I just came across this video from Big Think with Maria Konnikova which is very interesting. (Full disclosure, I haven't yet read her recent book on cons but it's in my pile.) The video is provocatively titled What Do Con Artists and Religious Leaders Have in Common?
The claim is that we have an insatiable hunger for meaning and certainty and that con artists are prepared to provide that — although not necessarily honestly. While I agree that religion superficially satisfies the hunger for meaning and certainty, even in the presence of better explanations, I'm not entirely sure that's what con artists do.
I'm currently reading a different book on cons: The Art of the Con by R. Paul Wilson. The principle force driving cons, according to that book, is not satisfying a thirst for meaning, but offering potential financial rewards — offering what can be loosely classed as "investments" that have essentially zero return so you are essentially handing your money over in whatever quantities they can get from you.
On the other hand, about twenty minutes before I was reading this, I found his formula for convincing people to accept false information. It's framed, not quite correctly as an equation: X + Y = Z when it really should be something more like a syllogism. Either way:
Z is the conclusion you want your mark (victim) to agree with. X is a fact that is verifiably true. Y is a fact which is false.
X and Y taken together imply your desired conclusion, Z
The idea is that if you can provide legitimate sources for X, and Z is desirable (you want it to be true), then people will just quietly accept Y without questioning it too much. And when you try to reverse engineer your own thinking, you feel as though you've just carried out a proper logical argument because X + Y really does imply Z. You don't realize that the reason you accepted Y as true is because you wanted to believe Z was true. It makes the argument circular in a way which is extremely difficult to detect.
This is most definitely not how you do logic, but that's the point. It's about convincing people to believe things for irrational reasons. I see this used all the time by people who are trying to use logical arguments to convince you of religious truths. So perhaps that's what they have in common.