Anyone who saw my last show, Scamapalooza, will know I have a soft spot for cheque forgery.
The various ways in which one can adjust and create fake cheques are ingenious.
I’m particularly fond of the simple methods put forward by experts like Frank Abagnale Jr in his book - The Art of The Steal.
Using nothing but sticky tape, a hair dryer, a pen and a bottle of nail polish remover, Abagnale shows how easy it is to alter almost any cheque.
However, perhaps the stupidest cheque forgery of all time would be the pair of Indiana teenagers who, in 1996, attempted to scam banks using disappearing ink.
They wrote a series of cheques for $20,000 using disappearing ink like you would find in any joke shop.
The idea being that the ink would vanish after the cheque has been presented.
They made two mistakes:
One, the pen they used left a clear indent on the cheque which would be easily read. Not only that, but invisible ink is still there, it’s just invisible to the eye. Therefore, it can be easily made to reappear if one knows how. Haven’t they seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Secondly, they used their own cheque books which were listed with their real names. This meant that police could easily track them down.
The pair, Jeffery Pyrcioch and Heather Green were arrested and charged with theft and fraud.
This brilliant story comes from Bryan Wendell Morton, a US magician and performer:
I perform at the Maryland Renaissance Festival every fall. This season I began doing a street show doing short cons and proposition bets.
Over the last two weeks, while demonstrating the psychological manipulation behind a monte mob, at least one person each day has volunteered that they were taken for anywhere between ten and two hundred dollars playing the monte. At the end of the show, where I get the entire audience to pledge not to play for money, I have had more than one parent give their teenage son (and it’s usually a son) a nudge as if to say, “See—you can’t win. Don’t do it.”
Yesterday after the show I repaired to the pub, where I saw a duo of twentysomething girls furtively counting a small stack of cash—nearly all fives.
The larger one of the two, a brassy blonde, turns to me and says, “Hey, I bet you five bucks she’s got your name tattooed on her ass.” The other one, a brunette with Latina features, smiled coyly at me.
I gave her a “do I look like I was born yesterday” look and said, “I bet you the same amount I could tell you where you got your shoes.”
It took her a second to realize my point, and then she pulled me aside and told me that they’d made close to two hundred bucks that afternoon swindling drunk guys only to show them a small heart inked on her lower right hip with the words “Your Name” in it in script.
“There’s a mark born every minute, and one to trim ‘em and one to knock ‘em” - Con man motto
(to trim means ‘to scam’ and ‘to knock’ means the warn or stop someone from being scammed. In other words, for every potential victim who is born, there is con man to fleece them and an honest man to try and stop him.)