Let's be honest: We all like to think we're just a little bit smarter than the next guy.

In most cases, it's a harmless self-delusion. Sometimes, it can be costly.

Despite frequent warnings, otherwise intelligent people continue to be separated from their money in ways that for years have been exposed as fraudulent, almost to the point of cliche.

Take the recent case of a man in Essex who lost tens of thousands of dollars to scammers.

As Essex police Chief Peter Silva recounts, the man got a call saying he had won a lottery, and the windfall would be his once he paid taxes and handling fees. Despite warnings from his bank, the victim sent cashiers checks and wire transfers across the country to pay the fees. At the end of the process, Silva said, the man had spent somewhere between $100,000 and $140,000.

Of course, there was no lottery.

The victim in this case, however, was so sure he was a winner that he ignored the advice of his bankers, who are trained to spot scammers, going so far as to sign a waiver acknowledging they had warned him of the likely fraud.

"I know these people," he said.

More accurately, they knew him. Or even more accurately, they knew us, and why we are so susceptible to confidence schemes.

"It's the oldest story ever told," Maria Konnikova wrote in her book "The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It ... Every Time." "The story of belief -- of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it."

Given that urge, Konnivkova said, "A confidence artist is only too happy to comply -- and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte."

Sadly, when it comes to mysterious financial windfalls, the adage is true: If it's seems to good to be true, it probably is.