Sleight of Hand and Other Street Scams
It's Like Driving on Air
Dreamshare International engaged in what is commonly referred
to as a "Christmas scam" to defraud consumers during
the holiday season.
They ran a series of misleading quarter page ads in a major metropolitan
area newspaper beginning in November which pictured a Lamborghini
Diablo priced at $250,000 and the suggestion you purchase the "unique
Christmas gift" of a test drive in the car beginning at a
minimum of thirty minutes for $95 and up to $400 for three hours.
The ad also promised you a free sixty minute test drive in a Dodge
Viper if you purchased a minimum of a one hour test drive in the
An investigation into the ad determined that Dreamshare International
did not own or have access to the Lamborghini displayed in the
ad and did not own or have access to a Dodge Viper. The investigation
also disclosed that they had paid for the ads with bad checks totaling
$32,000 and had gone by different aliases in past scams.
Good Neighbor Scam
One door-to-door scam involves a man who approaches an elderly
homeowner and tells him, or her, that he has been involved in a
vehicle accident and that he is the relative of the homeowner's
neighbor who is not presently at home.
The con uses both the homeowner's name and the name of the neighbor
while asking for money to pay for the wrecker. After being given
whatever money he requests from the elderly homeowner he then leaves.
Later, the homeowner contacts the neighbor and learns the neighbor
does not know the suspect and has no knowledge of the supposed
Handover Your Money
One money scam used a Hong Kong twist. As uncertainty swirled
around the former British colony in the months preceding its return
to China on July 1, 1997, an Oriental and two cohorts devised a
fraud scheme based upon a story they concocted about needing to
transfer money out of Hong Kong before the handover.
They would offer an unsuspecting individual a sum of money for
accepting funds that they claimed would be wired from Hong Kong
to the victim's personal bank account.
One man, approached at a restaurant, agreed to participate for
a 15% cut of the money, and gave the three men information about
his bank accounts. They in turn deposited fraudulent cashier's
checks totaling more than $46,000 into his accounts at five banks.
A short time later, the three men drove him to four of the banks,
and had him withdraw $32,800. They then disappeared, leaving the
account holder fully responsible for the eventual shortfall as
no actual funds would ever be transferred.
A second man was victimized in a similar fashion when he agreed
to provide his bank account information. Two days later, he deposited
a $9,600 counterfeit cashier's check into his account, withdrew
that amount and gave it to the scammer who returned $500 back for
A third victim was out $4,500 after his bank demanded he come
good for the fraudulent deposit. In addition to the financial loss,
victims are occasionally charged with fraud themselves for cashing
Bumper Car Crooks
A pair of Los Angeles police detectives investigating a series
of strange, small car crashes unraveled a citywide sting that has
bilked seniors out of thousands of dollars.
Two suspects stand accused of staging at least 27 minor car crashes
with seniors throughout Los Angeles in order to get them out of
their vehicles and trick them out of their cash.
The suspects were careful enough to cause a large-enough bump
to stop the victim but small enough not to garner police attention.
And once the victim stepped out of the car, the scammer handed
the victim a fake ID in a wallet to "exchange information." They
would then slip cash out of the victim's wallet while the exchange
was under way.
With no moral compulsion, these predators targeted people 70 or
older between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. knowing the victims couldn't fight
back if things went wrong and because the chances of recalling
them were limited after the near trauma excitement.
Like a carefully choreographed stage play, they'd get the older
person disoriented and preoccupied, similar to what pickpockets
do. Police say the pair of men were convicted in a similar scam
in 1988 along with a crew of six others.
While traveling in a foreign city, slightly disoriented and obviously
a tourist, you may be bumped into by someone who drops and breaks
an object, then claims it has a high value and abusively demands
compensation for your carelessness.
They have been known to charge up to $50 for $1.29 melons from
Japanese tourists who, in their stores back home pay great amounts
for the highly valued melons. It is also common to break primarily
water filled and diluted champagne or scotch bottles bearing expensive
labels which are recovered empty from the dumpster behind a fancy
Tourists traveling to Mexico are often offered local tours at
a lower-than-advertised price by O.P.C.’s (outside public contacts)
which work for the timeshare organizations. You will see them located
at booths or offices inside the malls or the airport.
They only request a minimal "deposit" and then indicate
you have to pay the balance to the tour guide when the bus come
to your hotel to pick you up.
The receipt is a little piece of paper with a telephone number
that never answers and the bus never comes. Since the deposit was
a minimal amount, most victims do not bother to make out an official
report with the local authorities.
