YOU LIKE SOMETHING,
EVERY TIME YOU INTERACT WITH
SOMEONE, ALL OF YOUR Facebook
FRIENDS, IF THERE'S SOMEONE YOU
DON'T KNOW IN THERE, YOU SHOULD
BE VERY, VERY SCARED BECAUSE
THAT SOMEONE MIGHT VERY LIKELY
BE NOT SOMEONE WHO ACTUALLY KNOW
OR WANT TO KNOW BUT WE'RE
LEAVING ALL THIS INFORMATION
THERE FOR THEM TO FIND.
WE'RE CHECKING INTO PLACES ON
FOURSQUARE SO THEY KNOW WHERE WE
GO, WHAT KIND OF FOOD WE LIKE,
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC WE LIKE, WHAT
ARE FRIENDS ARE LIKE.
WE'LL HAVE OUR e-BAY BIDDING
HISTORY ONLINE, AMAZON WISH
LISTS, BABY REGISTRIES, ALL
SORTS OF THINGS THAT YOU DON'T
HAVE TO BE PARTICULARLY
TECHNOLOGICALLY SAVVY TO BE ABLE
TO ESTABLISH PRETTY GOOD VICTIM
PROFILES.
BY THE WAY, WE ALSO POST
PERSONAL NEWS ONLINE, YOU KNOW,
THINGS LIKE DEATHS, THINGS LIKE
CHANGES OF JOBS.
ONCE AGAIN, THOSE ARE THOSE
EMOTIONALLY VULNERABLE MOMENTS
WE WERE TALKING ABOUT A FEW
MINUTES AGO.
WE LEAVE THOSE FOR CON ARTISTS
TO FIND.
I THINK IT MAKES US MUCH MORE
LIKELY TO BE VICTIMS.
AND ON THE OTHER HAND, WE THINK
WE'RE BETTER PROTECTED BECAUSE
WE THINK WE'RE VERY
SOPHISTICATED, WE THINK
TECHNOLOGY WILL PROTECT US, AND
SO THAT LENDS US A FALSE SENSE
OF CONFIDENCE OR OVERCONFIDENCE,
WHICH MAKES IT EVEN MORE LIKELY
THAT WE'LL FALL FOR A CONFIDENCE SCAM.

Steve says MARIA NO ONE WANTS TO BE THOUGHT
OF AS BEING A SUCKER AND I
WOULD THINK AT THE TOP OF THE
LIST OF PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT
TO BE THOUGHT OF THAT WAY ARE REPORTERS
AND YET SOME HOW YOU MANAGED TO
GET THAT STORY OUT OF THAT
REPORTER. HOW DID YOU DO THAT?

Maria says YOU KNOW WHAT? HE ACTUALLY TOLD
IT HIMSELF
AND I THINK THAT SOME PEOPLE
THAT TELLING THEIR STORY
WILL ACTUALLY HELP OTHERS AVOID
THE SAME THING
AND THAT SENSE OF NOT JUSTICE
BUT PREVENTING OTHERS FROM
FALLING, ITS SORT OF A FAITH IN
HUMANITY
LETS SAY THAT MAKES THEM SHARE
THEIR STORY BECAUSE THEY DON'T
WANT OTHERS TO BE VICTIMS IN
QUITE THE SAME WAY
SO THIS PARTICULAR REPORTER,
I THINK THAT HE REALLY WANTED
OTHERS TO BE PROTECTED, HE
DIDN'T WANT THEM TO SPEND MONEY
BECAUSE BY THE WAY THE FRAUD
HE FELL FOR THIS ON-LINE MILES
SCAM, ITS A FRAUD THAT PEOPLE WHO
NEED TO SAVE MONEY FALL FOR
ITS NOT A FRAUD OF THE WEALTHY
YOU DON'T HAVE A LOT OF CASH
IF YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING LIKE
THIS. AND SO PRESUMABLY YOU
KNOW THIS COULD BE THE CHANCE OF
A LIFE TIME AND IT COULD BE THE
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOING ON A
VACATION YOU'VE BEEN SAVING UP
FOR FOREVER AND JUST BEING
COMPLETELY OUT AND HAVING TO
SAVE AGAIN FOR YEARS AND YEARS
AND YEARS
SO I THINK ITS THAT KIND OF
MOTIVATION THAT GETS SOME PEOPLE
TO FINALLY GET OVER THE
REPUTATIONAL HURDLE AND SHARE
THEIR STORIES WITH OTHERS
SURE AND HIS CASE ITS A MATTER
OF BEING OUT A FEW HUNDRED BUCKS

