A con game, also referred to as a confidence trick, hustle, or scam, is the act of intentionally misrepresenting facts in an attempt to gain the trust of another person. This is usually done so that the person being conned, or the mark, will transfer money or property to the con artist. Victims of con artists come from all walks of life and are often exploited by some of the most common characteristics of human nature, such as honesty and naivete, greed, and vanity.
Although many people think of con artists as being thuggish underworld-type characters, many present themselves as either professional, trustworthy people, or likable individuals who are down on their luck. The con game that these people perform typically falls into one of two categories: the short con or the long con. Short cons are generally small operations that aim to scam the mark out of a small amount of money. Long cons are often used to scam the mark for a large sum of money or personal information that can be used to gain access to credit cards and bank accounts.
Some of the earliest confidence tricks are short cons that focus on the con artist quickly winning the trust of the mark or getting him or her involved in a gamble that the victim is certain he can win. A short con game will often consist of gambling or psychic scams, tricking a cashier into giving too much change, or convincing a person to buy a cheaply made product for more than it is worth. Some of these games also consist of the con artist presenting a fabricated tale to win the sympathy of the mark. One example of this is the con artist trying to sell magazines to raise money for a worthy cause that does not exist.
The long con game also has an extensive history. One of the most common of these scams consists of an official-looking bank notification, which tells the mark that he needs to provide personal information to help sort out a banking issue. Lottery, medical, and product-related scams are also familiar schemes. This type of con game usually offers the mark extensive wealth, good health, or a product that he will not be able to live without. Unfortunately, the mark is never given what was promised and is usually out a good deal of money.