Con artists are a wily bunch. They fool the rest of us honest citizens through sleight of hand, lies, and trickery. Even with all the advanced knowledge and technology we have today, old-fashioned cons still work. Beware of these classic, low-tech scams that you’d fall for unless you saw them coming.
10 The Melon Drop
Any good person who bumped into a stranger and broke an expensive possession would offer to pay them for it. People tend to feel responsible when they break things, and that’s what melon drop scammers are counting on. This scam gets its name from cons who originally used melons at a time when melon prices were at a record high in Japan. The cons would bump into Japanese tourists, drop melons, and demand payment. The tourists would pay jacked-up prices without question.
The modern version of this scam involves throwing worthless broken glass in a box and wrapping it up to look nice. The scammers scan the crowd for someone who isn’t paying attention and bump into them, making it seem as if it was the mark’s fault. They then explain that the box contained an expensive vase—usually a gift for their mother, boss’s wife, dying grandma, anyone—which is now broken. They may even produce a receipt to prove its value. You’re lucky if you’re out less than $100 after this scam.
9 The Pigeon Drop
The pigeon drop is simple, complicated, illogical, and makes perfect sense all at the same time. In one variation, a person approaches to tell you they found money and don’t know what to do with it. As you discuss the possibilities, they hint at splitting the profit with you. You are giving them advice, after all.
Eventually, the con will seek counsel from an authority figure, who will advise allowing time for someone to claim the cash. Until then, one person, an attorney, or a joint account can hold the cash. Swindlers then convince you to put up cashas a good faith deposit for the larger sum later. With visions of shopping sprees and paid-off bills, you comply.
In a more dramatic variation shown in the movie The Sting, a scammer poses as an injured person who needs to get a large sum of cash somewhere quickly. Another person assists them along with you, but they can’t run the errand. The poor victim begs you to make the delivery. As a sign of good faith, you leave something valuable with them, and the helper demonstrates the best way to conceal the money using your money. Afterward, you scurry off to deliver the cash, but once you unwrap the package, you discover only bits of paper. If a stranger offering you large amounts of cash sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
8 The Ring Reward
In this scam that was featured in the movie Zombieland, a pretty girl pretends to have lost her engagement ring. She asks you if you’ve found a ring and then leaves her info, promising a decent reward for its return. A short time later, some lucky stiff approaches you, having “found” the ring. The cons are counting on you to offer money for the ring either to secure the larger reward or out of the goodness of your heart.
Whether you’re cold-hearted or good-natured, any attempt to secure that ring will leave your pockets lighter. Scammers using rings for this con or variations of it have a stack of cheap costume rings at the ready. They can sell you jewelry all day, so inspect any found rings carefully.