It is amazing just how many people are willing to give money to
someone they have never seen before.
Linda Gonzalez 06/30/02
The Old Switcheroo
Once with a money exchange in Kiev, Ukraine it almost turned out
to be a $100-to-$1 money switch. I gave $100 to be exchanged
into another currency, and when I saw the guy doing weird stuff
with the $100 bill, I grabbed it, only to find out it was $1.
Another time it was video camera sale scam in Barcelona Spain. A
guy on a scooter was selling a camera for $300 euros. After haggling
it down to $120 euros we got the bag with the "stuff".
It turned out to be a bag of sand and a newspaper. And we
SAW the camera in the bag which was switched quickly and without
Dennis MV 05/04
Officially a Scam
06/04/04 - Pickpockets posing as Interpol officers have stolen
more than 170,000 ringgit, or about $45,000, simply by stopping
tourists in Malaysia's largest city and telling them to hand over
their bags and wallets, a newspaper reported Friday.
The fake officers say they are looking for drugs and, finding
none, they apologize and let their victims go - after stealing
valuables. The Star newspaper said the thieves operated in the
district known as the Golden Triangle.
||An in-depth look
at a tourist scam in Thailand involving sapphires.
You are approached on the street by a scammer who is quite adept
at faking retardation. He comes up to you with a packet of old
coins labeled Reward! Please return to Dr. Williams, Numismatist
Seeing as the street-person does not have the facilities to call,
yet insists on trying to hand you the bag, you call the number.
A person answers ( a shill ) who, surprised and thankful when you
call and fully explain why you are calling, offers a $700 reward
along with directions to return the coins.
He simply asks that you be good enough to give $100 to the poor
guy who actually found them, which he will pay you back out of
the $700. When you arrive at the abandoned lot $100 poorer, you
find you are the one left holding the bag, which contains about
$6 worth of slightly older or foreign coins.
The Seminole Sheriffs Department has an extensive list showing
photos and descriptions of con artists and their crimes at Traveling
FraudTech: Cons, Frauds
and Other Lies More on Street Scams
Driving Around in a Daze
Below are two accounts of a similar scam which happened to Nate,
a 19-year old Missionary Kid and former student, as well as to
my 21-year old cousin Jon. Nate lives in St. Louis, Jon in Minneapolis.
I'm looking for the name for this type of scam. Then I'd be able
to do more research on it and the psychology behind it, to help
answer such questions as why seemingly normal, intelligent adults
would fall for this kind of thing, and how to educate people to
avoid or confront scammers.
Kevin Mills 05/15/02
It was really late when I got home from work. I remember looking
down and seeing the car's clock read past midnight as I pulled
up to my apartment. As I turned off my car I saw a guy standing
off to one side who soon made his way over.
I didn't want to open my door so I just rolled my window down
a bit as he started explaining how his car had broken down on the
highway and his kids were still in it. There was a lady with them,
but he needed a ride to his Aunt's house to get his keys for another
vehicle so that he could go and pick them all up.
He had these tears in his eyes and so, feeling sorry for the guy
and thinking that if I were ever in that situation I would be grateful
for someone's help, I told him to get in the car and we'd go to
his aunt's house. After he got in the car he mentioned that he
would gladly give me a few bucks for gas.
As we drove off to I don't know where, he said that because it
was late we should go to his aunt's friend's house where she plays
bingo and see if she might be there, even though it was 1:00 in
the morning. After he got out of the car he said to me, "Please
don't leave me here".
So anyway, after going to about 4 or 5 houses he said that we
should go see a handicapped lady his aunt takes care of. So off
we went. The house was down at the end of this long cul-de-sac
and as I approached he told me to kill the lights, which wasn't
the first time he told me to do that.
He headed off into the house and disappeared for about 4 minutes.
During this time I noticed a few people looking out their windows
to see who I was. At that point I was saying my prayers, asking
God to keep me safe through whatever happened.
As I was taking the money from my wallet to hide it in my car
I heard a noise, looked up at the house and saw the door swing
violently open, the guy tearing out towards the car. Soon to follow
him were three men with clubs.
The guy tried to get into my car but couldn't as I had locked
the door earlier for safety. I frantically unlocked the door as
the three men raced towards us. I slammed the car into reverse
and screeched out of there.
