The word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary…

Richard Gere goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his hoax going

I’ve just watched a brilliant Richard Gere film called The Hoax. It’s based on the true story of Clifford Irving, a writer who persuaded everyone that he was writing Howard Hughes’s autobiography. It was a huge scale scam! Irving played on the fact that Hughes was so reclusive and went to great lengths to fake all their communications. He even faked a meeting, hiring a helicopter which he claimed couldn’t land because of Hughes’s OCD – all very ingenious!

Very stressful too though, and I did start to feel a bit sorry for him. In a funny way Irving probably did come close to writing the first Hughes autobiography, because he researched Hughes so thoroughly he knew him as well as anyone.

Anyway, it got me thinking about other famous hoaxes. Have a look at these and see whether you can sympathise with the perpetrators…

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How to make anyone trust you

Go and see master imposter Frederic Bourdin’s amazing story

I went to see The Imposter the other day. It’s a fantastic documentary so I won’t give anything away if you haven’t seen it (you should), but as you can probably guess, it’s about someone pretending to be someone else.

The Imposter of the film, Frederic Bourdin, exploits the human instinct to protect and in fact con artists can often seem vulnerable. They make you trust them by showing how much they trust you – just like when a magician hands an audience member a prop to examine. They’ll make you feel special or helpful… and before you know it you’re handing over the money.

You can’t go through life being wary of everyone who needs your help, though! Trust, but verify. Victims of cons don’t dig too much even when they are suspicious, because they strongly need to believe that they’re doing the right thing (for a great aunt, or whatever the story is). Always check out claims that seem too good to be true ­– they usually are.

There are lots of neat little ‘short cons’ in the excellent David Mamet film House of Games. This one has it all: watch how he gains trust and rapport.