Cons, Swindlers and Cheats


Spring 2014 quarter

Taught by

Despite access to all sorts of information, people continue to be conned, swindled and cheated out of their hard-earned money. Is it really true anyone can be conned? How can we protect ourselves and our communities against cons who by their very nature make situations seem reasonable and socially compelling.

This program is an overview of various schemes and trickery that fraudsters employ in the financial world and elsewhere. From the original Charles Ponzi and his schemes in the early 1900’s to the current day massive affinity fraud perpetrated by Bernie Madoff, we will look at the schemers and their victims. If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is—but the success of real-life swindlers shows how often this simple advice is ignored. We will explore what makes investors and others reach for the fool’s gold of seemingly foolproof and lucrative investment opportunities. We will also look at the psychology of fraudsters and try to determine what makes them operate outside the normal laws of society.

The program is designed for students with a strong interest in finance and investments or those interested in what drives the most basic of human instincts, greed. Spotting a con requires us to think critically about situations and to find a balance between trusting and self-preservation. By the end of the program we expect you to be able to think creatively about ways to protect yourself and society from fraudsters.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning: No access to web tools required. Any web tools provided are optional for students.


Date Revision
February 25th, 2013 New program added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 24


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30336
So - Sr (16 credits): 30339

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