This is the eleventh episode of Skepticule Extra, aka the Three Pauls Podcast.
Patient and Persistent
Paul Thompson ("Sinbad")
Atheists vs Gods
Paul S. Jenkins
Notes from an Evil Burnee
Everyday Champions Academy
BHA press release
Professor Paul Braterman on Skepticule Extra 6
Jamie Oliver's School Dinners
Newark Advertiser article
Parentdish — Schoolboy made to write "Sorry", then eat it
Smith v State of Arizona
Philosophical Foundation: A Critical Analysis of Basic Beliefs — Surrendra Gangadean
Sam's comment on EB blogpost
Hayley Stevens' tattoo
Scam Tutorial by Paul (Sinbad) Thompson — text included below
QualiaSoup's YouTube videos:
Morality 1: Good without gods
Morality 2: Not-so-good books
The Moral Landscape — Sam Harris
The Incredible Human Journey — Alice Roberts
Adam Rutherford at Winchester Skeptics in the Pub
Why the Moon has two sides
Trojan Moon — Russell's Teapot
The First Church of Christ, Scientist
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, write a review on iTunes or post a comment below. There is also a Skepticule Extra Forum for further discussion of topics covered in the show (plus other topics). Follow the link to try out the forum.
Skepticule Extra is a production of Willowsoft Communications
Skepticule Extra is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England &amp; Wales License.
Guys, I thought I'd do something different this time. Instead of us 3 grumpy old blokes complaining about stuff, I thought we could do something more productive. So I'd like to do a quick tutorial... something edumacational.
I'm going to teach you how to do a con, a confidence trick, The Perfect Scam.
Now I know what you're going to say. You're going to say "that's unethical", but... I'm not doing this so you can go out and fleece some unsuspecting passer by, I'm doing this so that you will recognise this type of scam and not get fooled by it.
This is valuable information and could (hypothetically) be extremely profitable.
First I need to define what a confidence trick is.
A Confidence Trick, or "Con" is a scam or a fraud that is designed to trick a victim (the Mark) into losing money or into following a course of action by a false promise of gain.
Confidence tricks work on the greed, aspirations, gullibility and desires of the victim.
Examples of Scams:
Bait and Switch Scam: You see a top quality, branded product that looks and feels genuine being sold for a fraction of the retail price. You buy one but when you get it home and open the box, they have switched it with a cheap tacky replica.
Advanced Fee Scams: If you use Email, you'll already be familiar with the advanced fee scam or the "Nigerian Scam" Some rich dying person or bank official wants to get millions out of the country. They want to use your bank account to transfer the money, but then they need a transfer fee up front, then a lawyers fee, then some bribe money an then some other fee and they will keep milking the mark until he's figured out he's being scammed. The greedy and the gullible lose millions to the Nigerian scam every day.
Scams can be simple one man sting, a small team or a large organised group of professional fraudsters.
The one-on-one scam.
This is probably the most risky scam for a con artist. It has many drawbacks.
Firstly, the Con Artist is in danger of being beaten to a pulp by the guy he's just ripped off.
The Mark may bring in the police.
There is no chance of any repeat business unless the Mark is unaware he's been ripped off.
The 3 card chase the lady game seen on street corners is an excellent example of this kind of one-on-one scam. To make the scam look more enticing, the Con Artist will often use an accomplice (the Shill) who will pretend to be a member of the public who plays and wins, thus making the game look genuine.
The Team Scam.
The Nigerian advanced fee Scam is usually a team Scam.
The Scam that I want to concentrate on is:-
The Institutional Scam.
This Scam is perpetrated by institutions that are financially unable to sustain themselves. Their legitimate income is insufficient to maintain the organisation and its expenditure. They have no viable business model. These institutions can either go broke and disappear or they can be a little more creative on how they get money and resources from their victims.
This kind of scam can bring in vast sums of money. The bigger the membership, the bigger the profit for the Con Artists. Some of the Large Pyramid Schemes are one kind of Institutional Scam. They rely on a large membership to generate profit for the people at the top of the pyramid.
So How do I perpetrate the perfect Confidence trick based on an Institutional Scam.
Lets make this really hard... I don't actually have any product or service to sell but I need to get large numbers of people paying me and offering me their services.