The guy had been hit pretty hard and was using profanities to
describe what had just happened. He kept apologizing and said that
we'd better just go to his aunt's house. Instead we went to about
two more places and then to a 7Eleven alleyway to see his drunken
uncle who might know where she was.
After I sat waiting by the store for about four minutes he came
back with three guys and a case of beer. The situation was
getting pretty tense, in a surreal way, as they told smutty stories
over their beer and chips in the back and about how they'd been
smoking weed all night.
After a bit of a drive I was informed that we were going to drop
the three guys off at the corner up further. Well, they ended up
getting out of my car and started walking away. Then the original
guy, in a most convincing fashion, said that his house was just
around the next bend. Proceeding further, we pulled up to a house
and he got out.
As he got out he asked me for my telephone number and name and
because I was both tired and relieved and just wanted to get home,
I foolishly gave it. When I got home I thanked God for His love
A day later the guy called and asked for me but as I wasn't there
he ended up giving my roommate the exact same story that he gave
me, accompanied by tears. He needed some money for a gas can and
after being offered $7 said. "Oh, what If my starter doesn't
start, I'll need money for that too" so accepted $15 with
a promise to pay it back.
I thought that I was doing a good deed worthy of a Christian but
I was STUPID. You should simply never pick up strangers, ever.
I have since heard about a friend's cousin who disappeared for
three days during which time he was drugged, robbed and shuttled
around in his car. This after giving a guy a ride who told him
that his car needed to be towed.
When strangers ask you for rides simply inform them that you will
contact the police on their behalf. In a world where bad people
take advantage of the goodness of others without remorse, it's
by far the safest thing to do.
Anyone who knows Jon knows what a kind and giving person he is. So
when a young black man approached him as he was leaving an ATM
and asked if he would lend him some money to tow his broken down
car he was at least willing to listen. Asked if he would
take the man to his mother's house, he complied.
After driving around Minneapolis for many hours they arrived at
a house where three young black men and a white girl got into the
This was the beginning of what can best be described as some kind
of back seat mind control cult abduction, the full details of which
cannot be clearly remembered by the victim.
They were all very nice according to Jon, and appreciated his
much needed assistance as they proceeded to empty his bank account
using his ATM card for purchases stretched out over the next three
days, making him do all the transactions knowing he would be the
only one on any security videos.
Though the lead man, after fulfilling his role of luring in a
victim, disappeared the others kept promising, as they were supposed
drug dealers, that they would give all the money back and then
some, even keeping receipts of everything to make him think that
they would. And though they fed him and took good care, they
also kept him awake and moving around so that he could not think
straight. He figures he had 3 hours of sleep in 72 hours.
Parked within the inner city, he felt no fear, thinking they were
protecting him. They had total mind control over him and even when
left alone in the car he didn't consider escaping. He was in so
deep that he somehow thought he had to stay to get his money back.
By Monday evening when merchants started to reject his card finally,
Jon muttered "I have to go home" and they let him. When
he arrived home a squad car was waiting.
Worried to tears, we could not imagine how he would not try to
escape or how such a thing could happen. We believe that
he had been drugged because of the fact that he said that he could
not drive well, had memory lapses of the events and his inappropriate
sense of well-being. He also had the unfathomable feeling
that nothing wrong had occurred, that he would be reimbursed and
even had thoughts of getting money from his roommates and going
Please continue to remember him in your prayers so that he can
be emotionally healed.
Uncle Bill and Aunt Marty
Breakdown Scam - Needs Tow-truck or Parking
This breakdown scam has been attempted on my husband and I a total
of four times in our small city. The first time was to me and I
knew it was a scam, but I am a small woman and was alone so I gave
the guy $10 just so he would go away and hopefully leave me alone.
Several months later one got my trusting husband then a couple of months
later, the same guy tried to get him again, but of course, my husband
Just a few days ago, someone tried it on me again. He barely got
started when I told him "No, others have tried this scam on me,
get an honest job." He vanished in a hurry.
This is the scenario:
A guy (it's been a black guy every time for us) comes up to you and apologizes
for startling you, he's not there to hurt you (apparently preying on
the assumed fear of black men). This is probably supposed to make
you feel guilty and open to proving that you're not a paranoid racist
so you open up.
He then says his car is broken down and he needs to pay a tow
truck (or he needs the money to get out of a parking structure). He
is well-dressed, a point he emphasizes to prove he's not a bum
(once again hoping you are a racist who believes in stereotypes).
