Think You Couldn’t Be Duped By a Con Artist? Think Again.

copyright free image from Shimun Hayut’s Instagram

“It Could Never Happen to Me”

Why do we so often give victims the side-eye? Maybe it’s comforting to think that they are different from us. We are immune to deception and exploitation. No one could dupe us.

“I’m Counting on Your Kindness”

Con artists count on our basic human decency working against us. They also rely on us using one of the basic tenets of psychology; the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. We develop certain expectations about people based on how they have been in the past. When someone we think we know does something unexpected. We look for a logical explanation.

Crazy Theories Are Sometimes True

Think of Hayut’s strategy. He meets someone through Tinder or another dating app. He is charming, well-spoken, worldly. He pretends to be the son of an Israeli diamond billionaire. He goes to extraordinary lengths to keep up this persona. He shows up for dates with bodyguards and an entourage. He whisks his victims away on private planes to posh hotels.

The Curse of the Confident “Psychopath”

I have never met or evaluated Shimun Hayut, so I certainly can’t diagnose him. What I can say is he behaved like a psychopath. His pattern of deceit, manipulativeness, apparent indifference to the consequences of his actions, superficial charm, lack of empathy, and lack of remorse are all behaviors that certainly head us in that direction.

How to Avoid Falling Victim to a Con Artist

Yes, there are some early red flags in relationships. We should all know them. But because the best predators can pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, I think it’s more important to have respect for our wisdom as well as that of the friends and family who love us. For starters:

  • When you meet someone you’re interested in, don’t share too much, too soon, or move too fast. Few people ever lament that they went too slowly in a new relationship. But the heartache (and worse) I’ve seen from jumping heart first into a commitment; well, that’s a whole book that needs writing.
  • Watch out for the sympathy ploy. Never part with your personal information or money at the start of a new relationship. You can offer support without putting yourself at risk.
  • Stay connected to your friends and family and keep them in the loop about what’s going on. They can be objective and offer perspective to help you stay true to yourself.
  • Trust your gut. It’s been with you since you were born and rarely lies. Warning; if you find yourself hiding information about your new beau because you’re afraid of what they might think, it’s time to do some serious soul searching.
  • Trust is not a zero-sum game. People earn our trust by acting and keeping it by doing the same. Some people can keep up a façade for months. You’re not at fault for not seeing behind it. But once that façade starts to slip, don’t second guess yourself or make excuses for bad behavior.
  • If you suspect anything shady or criminal, keep a record of all communications. Never put yourself in danger.

The Bottom Line

Author Beau Taplin once said, “Some people are magic, and others are just the illusion of it.” At the beginning of a relationship, it’s hard to tell which a person is.

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Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D.

Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D.

Forensic psychologist/private investigator//author of serial killer book. Passionate about victim’s rights, the psychology of true crime, and criminal justice.