Steve says THERE'S ANOTHER
STORY IN YOUR BOOK THAT IS -- I
DON'T KNOW IF THE RIGHT WORD IS
SHOCKING OR DELICIOUS, BECAUSE
IT'S SUCH AN AMAZING STORY AND I
WANT YOU TO TELL IT, ABOUT THE
GUY WHO HAD NO MEDICAL TRAINING
WHATSOEVER, WHO SHOWS UP IN A
MOMENT OF CRISIS AND SAYS "I'M
HERE TO BE A SURGEON AND SAVE
DOZENS OF LIVES," AND THEY LET
HIM.
OKAY, TELL THE STORY.

The caption changes to "The Grifter."

Maria says SO YOU'RE
TALKING ABOUT FRED AS HE CAME TO
BE KNOWN.
FRED DECIDED DURING THE KOREAN
WAR THAT HE WAS GOING TO JOIN UP
WITH THE CANADIAN NAVY BECAUSE
THEY NEEDED DOCTORS.
THERE WAS A HUGE SHORTAGE OF
PERSONNEL.
AND HE THOUGHT, YOU KNOW WHAT?
MAYBE I HAVEN'T FINISHED HIGH
SCHOOL BUT THEY NEED A DOCTOR
AND I WILL BE A DOCTOR.
SO HE STOLE THE CREDENTIALS OF A
DOCTOR, SHOWED UP, AND THEY NOT
ONLY BELIEVED HIM BUT GAVE HIM
AN ENTIRE SHIP OF SOLDIERS THAT
WERE HEADING OUT TO NORTH KOREA
SO THAT HE WOULD BE THE SINGLE
MEDICAL DOCTOR ON BOARD.
HE WAS IN CHARGE OF ALL OF THESE
LIVES.
SO OFF FRED GOES ABOARD THIS
SHIP.
AND LO AND BEHOLD, PEOPLE
ACTUALLY GET HURT BECAUSE WE'RE
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE KOREAN WAR,
PEOPLE GET HURT.
AND WHAT DOES HE DO?
HE STARTS CUTTING THEM OPEN.
SO HE ACTUALLY DOES THESE
SURGERIES.
AND AS FAR AS WE KNOW, HE
DOESN'T KILL ANYONE.
HE PULLS IT OFF.
NOW, HE DOES IT I THINK IN A FEW
WAYS.
FIRST, HE IS VERY INTELLIGENT.
HE HAS A VERY GOOD MEMORY AND HE
HAS A MEDICAL TEXTBOOK ABOARD
WITH HIM.
HE ALSO, PRIOR TO DEPARTING,
CONNED ANOTHER DOCTOR TO CREATE
A GUIDE FOR THE TROOPS, HE SAYS,
SO THAT JUST IN CASE WHEN
THEY'RE IN BATTLE AND WHEN NO
ONE IS AVAILABLE, NO REAL
QUALIFIED DOCTOR, THEY WOULD
KNOW SOME TIPS ABOUT HOW TO
BEHAVE AND WHAT TO DO, SOME KIND
OF BEST PRACTICES, AND OBVIOUSLY
THIS WAS NEVER FOR THE TROOPS,
THIS WAS FOR FRED HIMSELF.
BUT HE USED THAT IN CONJUNCTION
WITH THE MEDICAL TEXTBOOK AND
WITH LOTS OF ANTIBIOTICS TO
PERFORM SURGERIES AND AS FAR AS
WE KNOW NOBODY DIED.
I SAY "AS FAR AS WE KNOW."
BECAUSE HE OPERATED ON KOREANS
WHO WERE THEN TAKEN OFF THE
SHIP, SO PERHAPS THEY DIED
LATER.
BUT THE CANADIAN NAVY WAS VERY
IMPRESSED BECAUSE HERE'S THIS
GUY, HE OPERATES ON KOREANS, HE
DOESN'T HAVE TO, THEY ALL
SURVIVE.
SO THESE DISPATCHES START
COVERING CANADA ABOUT THIS
HEROIC DOCTOR AND THE REAL
DOCTOR, DR. CYR, SEES THIS AND
SAYS, HEY, GUYS, I'M NOT IN
NORTH KOREA.
SO DEMAR IS CAUGHT OUT AND HE
MUST RETURN.
THE SHOCKING THING IS THAT THE
CANADIAN NAVY DOES NOT PRESS
CHARGES.
IT IS SO INCREDIBLY JUST...

