Street Scams Involving Prayer Cloths and Good Faith Money
See also Pigeon Drop Scam
A man with a foreign accent is seeking a hotel or rooming house.
He can't read or write and asks for your help. He openly shows
a large sum of money and offers to pay for your assistance.
Another man will approach, and caution the stranger to put the
money in a bank. Moneybags replies that he doesn't trust
banks, but if you prove you can make a withdrawal he would gladly
consider putting his money in a bank. You go to the bank and make
a withdrawal, explaining the ease and safety.
Grateful for the lesson, he reciprocates by taking some of your
money and tying it up into his handkerchief for "safety".
He then shows you how to carry it under the arm or in the bosom.
He opens his jacket or shirt and inserts his hand with the
kerchief, all the while planning to switch the kerchief for another
The strangers both leave and upon examination of your "safe-keeping" handkerchief
you find you have pieces of cut up newspaper instead of your money.
Scammers have also been known to approach an elderly person and
ask for help in finding a motel or a church, so they can get the
victim to give them a ride. During the ride, the isolated
driver is told a story concerning collecting money, and asked to
put up "good faith money" to assist in the collection
or donation. After a visit to an ATM the suspects then find
an excuse to leave the car, with the money, and are not seen again.
More Hanky Panky
In the South African Charity Switch you are approached by someone
who claims he is a recent arrival from South Africa. He says
he has a large amount of money and needs help to get to a certain
During this conversation, another stranger enters the scene and
offers to assist the South African who shows you both a large sum
of money and explains he cannot take it back to Africa.
He offers you both a portion and then asks that you contribute
the remainder to charity. He asks that you both first put up "good
faith money" to show that you are responsible with your money,
by proving you have accumulated savings.
To substantiate your prudence you withdraw money from your account
in the amount of $5,000, in cash. Both you and the generous duo
get into your vehicle. One con suggests that you all pray
over the money. The other con handles the cash and places it into
a scarf referred to as a "prayer cloth".
After the prayer, you drop off the suspects in the shopping center
parking lot. After doing so, you look into the scarf and realize
that your cash is gone and that the scarf contains only cut-up
It Snot a Real Prayer Cloth
I recently fell victim to a "Jamaican Switch" which
was actually very similar to the scam you have listed under, "More
A very agitated man, dressed in a suit approached me in the parking
lot of a hardware store, telling me that he wasn't a bum and he
needed my help.
He had a foreign accent and claimed that he was from Africa and
that he couldn't read very well. He showed me an envelope with
an address on it and said he was looking for this church, and that
he had some money to donate to the poor, could I help him find
this place, give him a ride, and he would pay me for my time.
He then flashed a large roll of bills that were in his pocket
and also a couple of twenties in his hand to pay me with. Another
man just happened to be walking by and I asked him for help with
the idea that I could pawn this crazy African off on him.
The "passerby" immediately started to draw me further
into the scam by increasing my involvement in the action. The African
continued to flash the wad and the shill told him not to flash
it, that we could easily be robbed and told me to "Tell him,
don't flash that!" and sort of took on the role of trying
to sort out this situation as it was unfolding.
A couple of letters were produced by the African, one stating
that his uncle had been killed in a work related accident (a plane
crash). The shill continued drawing me in by saying, "You
remember that don't you?" That letter stated that
there was a $150,000 settlement to be paid to this African. The
other letter was from the president of South Africa saying that
if this fellow brought the money back it would be confiscated by
The African was extremely agitated and in a high state of urgency
saying that his visa was to run out the next day, that he had to
fly out that night and that he had to donate this money to the
poor, or he would just as soon burn it. The shill suggested the
we all get into my car, thanking me for calling him over so that
he could be in on this unexpected windfall.
The African proceeded to question us about our integrity, asked
if we were Christians, and then asked to see our money as a sign
of "good faith". The shill gave me his name, told the
African how lucky he was to come across two good trustworthy people,
showed the African his ID (but kept it out of my sight) and told
me to show the African my ID and give him my address (which I did).
The shill said that he worked for a bank, asked me what I did
for a living, offered the information that he had $7,000 in his
savings account, and asked me how much was in mine and I told him
$50 (the truth) that all the money I had was in my wallet $320
which I showed to him.
The African offered to give us each $50,000 to donate to the poor
saying that the rest of his belongings were in an airport locker
and that someone at the airport who he showed the money to instructed
him to put $50,000 under a coke machine. The shill then said
to me, "Tell him why he wanted you to put that money under
the coke machine" and me, feeling really street smart, replied, "So
he could come back later and steal it!"
The African wanted me to write down my name and address for him
before he would give me the money, all the while imploring assurances
from me that I would indeed donate this money for him. He then
handed me the wad, which I pocketed, but then asked for it back
saying that he had something to do to make it "safer".
I was reinforced by seeing the bills and feeling the cash in my
pocket though I didn't quite understand what he wanted to do with
it. Then the shill said, "I think I understand. He wants
you to give him your money and he'll tie it in his prayer cloth
along with his money to protect it"
So the African took my money, all $320, and tied it tightly into
the prayer cloth along with his wad and gave it back to me instructing
me to put it in my shirt and hold it close to my skin for protection
and go straight home and don't tell anybody. These last two points
he stressed repeatedly.
I dropped them off on the street where I had picked them up. (We
had driven about two blocks away with the idea of going to the
bank but that larger part of the scam was quickly abandoned when
they found out I only had $50 in the bank.)
