4. Appearance counts
San Francisco police have been on a manhunt in recent weeks for the so-called "Bluetooth Bandit," a thief who has been snatching purses and wallets for months, backed by accomplices who help him rob people blind.
The gimmick, hence the nickname, is that the thief appears to be a well-dressed businessman (headset at the ready for all those important deals to be made) and comes off as polite and charming.
The lesson: Looking the part is important. If you want to gain trust, instill confidence and walk away with the upper hand in a business dealing, a good appearance helps pull it off.
5. Herd mentality
People seek advice constantly for what they should be doing and validation for the moves they make.
A big reason big money financial fraudsters such as Madoff have been able to bilk so much money is that their victims are many. A one-on-one con is a quick hit; the real money comes from pulling the same scam repeatedly. In Madoff's case, as it is with classic Ponzi schemes, a key was paying high returns to a smaller subset of clients, letting them spread the good news and sell this "wonderful" investment opportunity by word of mouth.
The lesson: Just because a lot of people -- whether they are strangers, family or friends -- are doing something is no reason to follow suit. As countless mothers have said, "If everyone else was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you too?"
6. Talk it out
A good con artist, when you get down to it, is a seller. The primary goal is to get you to part with your money.
The "con" in con artist stands for "confidence," and reeling in a mug requires a degree of charm and panache. "Con" might as well stand for conversation, as that's where the ice is broken.
Typical con artists, possibly seizing upon a victim in a bar, do so by being smooth talkers. With heads full of trivia, they can rattle off insightful questions and discussions on anything with anyone from an iron worker to a ballet dancer.
They can spot impeccable (albeit fake) credentials and tell wonderful tales.
The lesson: Being well-rounded and a great conversationalist can be great for your career or any business deal. If people like you, they trust you.