Steve says EMBARRASSED, I GUESS.

Maria continues YEAH, EMBARRASSED THAT ITS
REPUTATION HAS SUFFERED SUCH A
BLOW THAT IT SAYS, YOU KNOW
WHAT?
LET'S JUST KEEP IT QUIET.
AND SO THEY JUST DISMISS HIM AND
JUST SAY, "LEAVE, LEAVE."
THAT'S ALL WE WANT TO DO.
SO THEY DON'T PROSECUTE HIM.
AND HE LEAVES, HE GOES TO NORTH
AMERICA, HE GOES TO THE UNITED
STATES, HE STAYS IN NORTH
AMERICA, AND HE ENLISTS IN THE
NAVY AGAIN UNDER A DIFFERENT
ALIAS IN THE UNITED STATES.
AND SO HIS STORY CONTINUES.

Steve says NOW, THIS FEELS LIKE
MUCH MORE THAN JUST A SIMPLE CON.
THIS FEELS LIKE BORDER LINE
PSYCHOPATHIC BEHAVIOUR.
DO YOU THINK SO?

Maria says I THINK IN
THE CASE OF DEMARRA, IT DOES
FEEL THAT WAY.
HE WAS NOT JUST AN IMPOSTER, HE
WAS KNOWN AS THE GREAT IMPOSTER.
AND HE'S PLAYING GOD.
HE'S PLAYING WITH LIFE AND
DEATH.
TO HAVE THAT SORT OF ARROGANCE
TO THINK THAT IT'S IN YOUR
PURVIEW TO DO THAT AND TO THINK
THAT YOU CAN, I THINK THAT THERE
DOES SEEM TO BE SOMETHING
PSYCHOPATHIC ABOUT THAT, A TOTAL
LACK OF EMPATHY WITH THE PEOPLE
YOU'RE DEALING WITH BECAUSE THEY
MIGHT DIE AND YOU'RE JUST TAKING
THAT GAMBLE BECAUSE YOU THINK
YOU DESERVE IT AND YOU THINK YOU
ARE QUALIFIED TO DO THIS.
I THINK HE ALSO EXEMPLIFIES THE
OTHER TWO OF THE DARK TRIAD OF
TRAITS, PSYCHOPATHY IS THE
FIRST.
NARCISSISM IS THAT SENSE OF EGO
AND ENTITLEMENT THAT ALLOWS HIM
TO SAY, YOU KNOW WHAT?
I'M JUST GOING TO STEAL THESE
CREDENTIALS BECAUSE I'M PROBABLY
BETTER THAN ALL DOCTORS ANYWAY.
SO I'M JUST GOING TO GO AHEAD
AND TAKE THEM RATHER THAN WORK
FOR IT.
HE'S SO GOOD AT THAT, WHEN HE'S
UNMASKED, THE CAPTAIN OF THE
SHIP DOESN'T BELIEVE IT.
HE THINKS THAT THE DOCTOR, THE
REAL DR. CYR IS THE IMPOSTER AND
FRED DEMARRA IS THE REAL THING.

Steve says I HAVE TO FOLLOW UP.
EVEN WHEN EXPOSED, THE PEOPLE
CONNED ARE STILL LOATH TO
BELIEVE THAT THE PERSON THEY'VE
BEEN DEALING WITH ISN'T THE REAL
DEAL.
WHY DO WE HAVE SO MUCH
DIFFICULTY ACTUALLY BELIEVING
THE TRUTH IN THESE MATTERS?

