Consider an artist as a dreamer in control of hir dreams who invents a world and invites others to live in it.
A con artist does the same.
Have you ever felt conned by teachers, priests, politicians, acquaintances or family?
To achieve this outcome the scam-artist has to control the channels of communication.
Usually we 'potential victims' have multiple channels of input that we can use to verify our perceptions.
Cults, the military, the major religions, state education, practical jokers, hoaxers and confidence tricksters attempt to isolate us from a complete range of checks and balances, and ideally they control the few channels left available to us, through which they feed us data and models of their choosing.
If they can’t completely control our use of other channels they can create false trails, strange loops, confusion, social pressure, a hint of illegal activity, paranoia, manufactured evidence or misinformation to encourage us to distrust these alternative viewpoints, or reality checks.
The world they create differs from the ‘real world’ because it contains some of the hoaxer’s fictitious creations – a chair has gone when someone sits down, an account will prove empty when someone tries to take out their money / winnings.
We fail to distinguish the evidence of our senses from conclusions drawn – and maybe we secretly want to believe their version (easy money, eternal happiness).
The process usually involves a period of induction to build up the false world picture, which should appear consistent according to any test the victim can apply.
RV Jones wrote a paper drawing parallels between practical joking and the work of the scientist confronted by a mysterious universe, as the scientist constructs a world based on any evidence he has, then tests it for consistency with what he already knows, and takes action on the assumption of accurate data.
Beware - Be Aware - Be Wary
Thanks to The Pleasures of Deception by Norman Moss - hard to find a copy of this.
Check out R. V. Jones, “The theory of practical joking – its relevance to physics”
Bulletin of the Institute of Physics 1957, p. 193 - partially reprinted in A Random Walk in Science