Redditor Sal_Mugga (whose username is slang for money shared an extraordinary story of being scammed on the website this week. He fell for a variation of the Pigeon Drop, sometimes known as the Jamaican Switch or the Handkerchief Swindle.
So I walk out of my office building on lunch, almost right into an African man who doesn’t speak much English, he tells me it’s his first day in America and he was almost robbed. The conversation started off very casually he wasn’t asking for anything but he said he was at the post office where they have security boxes and he locked up his green card and passport because he didn’t want to walk around with them because if he loses that, he won’t be able to get back home. He pulls a wad of cash out of his pocket at least 10k in hundreds and fifties, and says that’s what they were trying to take, I ask him where he got the money and he says it’s from a settlement because his brother was killed and he was coming to collect the insurance money. So I ask him why doesn’t he go to a bank. He calls it a white man money house and says he doesn’t trust them and he’s only down here for about thirty days, I’m talking to him about getting a bank account and he says he rather not he has no one to trust around here and once again, he doesn’t trust the white man money house. I’m still trying to get him a bank account because at this point I was thinking about him and his safety. I show him my debit card and he is amazed he doesn’t believe I can get money out of a plastic card. He then states if I can show him I can take money out of a plastic card he would give me 50 bucks just because he thinks I’m lying. I walk over to the ATM and for some reason take out 100 bucks just to show this man. So right next to me there is an ATM and I show him I can take the money out just to humor him. I asked him so many questions about where he was from that I really believed he was just going through culture shock. At this point we are still right outside of the job that he knows I work at and we have been talking for maybe 5 minutes he asks if there is anyone in my office who can hold his money just while he gets his paper work because he believes the men will still be around there. The way he told me was, “you can’t trust anyone around here, these guys had the same color skin as me and they tried to take the money.” he said he yelled like a little girl until security came and the robbers took off. He then asks if I can hold the money for him just while he runs around there. I tell him of course I could wait right in the lobby for him. No reason not to trust me. Unless I planned on never coming back to work, which I didn’t. He then says he’s going to wrap his money up in a cloth that he has I say cool I’ll wait for you right here and he offers to give me 100 for holding it. I think it’s a pretty sweet deal. So then he says he’s going to wrap his money up he sits down and wraps his money up and then asks for mine, he wants to wrap them up together for some reason I am hesitant at first but for some reason I hand him the money in my wallet while he’s in the lobby of my job he wraps it up with his money and ties with a knot. He then tells me to stuff the money deep in my pockets so no one tries to take it from me. He put it in his coat sleeve and said “I want you to put it deep in your pocket like this!” Then he shoved the money into my pocket and goes on his way, saying he would be back in 20 mins. A half hour later I’m done eating lunch the guy is no where to be found so I pull this wax out of my pocket and unwrap it to get my money back, and to my surprise wrapped in the cloth are a bunch of newspapers. Just my luck.
It’s easy to dismiss Sal_Mugga as a sucker who should have known better. After all, the scam plays out in almost exactly the same fashion in The Sting, the most famous con artist movie in the world.
But imagine you’d never heard of the scam. And you saw a vulnerable looking man waving thousands of dollars on the street? Would you want to find out what his story was? Would you want to help him? Or would you want to take advantage of him?
If you answered Yes to any of those questions, you’d be three hundred dollars down as well.
Nicholas J. Johnson is collects scams, writes books and performs magic shows in Melbourne Australia.