The pigeon drop scheme combines a little friendliness,some trust, a promise of a large sum of money and a small amount given as a good faith security deposit.But what really happens is the scammers make off with the good faith money, and the victim is left with nothing. It is an old con game known as the pigeon drop scheme.
How Does the Pigeon Drop Scheme Work
Making a Connection
It involves the victim or pigeon, a stranger who becomes a new friend, and a stranger(the accomplice) who ‘finds” something of value to be used as the bait. As the first stranger and the pigeon exchange friendly conversation, a second stranger interrupts. He asks if they dropped anything and shows something valuable that he found on the ground.It is usually an envelope, wallet or bag full of money. Paper money is the easiest to use and you will see why.
The 3-Way Split
After the envelope or wallet is spotted, the stranger opens it up and makes sure the pigeon sees the wad of money. The whole idea is to get the victim to think he is going to get a lot of money.
What happens next is the three agree on splitting the money. Once they decide that they are all getting some of the money, the stranger offers to call the authorities. He makes a switch of a bag or envelope that has nothing of value, and hands the worthless prize to the pigeon.Now, of course he declares how does he know the other two won’t run away while he is gone.
Now, the friend, who is the accomplice, offers to give the stranger a small sum of money to insure he won’t run off with the money. Then he asks the victim to do the same and hand the stranger some money as well, as a show of good faith. Since the pigeon thinks he holds the valuables, he agrees thinking he is going to get something much more valuable.That is of course is the scam.
The Check for any Reports
The stranger leaves to contact the authorities and see if anyone reported the money missing. The new found friend and pigeon wait for the return of the stranger. After a few minutes,the new found friend wonders where the stranger went. This is how the accomplice makes his getaway.
He then leaves to find the stranger. The pigeon is left alone, and soon wonders where everyone has gone. Finally, it dawns on him, maybe they are not coming back. Then he opens the valuables up and sees it is worthless. At that point he realizes he has been scammed.
This con game is very old, but still in use today. And it still works. It usually involves trying to scam the elderly because they are the most vulnerable. It is explained in detail here: The Top Senior Citizen Scams.
Here is a video of a staged pigeon drop scheme in action.
Why do People Fall for This Scheme?
It seems our brain is programed to react to this scam for various reasons. Making friends and trusting others feels good to our brains. It is easy to get the brain to follow along.
Here is another experiment of the same scam and the reasons why it works so well:
When humans are presented with friendship, we are programed to trust people. We all have some of the internal greed that comes out when an opportunity arises. Then an unexpected possible increase of a lot of value peaks our interest. We are in a circle of agreement, and get caught up with the possible new windfall.
This is an old scam, but in order to educate people about the scams out there, the old as well as the latest need to be reviewed.
A Man gets Scammed out of $10,000
It is played out in many variations. One such variation involved a man saying he was trying to donate a large sum of money to charity. The victim was shown a bag of money, and told it was $100,000 dollars. He was instructed to invest $10,000 of his own money and he could keep $20,000 of the real money, and donate the rest to charity. He handed the $10,000 over and never saw the $100,000 or his money again.
A Woman Loses $66,000
Another one was a Brooklyn, NY woman who was conned by two other women. They offered to share their bag of riches for an upfront fee. The woman handed over $50,000 in cash and another $16,000 in jewels.
As the women left they handed here a bag, and told her not to open it until tomorrow. She opened the bag later that day, and found it full of newspaper.
Woman Pays $10,000 for Worthless Paper
A woman was approached by a man claiming to be an African refugee. He told her he had inherited $150,000 and couldn’t take it home to Africa or he would be killed. She was told she could have all of it if she put up $10,000. After the exchange she discovered all she got was paper.
Thieves con $42,000 From 78 Year old Woman
Claiming that a wallet he found had a large amount of cash in it, a man and his woman accomplice convinced the woman victim to give them $42,000. They drove the woman to a bank and told her the bank said the contents were worth $50,000 for each bill.They then talked her into the need to buy the bills for $42,000.
She believed the story and handed over the money in loans from 5 different banks.
There is a promise of the exchange in a few minutes at one of the banks.The meeting will take place there. They drive to the bank, and it is closed. The accomplice gets out of the car and walks away.
The banks state she will be required to pay all the loans back.
Tthese people got caught up in the promise of something for nothing, and a team that was working them over. We think how could they be so dumb? But, they are at the hands of experts at scamming people. When you understand how the human mind works, you can push the right buttons. In a group we get comfort from others who think the way we do.
It is the same story, if it sounds too good to be true…it always is.
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