First of all, I want to avoid all of the drawbacks mentioned in the One-on-one Scam. It is therefore absolutely vital that the Mark never realises they are being conned. But how do I do this, the Mark will realise it's a con as soon as the promised payoff fails to materialize.
I need to delay the payoff as long as possible. remember the Payoff doesn't actually exist, I'm selling an imaginary product/service. As soon as people realise the promised payoff doesn't exist, I start to lose members and the scam will fail. So I have to postpone delivery as long as possible.
To take this to its logical extreme in my perfect scam, I need to convince the Marks that the payoff occurs at a point when they are unable to come back an complain. ie. when they are dead. No dead people ever come back and complain or call the police. And they cant warn anyone that they were conned.
The Payoff I am guaranteeing is of course immortality living in eternal paradise.
That is a massive payoff, the ultimate prize. People will suspend all reason and critical thinking when presented with the promise of a big reward. This is how all scams work. This is a good product to sell, it's in demand. If this was a genuine offer, NO ONE in their right mind would turn it down. The trick is to convince people that it IS a genuine and achievable offer.
We're going to need some Props
We'll need a lot of convincing paraphernalia and theatrical methods to pull this scam off.
Remember the travelling medicine men, roaming the country selling medicinal compounds? Snake Oil, potions that cure you of anything. These con men had Certificates from impressive sounding medical institutions that were irrefutable proof that they were selling powerful effective medical treatments. They had testimonials from well known authorities and famous people (including Kings and Presidents), that testified to the extraordinary benefits of their potions.
These infallible documents were crucial. No one could refute the word of the president or the authority of the leading medical institutions.
The certificates used by the snake oil salesman could be proven to be authentic because each certificate had a stamp of authenticity which said "This Certificate is Authentic". So we know these certificates are genuine because it says so on the certificate.
So I would need an infallible document from an authority beyond question.
Uniforms are good at fooling people into a perception of authority. If some guy in jeans and T-shirt says "Don't go in that building" you'll probably ignore him, If the same guy wearing a Fireman's uniform says "Do NOT go in that building" and he says it in a commanding and authoritative tone, you will probably do as he says. So a uniform and an authoritative manner are required. The uniform must be impressive...
For our scam, I'd recommend robes, big hats, big pointy hats the bigger the better... maybe lots of gold trinkets, candles and mysterious objects on chains with strange smoke coming out. You will need impressive ceremonies and rituals to show off your impressive uniform and your impressive shiny paraphernalia preferably in a big impressive building. The building may need a big pointy hat as well and we could even add some loud bells to make it even more impressive.
Love bombing is an amazingly simple and powerful brainwashing method used by many cults. It is the deliberate use of an intense show of affection by a group of people, toward an individual they seek to recruit or otherwise influence. It is designed to influence the lonely, the disaffected, the socially inept and anyone suffering from low self esteem. It's the Low Self Esteem factor that we need to work on. If you can convince someone how much you love them, how much they mean to you and how important they are to you, their Self Esteem takes a massive boost. They will gravitate towards you because you are telling them exactly what they want to hear. If you can also reinforce their own feelings of wretchedness and self loathing it multiplies the effectiveness of the love bombing.
If you come across a starving man, and you offer free food as much as you can eat, what do you think will happen... Well it's just the same if you come across someone with a starving ego. If you provide an intense supply of Love, Praise and Encouragement, you'll get your converts pouring in faster than you can say "Jesus Loves You".
You need to put plenty of self loathing statements in your infallible book, make them feel bad about themselves and make them feel helpless to do anything about it.. then follow it up with a whole stack of love bombs.
This one is easy. You can be as extravagant as you like. Promise them anything, no matter how absurd. This is the Reward you are selling them, it is the Bait. Remember, you never have to pay out so you can be as liberal as you like with your promises of spectacular rewards. Immortality, that's always a good one, Fantastic wealth is another... Streets of Gold is always a winner. Eternal happiness, No health problems. Play on the inherent greed of the victim, the fear of death, disire for something vastly better than what they have now. We can tell them they will be reunited with their dead loved ones. This is a cruel lie to tell them but it never has to be explained that it was just a scam because they'll be dead themselves when it becomes time to deliver.
