The Pigeon Drop
This con is a reliable old favorite amongst grifters. Pigeons or marks are offered a large sum of money to take hold of if they invest a little of their own to secure confidence. The con artist than swaps the combined total for a worthless package while keeping the real cash. This scam works so [...]
The Pigeon Drop
Also Known As: Found money scam; Hankie switch; Wallet drop scam; Jamaican switch
Likely Targets: Business Professionals; Tourists
This con is a reliable old favorite amongst grifters. Pigeons or marks are offered a large sum of money to take hold of if they invest a little of their own to secure confidence. The con artist than swaps the combined total for a worthless package while keeping the real cash. This scam works so well because it appeals the marks innate sense of greed and they are confident making a small deposit because they are under the false misapprehension that they are still in control of a much larger sum of money.
1) Charitable Donation: The con artist offers a large charitable donation to the victim if the victim offers to include a small amount of their own cash for safekeeping to insure the cons confidence in the victim. The combined safekeeping package is than swapped unbeknownst to the mark.
2) Found Money or Wallet drop scam: The con artist finds some cash or a lost wallet with the victim. Both individuals agree to return the sum to the rightful owner if claimed. The scammer than convinces the victim that they will allow them to secure the total amount if the victim offers some of their own cash as collateral while they await either the claim or the tantalizing split of the cash amongst themselves. Another variation of this includes a trusted third party like a lawyer(shill or cons partner) who advise that the amount should not be broken up for legal reasons and everyone should contribute a security deposit to him or the con artist who will not be holding onto their findings. The package with the lump sum of found money is than swapped for a fake before being secured with the victim.
3) Mugged Victim: As shown in the classic “The Sting,” the recently “mugged” scammer asks the victim to deliver a large sum of money as a favor. The con artist than offers some helpful advice to the victim to insure his own wallet doesn’t get stolen as well. He combines his cash and the victims in a handkerchief to be stuffed in his underwear for safe keeping. The victim is unaware that the handkerchief full of their combined money is swapped during the cons “helpful” demonstration.
4) Currency Exchange: The grifter offers to perform a currency exchange at an exceptional rate. During the transaction “police” break up the un-official transaction and return what the victims perceive to be their original sum. In reality the imposter in blue swaps the amount for a lesser during the exchange.
5) Fiddle Game: This variation relies on the potential dishonesty of the victim. A poorly dressed con eats dinner at a restaurant and finds he is short of funds to pay the check. He offers the waitress or manager his beloved violin as collateral while he goes and gets the remaining funds. Another sharply dressed con artist(secretly partnered with the first) investigates the violin and claims it’s a priceless Stradivarius and he would be willing to offer an extremely high amount in payment for it. He leaves his business card with the waitress or manager to give to the violins owner. When the first man returns the dishonest mark attempts to purchase the violin directly in an attempt to turn a quick profit. The con artist than regretfully sells the worthless violin, but not before he drives up the price for the greedy victim.
The key hook of this scam relies on the victims own greed for a fantastic opportunity of splitting a large discovery. To avoid this con refuse to participate and tell the con artist that you prefer to properly turn over the funds to the authorities. At minimum you should never agree to contribute your own funds in good faith and insist that either the deposit be made with a partial amount of the found sum or that you go to your own lawyer to hold the funds in escrow.