10 Tips for Telling Fact From Fiction

Know the Techniques Deceptive People Use
Frank Abagnale speaks onstage at the event "Catch Me If You Can: Frank Abagnale 10 Years Later" during the 2012 SXSW Festival. Bobby Longoria/WireImage/Getty Images

Hoaxers and con-artists, oddly, are eager to divulge their secrets, as evidenced by the number of them who've either written memoirs or given extensive access to interviewers. Some of these books -- ranging from Robert Crichton's 1959 classic "The Great Imposter," a biography of con artist Ferdinand Demara, to "Catch Me If You Can," a 1980 memoir by reformed impersonator Frank Abagnale, Jr., have even been made into Hollywood movies [sources: Williamson, Shone].

These stories can serve as virtual how-to psychological manuals on pulling off brazen deceptions, even if the operational details are a bit too dated to be useful. These documents also are a great asset in protecting yourself against such chicanery, because if you study them, you can reverse-engineer the con artist's bag of tricks and think through the skeptical investigator's techniques for exposing them for what they are. It's also possible to educate yourself by reading cautionary manuals, some of them written by fraud investigators and journalists who are willing to impart what they've learned from catching crooks. One such book is financial journalist and radio host Steve Weisman's 2008 book "The Truth About Avoiding Credit Scams: The Essential Truths in 20 Minutes," which provides detailed descriptions of lottery scams and other schemes that con artists try to use, and how to spot them before you fork over your hard-earned savings [source: Weisman].

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