A tricky one this. You can't go around threatening people if they don't want to join the scam so you have to be a little more subtle. What you need to do is invent a threat from some third party then provide the salvation from that threat. There has to be a monster, a boogy man that will do terrible things to them if they don't subscribe to your scam.. Of course, if they are full members of your amazing scheme, the monster can't touch them.
Once again you can be as extravagant as you like here. You never have to deliver on this one either. You can have torture, burning, infinite pain, everlasting torment, plagues, blood, suffering, screaming in agony... etc etc. Be as graphic as you like. Think of it as aversion therapy. You're not really going to do these things but it helps if the majority of victims believe it.
Brainwashing is surprisingly easy. It can be achieved simply with continuous repetition of key phrases over several years. Ceremony and ritual are good too. People feel comfortable with familiar activities, so lots of repetition is good. Statements of devotion can be incorporated into easily learned songs that the victims will sing every week. You'll need a whole collection of these songs. You could put them in a little book and give each song a number. All you'll have to do is call out the number... 172.... and off they'll go in automatic mode repeating your carefully selected indoctrination phrases. Chanting in unison and talking to an imaginary figurehead is crucial. They must be able to visualise the figurehead as a real person or something that really exists. So encourage them to talk to this imaginary being. It will help strengthen the illusion of reality. You know it's really working well when they start hearing their delusion talking back to them and interacting in their lives.
This delusional state is the ideal state for the scam to work. Once the victim has "realised" the delusion in their own mind, you can do anything with them. Just pick any natural phenomena and attribute it to their delusion. Pretty soon, they will attribute everything that happens to them to their imaginary friend.
What's Your Payoff
Don't go too heavy on this one. In fact you need to play the numbers game. Don't insist that everyone gives you oodles of money. If you have a big enough membership, there will be enough money coming in from the ones who do pay up. If you start insisting, people are going to get suspicious. Make it 100% voluntary, but then create a culture that questions the loyalty and commitment of those who do not give.
I would suggest asking for about 10% of a persons income. Once you have a few hundred million recruits, the income should be quite substantial. After a few years, people will leave you houses and all worldly possessions in their will. You must also consider a global market for merchandising. There is a multi billion dollar industry for trinkets, pictures, plastic glow in the dark statues, CD's, DVD's, Videos, Study Guides, Tourism, The lecture circuits, TV rights, infallible documents, even little action figures that you can hang around your neck.
Multiple Locations.. at least two in every population centre.
You will need places designated for your victims to get together in a safe environment where they can receive indoctrination and propaganda reinforcing their belief in the scam. You will need some very influential and skilful speakers to do this for you. People will not stay in the scheme if you don't constantly pump them full of Love Bombs, Positive and Negative reinforcement. These safe houses are really "Cash Harvesting Units Retailing Comfort and Hope". (C.H.U.R.C.H).
Sooner or later the victims will bring their children to the Cash Harvesting Units. Kids are easy prey, They have soft malleable minds and can easily be indoctrinated. Their parents are complicit in the indoctrination so there are very few problems. If you can get them in this young, you've probably got them for life. You can amplify this process by building orphanages, schools and doing missionary work. It's much more difficult recruiting someone who already has a fixed belief system. Go for the young ones and I'd recommend oppressed people in third world countries. These people are easily converted because they're already predisposed to be unhappy, helpless and disaffected.
There is a problem with this scam.
You will find that there are many other fraudsters already running scams like this. You will need to create a smear campaign to demonise all the competition. You have to make it look like the other scams are Evil or Immoral and that yours is the best one. Lie and misrepresent as much as you want. Remember, these other scams are taking your money. If competition gets too hot, you can organise crusades and inquisitions along with a system of genocide and persecution. Burn any competing infallible books. You may also want to burn the organisers of those other scams..
So that's a brief introduction to the Institutional Scam.
There are plenty more guidelines on creating Institutional Scams like this but they could fill a holy book and we just don't have time in this podcast.
Now that you know how these scams work, be on guard. If you detect anyone trying these techniques on you, you'll now be able to recognise the scammer for what he is and not get taken in like millions of innocent victims do every year.
Incidentally, If you think you may have already, unwittingly become involved in such a scam. Act now. Get help. Stop attending the indoctrination sessions immediately... Just say "No thank you, I KNOW how this works" and walk away.