BOSTON (MainStreet) -- If you think you're too smart to fall for the tricks of a con artist, think again.
Hollywood loves to glamorize grifters, or at least make them charmingly sleazy. In real life, the scams are far less interesting. You don't have to be a wealthy heiress or a pool room hustler to lose your money and your pride -- just ask any of the folks who have been swindled out of their life savings in a Ponzi scheme over the years.
It can happen to anyone who lets their guard down.
In his book about con artists and their tricks, How to Cheat at Everything (Running Press, 2007), author and magician Simon Lovell described "the cheat" as "a common animal who infests life at every level."
"If money is involved, it is a sure bet that cheating not only could occur, but probably already has," he wrote.
Over the years, some of the tactics used by flimflammers have bled into the sales and marketing arena. Here are 10 ways to turn the tables by learning from the scams and scammers you may face:
1. A tax on greed
In 2000, the elite of New York's Hamptons were shocked and scandalized by a grifter in their midst -- Christopher Rocancourt, who conned his way into hundreds of thousands of dollars while circulating among summertime jet-setters.
How did he do it? "They smell the money like the shark smell the blood," he told NBC's news program Dateline in a later interview.
To start with, Rocancourt gave all he met the fake name "Rockefeller." Despite his thick accent, people assumed on their own he was one of those Rockefellers.
To get the scam rolling, he would make the rounds of restaurants and parties, dropping thousands of dollars on drinks, meals and other extravagances. It was seed money -- an expense that lured hangers-on. Having built confidence among those looking to take advantage of his seeming hospitality, the pitch would come: unlikely claims of turning a $50,000 investment quickly into $500,000 or more. It was an impossible claim, but one he had no problem finding takers for.
The lesson: Don't believe the hype, and don't let greed override common sense. The Rocancourts and Bernie Madoffs of the world succeeded because far too many people were willing to be blinded by images of wealth into overlooking red flags of impropriety.