He even offers to show you where the car's parked (bad idea to
go with him-thank god nothing happened to my husband) and he asks
for $20 or $30 dollars claiming that as soon as he can get his
car or get to the bank he'll come back in about an hour and pay
you back, which is of course, a lie.
After this many attempts, I'm going to alert my local police department
Ypsilanti, Michigan 07/10/02
Twisted Bet and Glamorous Gas Granny
I have been street scammed twice with the first happening a few
years ago when I was 17 and working for an upscale doughnut shop
selling pretzels. On my morning shift, when the place is not so
busy, an guy about fifty in a tacky suit came in, bought a
pretzel and a soda, and spoke to some of us employees in a friendly
manner, I think in an attempt to garner trust.
Then, about an hour later while I was out giving away samples
to people walking the street he came over and questioned me about
who I was and what I did. He complemented me on my intelligence
and other inherently obvious abilities; then steered the conversation
to the local horse track and how he had insider knowledge that
a particular horse would win a race.
He gave me the name of the horse and asked if I wanted to put
some money on it also. It was obvious that I was working and couldn't
attend the race so he said he would gladly put some money on the
horse for me and after the race come by and pay me the inevitable
I gave him twenty dollars while he mentioned in a trustworthy
tone that my manager (who wasn't there at the time) knew him very
well, even mentioning her name (although he entirely mispronounced
it so I should have known!)
He then strutted away, disappeared behind a corner, and I never
saw him again. When I checked for the race results in the local
paper, the horse came in dead last.
Then, a few months ago in Las Vegas I was walking to the Hard
Rock Cafe for some lunch with a friend when we were stopped in
a parking lot by an older lady around 55 or 60.
She indicated that she had run out of gas and desperately needed
five dollars so she could get to where she was going. Having the
absolute look of credibility that she did I gallantly gave it to
She didn't even bother to ask my friend because when she asked
the question he was looking at me the whole time, so I felt like
I had to do something. After all, who could deny an elderly lady
with gold earrings and an impeccable hairdo. It seemed obvious
that she was no crook!
Anyway, a few moments later we noticed her chasing after other
people in another area of the parking lot, asking the same question.
Bridget Duffyhana 09/19/02
CardShark Online -
Takes a close look at crooked gambling and cheating with cards.
Deserves an Ankle Bracelet Instead
Here's a scam which happened to me a few years ago.
I'm sitting in my car when this man walks up and starts telling
me about how he's broke and needs a few dollars for his prescription. He
even shows me the empty bottle and his hospital ID bracelet (which
he probably got out the trash).
I have the window rolled down a little and I'm feeling pretty
uncomfortable at this point, so I get $3 out of my wallet, to make
the guy go away, and then put the wallet on the floor on the passenger
side of the car.
Well, all of a sudden, he needs a ride to the pharmacy. I
keep refusing, but he keeps trying. He finally gives up and
goes on his way. It wasn't until after he was gone that I
realized that he saw me put the wallet on the floor. Had
I opened the passenger side door, he'd have grabbed my wallet and
run like hell.
BTW, I saw this guy a few weeks later trying to pull the same
scam so never let a stranger into your car.
I've also had the White Van Speaker Sale scam tried on me. I
find your site astonishing. It amazes me that so many people
have come up with so many creative ways to steal.
Sent in by Eric Smith, Harrisburg PA 12/03
Motorist in Distress "Broken Key" Scam
01/04 - Police in Troy, Michigan are looking for
a con artist calling himself a "motorist in distress" who
is taking advantage of good Samaritans. Police said the man, going
by the name Anthony, approaches people saying he needs help because
he's broken off his key in his ignition.
He asks for $50 to pay a locksmith, and promises
to return the money later. People he has scammed said he never
did return the money. Police said it's occurred five times in the
Scam Alert! Don't Pick Up Hitch Hikers
04/07 - Don't pick up hitchhikers is what many of us have been
taught since learning to drive.
Now the Wichita Falls Police Department is urging Wichitans to
listen to this classic advice. A scam artist who identifies himself
as a city employee needing a ride to city hall is taking advantage
of Wichitans. He asks for rides and forty dollars for gas.
Once the suspect arrives at city hall he leaves with $40
Again the suspect is not a city employee so be cautious. Other
variations on this scam include borrowing money for a tire or requests
for overnight accommodations due to car trouble.
Job Opportunity Advance Fee Scam - article was at www.dailypress.com/news/local/dp-32629bf0dec25,0,7622620.story?coll=dp-news-local-final
Rental Scam - article
Street scam articles