“If the NSA can be hacked, so can the average — or even exceptional — human mind. Our capacity to trust, which makes us successful, also makes us vulnerable — as does the natural bias to overrate our own bullshit detection.”  Matthew Hutson, “Why We Fall for Con Artists”


I Googled “con artist” and the first result was a Wikipedia article about “Confidence Trick”. What an incredibly appropriate term for con artists. People who con gain the confidence of their victims by exploiting their emotions. Cons don’t appeal to a person’s intellect, but rather to their emotions, with the most vulnerable time when the victim is going through an extreme life change according to Maria Konnikova, author of “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time”. This life change can be positive or negative. If you’ve gone through a positive life change, such as a job promotion, you may have a greater readiness to believe things. 


  • Legendary con man Frank Abagnale once said, “A hood planning a bank holdup might case the treasury for rudimentary facts, but in the end he depends on his gun. A con artist’s only weapon is his brain.”
  • Maria Konikova has said, “The whole premise of the confidence game is that they ask for your confidence, and you give it to them. We con ourselves as much as they con us, because we supply the missing links, we tell ourselves the story that we want to hear.” 


Maria Konikova has provided some valuable insight into the tricks of the trade of  con artists. The following are some of those.

Make the Victims Feel Good

  • Con artists ask a lot of questions and make victims feel good.  
  • Victims want to believe. We don’t want to believe we’re being manipulated – we believe we can’t be manipulated.

I was once on a date, walking through an Atlanta neighborhood that had street vendors out. We came upon a psychic. My date wanted to do it – I flatly said no, that I wanted no part in it. When he sat down, she asked him question after question. He gave her answers that led to her next words/questions and her “reading.” He was wow’d by what she had to say. I sat down and answered “yes” or “no”, not giving her any additional information. She was so frustrated that she couldn’t “read” me that she told me to leave!

Con Artists Say Your Name

Con artists say your name a lot to create familiarity. Don’t you feel good when someone remembers your name? They also mimic your posture which increases empathy. This mirroring creates a feeling of familiarity and belonging, allowing access to a victim’s physical space which is a short distance from their mind, emotions, and wallet.

Con Artists Appear Vulnerable 

A good con artist will put victims at ease by revealing his own faults, fears, and desires. He’ll use a portion of the truth mixed with lies. His revelation of his own imperfection helps us to trust him more because, hey, we’re not perfect either! And, as a Christian, this fall right into our belief that people can be redeemed and deserve a second chance. We shouldn’t judge them for their sins lest we be judged for our own – right? 

Cons Let You Win

Cons let you win at first. You may win their affection, attention, money, support, or any other thing of value to you. Maybe you even “win” them to Jesus, getting them to church, and “saving” (in the Christian sense) them. You are drawn in by these victories before they switch and start winning, much to our detriment.

Cons Gain Your Confidence in Seconds

Con artists know how to earn the confidence of strangers in seconds. Most have great charisma, charm. They are outgoing and gregarious and know exactly what to say to make you like them. If they are seemingly wealthy or successful, they become more attractive to us as we tend to admire those types of people and easier to believe them. I’ve seen some attorneys who are masterful at this trick. I also once had a pastor who mastered this.

Set a Time Frame

  • Con artists set a time frame to persuade victims to act quickly.
  • We’ve got to do this now, or you’ll back out.
  • This prevents us from spending too much time in thought or to thoroughly analyze what they are proposing.
  • This was certainly a trick a con artist used against me.
  • It’s effective because the con has painted such a great picture: a man who’s attentive and romantic, life happily ever after – and then threatens that could all disappear if we don’t act quickly.
  • And we think, well why shouldn’t we act quickly? 

We Desire to Avoid Embarrassment

Con artists take advantage of our desire to avoid embarrassment. We don’t want people to know we were gullible or naïve. We don’t want people to think we have a problem with our judgment of people. We don’t want people to say, “What were you thinking!?” 

Romantic Con

I’ve had so many consults with women who have been taken advantage of by someone who promised them love and the happily ever after. Unfortunately, all they got was a completely empty bank account, wiped out retirement, and financially bankrupt. These women have all discussed the con with heads down, unable to look at me. The desire to avoid embarrassment is strong driving force that prevents many people from disclosing they were conned. I couldn’t avoid mine – it was splashed all over the news!


People are surprised when they learn that an annulment is available in the civil courts, not just in the Catholic Church. Indeed, Alabama does allow for an annulment of a marriage. However, Alabama courts don’t like to grant annulments because an annulment means the marriage never happened, which is “against public policy”. 

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment voids a marriage. Basically, in the eyes of the law, the marriage never happened. When asked if you’ve been married before, you can legally say “No”. Unfortunately, this does nothing to void the pain, heartache, and financial consequences of marrying a confidence man.

Marriage Annulment Time Frame

This is probably one of the most common questions I receive.  There isn’t a set time frame for which to seek an annulment. The sooner the better, though. Personally, I had been married for 17 months when I sought an annulment. I’ve represented or consulted with people who have been married for a few weeks to several months.


In Alabama, getting an annulment is the same process as a divorce. Though you can file your own annulment paperwork, it’s not advisable. Judges don’t like granting annulments – voiding a marriage is a big deal in the legal world – so your paperwork will be scrutinized more so than a divorce complaint. 

Uncontested Annulment

You can do an annulment uncontested. That is when you and the con agree to file for annulment and agree on all terms of the annulment. You both sign the paperwork and it gets filed with the court. I’ve done several of these, most of these have been based on fraud.

Contested Annulment

This was my situation. We had to file the annulment complaint and then I eventually had to testify in court about all of the lies told to me – all of the fraud perpetrated against me. It was excruciating to tell these details in public, with colleagues in the courtroom hearing all of that. However, a marriage based on fraud is not a marriage! 


  • If you have been conned, or tricked, you are not alone. You are in the company of hundreds (thousands??) of smart, confident, beautiful, accomplished, and extraordinary women who also fell victim to confidence tricks. 
  • Contact me directly to share your story.
  • It does help to talk with others who have likewise been conned to know that you are not alone and you should not live in shame.

No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than those performed by other lawyers. 

Photo credit: #KathySmithImages

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