Upon getting out of the car the shill said, "Alright, now
I'm gonna get mine."
I drove straight home not even looking at the money so that I
wouldn't break the protective spell, all the while dreaming about
what I would do with it. When I finally got it home and opened
it up, all my dreams vanished in a fat wad of newspaper. I'd
I live in Detroit and although I've been thinking about making
a report it's unlikely that the police will be sympathetic or even
be able to do something about it, but it probably couldn't hurt
to do so.
I don't feel so sorry for myself after looking at your website
and seeing that other people have lost thousands in similar scams. My
$320 (although a lot to me) is peanuts in comparison. At
least by posting a more detailed account of this scam, someone
may read it and be able to recognize the situation if faced with
The way in which it came to me so out of the blue, it seemed so
random, the situation so preposterous. How could it not be "real"? The
men involved played their parts so well. The African kept
the action at a frenzied pitch with his constant urgent jabbering,
the straight man seemed just as surprised and nervous as I was
while skillfully drawing me in deeper and keeping me involved.
It was truly art - a bit of participatory street theater (although
the ticket was expensive). It was exciting. After I realized
I'd been duped I felt embarrassed. I thought I was pretty
street smart before this. It was definitely a wake up call.
I mean how could I let two strange men into my car!? Show
them the contents of my wallet, and give it to them!? Offer personal
information!? All without asking any real questions! Oh, how belief
can be suspended when a wad of bills is flashed. Of course
I wanted to believe it was true.
Thanks for your great site. I do wish I had seen it before
20 Nov 2001
Donate Cash / Good Faith / Gift to Charity
Police seek pair who stole $20,000 in 'classic scam' - An officer
says the incident is identical to one reported a year ago in
which con men netted $15,000
04/06/04 - JOHN SNELL - Oregonian.com
Beaverton police are looking for perpetrators of a "classic
scam" that targets people who appear to be foreigners and
swindled a Beaverton man out of $20,000.
Officer Mark Hyde said the fraud was identical to one investigated
a year ago. Hyde, the police spokesman, added that the scammer
depicted in a composite police drawing "is pretty darn close
to one of the suspects in the case last year."
On Feb. 19, a man approached a motorist in Beaverton and asked
for a ride to the bus station.
In the car, the con man pulled a large amount of money from his
fanny pack. He told the victim he needed help donating the cash
to local churches.
The man told the victim he would give him $10,000 to help and
that he needed one more person to help as well.
According to police, the con man flagged down a seeming passer-by
and told him the donation story.
He told the person he needed a token of good faith before giving
him the cash, Hyde said. The "passer-by" went to a bank
and returned with cash and jewelry for the con man to hold.
When the victim was asked to give something in good faith, too,
Hyde said the man drove to his bank and withdrew $20,000.
The victim gave the money to the con man, who walked away with
the other person. Neither was seen again.
Based on a description given after an incident in May, Hyde said
police think the man in the drawing is about 6 feet tall with a
heavy build and dark hair.
The second man was described in May as about 5-foot-9 with short
hair. Police didn't have a complete description of him from the
incident in February, Hyde said.
The victim did not want to be identified, Hyde added.
Hyde said the February case was a "classic scam" and
identical to the one in May. In it, two scammers in Beaverton persuaded
an Aloha man to give them $15,000 to prove he could be trusted
to help give money to area churches.
The lead con man said he was from South America and would get
a $3.5 million inheritance if he made a large donation to the Catholic
Hyde said the man claimed that in his country, people weren't
allowed to hold U.S. dollars, so he needed to find two people to
make the donation for him.
The man appeared to randomly select a second helper from a phone
Hyde said that in both cases, the victims were from India or Pakistan.
Hyde said scammers often choose victims among people who appear
to be from other countries because "they hope that if they
are not from this country, they have not heard of these scams before."
He also said people from other countries may have acquired large
amounts of cash, which they plan to send to relatives back home.
Helping Out at a Cost
06/04/04 - Namibia, Africa - Their modus operandi is as follows:
they will approach you with a request to do some translation
between them, the one pretending to be Angolan who only understands
a bit of English.
To entice you, they will show you a small sealed parcel supposed
to contain "diamonds" and a bunch of fake US dollars.
For your help you are promised to be rewarded with ten thousand
You are given the "diamonds" for safe keeping in return
you are requested to hand over something of value like a cellphone,
or Hi-Fi as a guarantee while the transaction will be concluded
in a couple of days.
Needless to say that will be the last you see of these criminals.
Namibians be aware.
Man loses $1,000 in "Trustworthy /
Good Faith Money" scam
06/10/04 - Kansas - A 76-year-old man was cheated out of $1,000
on Wednesday, police said today.
George Edwards, a Wichita resident, was the victim of what police
called a confidence game.
Edwards was approached just after 3 p.m. by a black male, approximately
50-years-old and was asked if he could drive him to a hotel on
West Kellogg. There the first suspect flagged down the second suspect,
also a black male approximately 48-years-old.
The first suspect told Edwards and the second suspect that he
had $250,000, but could only take $10,000 back to Africa with him.
He told the two men he would give them with $40,000 each -- $10,000
they could keep and $30,000 for charity -- if the proved themselves
Police said the two suspects then escorted Edwards to a bank,
where he withdrew $1,000. The three men then went to a fast- food
restaurant near Duggan and Kellogg, where Edwards gave them his
money and they left and did not return.