The 47-year-old man who called himself “Clark Rockefeller,” made the news after he kidnapped his seven year old daughter following a nasty divorce. Clark Rockefeller was really a German-born con artist named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter. He entered the US as an exchange student, used at least four aliases and ran one of the longest running cons in history. Claiming to be a descendant of the Rockefeller dynasty, he conned his way into the most exclusive clubs and institutions, and impersonated people ranging from a talk show host to a cardiac surgeon. He even conned his wife of twelve years, Sandra Boss, a Harvard M.B.A., who made $40,000 a week as a business consultant, into believing he had been a student at Yale and was, indeed, a Rockefeller. Gerhartsreiter did not have a Social Security Number, never filed a US tax return, and never had a bank account or held any credit in his name. Gerhartsreiter’s fingerprints have been matched those left behind by a long-missing suspect in a 1985 murder case of a California couple. In the 1980s, before he aspired to become a “Crockefeller,” Gerhartsreiter lived in California under the alias “Christopher Crowe.”
The media have a field day when the “rich and famous” are targets of dirty rotten scoundrels. However, most swindlers prey on the average everyday Joe or Jane. In fact, a con artist is more likely to go after someone like you, or someone you know, than a celebrity or public figure. But these kinds of scams are rarely made into TruTV movies
The word “con- artist” comes from the word “confidence”. A good con-artist works by gaining your confidence then exploits your desire and willingness to be deceived by him or her.
How can you spot a con and a liar?
- If there is conflict between the words and the body---listen to the body. For example, when Gerhartsreiter was interviewed by the F.B.I., he was asked if he loved his wife. He answered, “I absolutely love her.” But, at the same time he shrugged and shook his head from side to side, as if to say “no.”
- Liars avoid short, direct answers. For example, when asked, “Where were you born?” Gerhartsreiter replied, “As far as I know, New York, I’m not totally clear at that. It could have been Boston, too.”
- Look at their handwriting. Con artists will often make their numerals ambiguous or hard to decipher.
There are many tell tale signs of a con artist, trust your gut but keep your eyes and ears open.