Maria says I THINK
WE'VE ALREADY INVESTED SO MUCH
EMOTIONALLY INTO BELIEVING THIS,
INTO BELIEVING IT'S TRUE, AND
WE'VE ALREADY RATIONALIZED AWAY
SO MANY RED FLAGS THAT WE WANT
TO KEEP ON BELIEVING.
WE DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO TELL US
THAT WE HAVE BEEN WRONG, THAT WE
HAVE BEEN DUPED.
WE WANT TO KEEP BELIEVING WE'RE
VERY GOOD JUDGES OF CHARACTER
AND WE WEREN'T TAKEN IN, THAT
THIS REALLY IS THE REAL THING.
SO YOU HAVE CASES OF PEOPLE WHO
END UP NOT JUST REFUSING TO LOOK
AT THE EVIDENCE BUT SUPPORTING
CON ARTISTS WHEN THEY'RE ON
TRIAL.
THERE'S ONE CON ARTIST I READ
ABOUT -- READ ABOUT WHO DECEIVED
SEVERAL PEOPLE AND THEY PAID HIS
LEGAL FEES BECAUSE EVEN THEN
THEY THOUGHT HE WAS INNOCENT AND
HE WAS BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF,
THAT IT WAS A BIG GOVERNMENT
CONSPIRACY SO THEY WOULDN'T GET
THE MONEY THAT HE HAD PROMISED
THEM.
AND SO HE ENDED UP HAVING A
DEFENCE THAT WAS PAID FOR
ENTIRELY BY THE VICTIMS.

Steve says LET'S AMPLIFY ON
THIS A BIT.
TO DO THAT, I'LL READ ANOTHER
EXCERPT FROM YOUR BOOK. HERE WE GO.
WE'RE CALLING THIS, "IT'S NOT
ME, IT'S YOU."

Another quote from the book appears on screen, with a picture of a mirror. The quote reads "When it comes to ourselves –our traits, our lives, our decisions- our personal attachment overshadows our objective knowledge. We systematically misevaluate evidence based on our own characteristics, and if we're given evidence that something about us poses a threat, instead of thinking about how to change our own behavior, we call the evidence itself into question. To put this in conning terms, if I paint a picture of a perfect mark for you and you recognize yourself in it, you are more likely to think I'm a poor researcher than yourself a good target. Nah, you'll say. Those aren't actually the things that get someone conned. I bet this girl didn't do any research and is just constructing this out of thin air."

Steve says WE SEEM TO HAVE A
REAL PROBLEM CHANGING OUR
BEHAVIOUR AND GETTING OURSELVES
TO RECOGNIZE WHAT'S REALLY
HAPPENING HERE, SO I NEED TO ASK
YOU, OF COURSE: HAVE YOU EVER
BEEN CONNED?

The caption changes to "Know thyself."

Maria says WELL,
HERE'S THE THING.
I DON'T KNOW.
BECAUSE I AM NO DIFFERENT THAN
ANYONE ELSE.
AND IF I HAVE, I'VE PROBABLY
REASONED IT AWAY AS NOT HAVING
EVER BEEN CONNED, THAT IT WAS
JUST THAT I'VE BEEN UNLUCKY A
FEW TIMES.
SO I DON'T KNOW BECAUSE I WRITE
THIS AND I REALIZE THAT IT
APPLIES TO ME JUST AS MUCH AS IT
APPLIES TO THE PEOPLE READING
IT.
AND SO I EMERGED FROM THIS
RESEARCH THINKING, WOW, YOU
KNOW, NOT ONLY AM I A HUGE
TARGET, I THINK EVEN A BIGGER
TARGET NOW THAT I'VE WRITTEN
THIS BOOK BECAUSE I POSE A
CHALLENGE FOR A CON ARTIST
BECAUSE THEY THINK, IF SHE
THINKS SHE'S SO SMART, LET'S
SHOW HER.

Steve says GO GET HER.

