Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Jamaican Switch Street Scams Involving Prayer Cloths and Good Faith Money

See also Pigeon Drop Scam

Jamaican Switch

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 identical one.

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 location.

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 newspaper.

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 Hanky Panky".

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 government.

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 been had.

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 similar circumstances.

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 this.

Dan Kroha
20 Nov 2001

Donate Cash / Good Faith / Gift to Charity Scam

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 -

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 Church.

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 booth.

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 Namibian dollars.

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 trustworthy.

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.

Wichita Eagle