Sidestepping Street Swindles

In the comfort of your own home, you have the option of not answering the doorbell or the phone.  You can delete a suspicious email message.  But when you’re out running errands and you’re approached directly by a scam artist, getting rid of him or her will require a little more effort on your part.  You will also need to be firm, because in a face-to-face encounter, a crook will be especially persistent and possibly intimidating.  

Street cons are among the oldest in the book.  According to an 1849 article in the New York Herald, a hustler named William Thompson roamed the city, approaching victims in the street with the question, “Have you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?”  Surprisingly, this brazen scam worked.  People handed over their valuable watches.  And the term “confidence man” lives on to this day.

Successful scams perpetrated in public are not usually so straightforward.  They almost always involve a convoluted story that sounds improbable, but includes a promise of some reward for you if you go along.  This idea of a reward somehow overcomes all your good sense and before you know it, you’re handing over stacks of cash straight out of the ATM.  Don’t do it!  Read on.

“I’ve always loved movies about con men. I think con men are as American as apple pie.”


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