Maria says YEAH, EXACTLY.
BUT IN THE PAST, I VERY WELL
MIGHT HAVE BEEN CONNED AND TO
THIS DAY NOT KNOW ABOUT IT.
AND I THINK THAT'S TRUE OF A LOT
OF PEOPLE.

Steve says NOW THAT YOU HAVE
WRITTEN THIS BOOK AND YOU ARE
PERHAPS AS AWARE OF ANYBODY IN
NORTH AMERICA AS TO WHAT THE
TRICKS OF THE CON TRADE ARE, IS
THERE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN SHARE
WITH THE REST OF US ON HOW TO
INOCULATE YOURSELF AGAINST BEING CONNED?

The caption changes to "Trust issues."

Maria says WELL, I
DON'T THINK IT'S POSSIBLE TO
FULLY INOCULATE YOURSELF.
I THINK THAT WE CAN -- THAT
THERE ARE SOME BEST PRACTICES
THAT WE CAN ALL SUBSCRIBE TO,
BUT NOTHING WILL MAKE US IMMUNE,
AND I THINK THE BEST EVIDENCE
THAT NOTHING WILL MAKE US IMMUNE
IS THE FACT THAT CON ARTISTS CAN
FALL FOR CONS, SO THERE ARE SOME
CON ARTISTS TARGETED AT CONS
THEMSELVES.
IF THEY CAN BE CONNED, I THINK
ANYONE CAN.
THAT SAID, I THINK WE NEED TO
HAVE A FEW BEST PRACTICES IN
MIND.
ONE OF THEM IS THAT YOU REALLY
SHOULD MEMORIZE THE SAYING THAT
IF IT SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE,
IT IS, AND REALIZE THERE IS NO
EXCEPTION HAPPENING TO YOU.
IF IT SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE,
IT IS, AND THERE IS NO WAY
AROUND THAT.
WE TEND TO REALIZE THAT WHEN IT
HAPPENS TO SOMEONE ELSE, WE SAY,
HEY, YOUR INVESTMENT RETURNS
HAVE BEEN 20 percent FOR THE LAST FEW
YEARS.
THAT'S A LITTLE FISHY.
IF IT'S HAPPENING TO US, WE
DON'T SEE IT AS TOO GOOD TO BE
TRUE, WE SEE IT AS, OH, I'M A
VERY, VERY SAVVY INVESTOR.
SO KNOWING THAT AND SAYING,
OKAY, YOU KNOW, THINGS ARE
REALLY GOING WELL.
THE MOMENTS I MOST WANT TO
BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING IS
LEGITIMATE, THAT'S WHEN I SHOULD
QUESTION BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO
ASK QUESTIONS WHEN THINGS ARE
GOING WELL.
PEOPLE JUST WANT TO ASK
QUESTIONS WHEN SOMETHING'S GOING
WRONG, AND WE SHOULD TRY TO
REVERSE THAT A LITTLE BIT.
SO, YES, ASK QUESTIONS WHEN
THINGS ARE GOING WRONG, BUT ALSO
ASK QUESTIONS WHEN THINGS ARE
GOING RIGHT, AND TRY TO BE
SKEPTICAL IN THOSE MOMENTS WHERE
YOU LEAST WANT TO BE SKEPTICAL.

Steve says LET ME GET YOUR TAKE
ON AN INCIDENT THAT ACTUALLY
HAPPENED TO ME SEVERAL YEARS AGO.
I'M WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN
DOWNTOWN TORONTO AND A WOMAN
COMES UP TO ME, I GUESS ABOUT 40
YEARS OLD, AND SHE SEEMS REALLY
IN DISTRESS, SHE SAYS I HAVEN'T
EATEN IN A LONG TIME, I HAVEN'T
GOT A PLACE TO STAY.
YOU KNOW, CAN YOU FIND IT IN THE
GOODNESS OF YOUR HEART TO GIVE
ME 20 BUCKS JUST TO SEE ME
THROUGH THE END OF THE DAY, AND
OF COURSE I GAVE IT TO HER, AND
ALMOST INSTANTLY AFTER I DID,
SOMEBODY ELSE CAME UP TO ME AND
SAID, "YOU KNOW, YOU'RE A BIG FOOL.
SHE IS THE WELL-KNOWN LOCAL
HEROIN ADDICT.
YOU'VE JUST ENABLED HER DRUG
HABIT, AND CONGRATULATIONS."
HAVING SAID THAT, I WONDERED
WHETHER I WANT TO LIVE IN A
WORLD WHERE WE OUGHT TO BE SO
MISTRUSTFUL OF EVERYBODY THAT WE
RUN INTO THAT IN ORDER NOT TO BE
TAKEN, WE SORT OF OVERCOMPENSATE
THE OTHER WAY.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING?
WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR HERE?

