Grifter, swindler, con artist, scammer, or cheat—whatever the name, they're out to take advantage of you. If you think you've been "had" or are being pressured by a grifter, consider evaluating the situation using the suggestions below.
Grifters are often described as small-time lawbreakers who have a knack for swindling, tricking, and deceiving others, also known as "grifting." Instead of stealing or taking something by force, grifters try to take others' money or possessions the easy way—by convincing their victims to willingly hand it over.
But no matter what you call it, in legal terms, the act of grifting falls under the crimes of theft, larceny, swindling, or fraud. The exact crime will depend on how the state defines these crimes. State theft and related laws cover a broad range of crimes— from physically taking someone's property without consent (such as stealing a car) to theft by swindling or deception (such as grifting). Grifters can't win on the argument that they did nothing wrong because the victim willingly handed over their money or property, because consent obtained by trickery isn't valid.
Below we'll review some common schemes used by grifters and what to watch out for.
Grifters are master wordsmiths who excel in convincing you to do something you likely had no intention of doing. They may use some key phrases when talking or communicating with you in writing, which will often be clues that should make you wary:
Grifters, whether in person, over the phone, online, or even in snail mail, will do their best to rush you into a decision and possibly even isolate you from others who could influence your decisions. Here's how they do it (be particularly vigilant when the contact was initiated by the grifter, not you):
Grifters thrive by fitting in and making themselves appear to be something they are not. This can be particularly true of scams that come to you in the mail, by email, or by telephone. Scams will often appear at first glance to be not only legitimate but also from a reputable source, like a government agency or your bank. Keep in mind:
Approach every interaction that you did not initiate with a good, healthy dose of skepticism. Assume the other person is lying to you or hiding the truth until you are convinced based on facts—not promises or emotions—that they are not.
If the person you are working with is not comfortable answering any of these questions or providing you with information in writing, you are probably dealing with a grifter.
Put yourself on high alert if the person you are dealing with tries to downplay risks or deflect your questions.
If you're worried a deal is too good to be true, follow your gut—as it probably is.
Research. Do some research. Most states offer resources and information on possible scams through their attorney general's offices or consumer protection agencies. You can also find information on how to avoid a scam on the FTC's website.
Consult an attorney. Before you get involved in any project, deal, or investment—and especially before you send any money—consult an attorney (or just tell the person you plan to contact an attorney and see what happens). A lawyer can help you unemotionally evaluate the possible risks and benefits of any proposal or offer someone makes to you. An attorney will protect your interests and can help you avoid being fleeced.
Report a crime. If you feel that you've been the victim of a grifter, contact your local police department or state attorney general's office to report a crime. Grifters violate state and federal fraud laws. The sooner they can be apprehended, the fewer people they can victimize.