We all think we can spot them a mile away; con artist just out for a quick buck or a thrill, but in reality it's not that simple. ESPN is learning that the hard way and I did too. For many reasons I am disinclined to give details, but the parallels between my experience and Ben and Matt's was pretty stunning. Looking for a way to make money, offered a pretty good deal that checks out fairly well, many people would jump at the chance Sarah Phillips offered. And that's the point. While I was out of work, Ben was dazzled by the potential, and Matt was caught up in what he thought was a business deal, the basic idea is the same. Add enough realism, put on a show, have forms, files, phones numbers, company names, everything people check out to back it up. Be confident. It's pretty easy from there.
I checked my opportunity out like mad. I had other people check it out. It was pretty clean. It looked good. So I went for it just like Ben and Matt did. They had the added lure of thinking they were entering into business deals with someone who worked for ESPN. That's not a chance you screw up. You take it and run. It's only later that you realize what all the signs were and how hard the con artist worked to make you ignore them. How much they do their best to keep you too distracted to notice what is really going on. Like a magician's slight of hand, they get you to see everything but what they don't want you to.
My losses we relatively small compared to Matt's and likely less emotional than Ben's, but I can still sympathize with what they went through. You never feel more utterly shamefully stupid than after your realize someone took advantage of you. We're all supposed to be smarter than this but we aren't. We never were and now that fact is dangling right there in front of your face. People will judge you for it, ask how you could be so stupid, but the thing is cons work because the people running them are good at what they do. This is their job. If they want to stay in business (and out of jail) they need to be convincing. They're way more subtle then what we see on tv. They aren't Sawyer in a cheap hotel room "accidentally" dropping open a suitcase full of money, they're normal looking, regular folks who blend in well and seem reasonable. They'll have evidence to back up their claims and even meeting them face to face won't necessarily out them. They lie for a living and when you do that, you can fool just about anyone.
Bear this in mind when you start to joke around about how stupid Ben and Matt might be or you too may one day find yourself on the other side, lost and pissed off with nothing to show for it but a red face and a tough lesson learned.