Maria says I KNOW
EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE SAYING AND I
COULDN'T AGREE WITH YOU MORE.
I THINK IT'S A BALANCING ACT AND
WE SHOULDN'T START QUESTIONING
EVERYONE.
ALSO, IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE
A TERRIBLE HUMAN BEING, I BET
YOU FELT PRETTY GOOD AFTER YOU
GAVE HER THAT 20 dollars BECAUSE YOU
THOUGHT YOU WERE HELPING.
HAD THAT PERSON NOT COME ALONG,
YOU WOULD HAVE CONTINUED FEELING
GOOD.
IN THE CURRENT SITUATION,
OBVIOUSLY YOU DIDN'T.
BUT IF YOU HADN'T GIVEN HER THE
MONEY, YOU WOULD HAVE FELT
GUILTY THE WHOLE TIME AND YOU
WOULD HAVE FELT LIKE, YOU KNOW,
WHAT IF IT ACTUALLY HAD BEEN A
TRUE STORY.
WHAT KIND OF A HUMAN BEING ARE
YOU TO QUESTION THAT?
UNFORTUNATELY, CON ARTISTS DO
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT GOODNESS
AND YOU KNOW WHAT?
I SAY LET THEM IN THE SENSE THAT
IT WILL BE A VERY, VERY SAD
WORLD IF WE DON'T GIVE 20 dollars TO
THE STRANGER WHEN THE STRANGER
REALLY NEEDS IT, AND I THINK
THAT WE SHOULD REALIZE THAT MOST
PEOPLE ARE NOT CON ARTISTS, THAT
MOST PEOPLE ARE TRUSTWORTHY TO
SOME EXTENT THAT AND THAT MOST
PEOPLE AREN'T REALLY OUT TO GET
US, AND I DID GO THROUGH A PHASE
AFTER I WAS DONE WITH THIS BOOK
WHERE I REALLY JUST LOST MY
FAITH IN HUMANITY, BUT I'VE BEEN
WORKING HARD TO RESTORE IT
BECAUSE I THINK IT'S VERY, VERY
IMPORTANT TO TRUST ONE ANOTHER.
I THINK IT LEADS TO A MUCH
RICHER, MORE EMOTIONALLY
FULFILLING LIFE AT THE END OF THE DAY.

Steve says AND OF COURSE YOU
YOURSELF, MARIA, HAVE NEVER
CONNED ANYBODY ELSE EVER UNDER
ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, HAVE YOU?

Maria says NO,
ABSOLUTELY NOT.
AND I'VE NEVER TOLD A LIE.

[Laughter]

Steve says ALL RIGHT.
AND I BELIEVE YOU.
I KNOW THOUSANDS WOULDN'T.

Maria says OF COURSE YOU DO.

The caption changes to "Producer: Meredith Martin, @MeredithMartin"

Steve says I BELIEVE EVERYTHING
YOU SAY.
MARIA, IT'S SO GOOD OF YOU TO
JOIN US ON TVO TONIGHT.
YOU ARE A CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FOR NEW YORKER MAGAZINE AND WE
VERY MUCH RECOMMEND "THE
CONFIDENCE GAME," WHICH WILL
GIVE YOU A HELL OF A LOT TO
THINK ABOUT AT THE VERY LEAST.
MARIA KONNIKOVA, THANKS SO MUCH
FOR JOINING US FROM NEW YORK
CITY TONIGHT.

Maria says THANK YOU
SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

Watch: Understanding the Con