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February 10, 2013

The Short Con
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:39 PM *

My beloved younger daughter, while waiting to hear back from grad schools, has been working retail. And recently she won a stuffed dog at work for knowing (during a training session) what a short-change swindle was. So, in hopes that you too will be able to win a stuffed dog, here is the Short Change Con. This one has been going on for a while (here it is in 1906) and there’s no reason to think it’ll stop any time soon.

Way back in The underlying forms of fraud a decade ago, Miss Teresa listed 2. Using high-pressure tactics to confuse or intimidate the victim but commented The list is a work in progress. I’m not altogether sure #2 belongs on it, though I’m not sure why or why not…. Well, it is, and Short Change is a perhaps the purest example of it, purer even than a used-car salesman or PublishAmerica’s versions of High Pressure Confusion Scamming.

Here’s the bare-bones version of the scam (from Snarlyboodle):

You’ll start with a $10 bill, a $5 bill, and 15 $1 bills.
Buy something for under $5.
Pay with a $10 bill.
As your change of up to $5 is being retrieved, ask for another $10 bill for ten $1 bills you’re pulling out of your wallet.
Leave your original $5 change out, but pick up the $10 bill while you hand over only nine $1 bills.
Have them check the count as you go through your wallet, putting away the $10 bill and pulling out more singles.
They will count nine $1 bills, so you add 1 more $1 bill and throw on another five $1 bills and a $5 bill and ask for a $20 bill. Cashiers always like to make smaller change for their drawer.
They put the fifteen $1 bills and one $5 bill away and give you a $20 in return.
You just made $10.

Please go read the entire post.

And here’s a video tutorial for performing this scam.

While, in general, reading comments on YouTube videos is a waste of time, in this case the comments are about equal “That was a fake, they were both actors, that’ll never work in the real world” and “OMG that just happened to me today!” In actual fact, this scam is performed successfully somewhere in America once every nine seconds. A scammer can make $40 an hour just by walking up one side of the street and down the other (or from shop to shop in a mall) running this scam; all it has to do is hit once every fifteen minutes. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next place. If someone’s wise to it, what’s there for anyone to prove? You were just confused and made a mistake. Is that a crime now?

It’s a wonderful combination of high pressure and confusion, and no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a con. A cheat. A swindle. Totally belongs on the list.

Want to go over the Short Change scam again? Here’s another version of the same con, on a page full of entertaining cons.

Entertaining until you get bitten by one, that is. No one is so street-smart, so cynical, and so canny that the right pitch on the right day by the right person won’t take them. These cons got to be classics by working reliably all day every day. See, for example, this hidden-camera view of the Pigeon Drop being run on a random citizen.

An article on protecting yourself from the Short Change Swindle. The condensed version is don’t let yourself get distracted. Which can be tough since the con artists may work in teams with other members of the team having ‘distract the cashier’ as their job. These guys do it all day, every day. They’re good at it.

Okay, you’re now set to win a dog at work.

Which brings us around to somewhat similar con, in that the con artist gets change for an overpayment. We’ve mentioned this before: Scams from the Mailbag. There it was the Secret Shopper swindle. You get a spam email offering to make you a Secret Shopper. They’ll send you a check for $3,000. You deposit it in your account, take $200 to make a purchase at a local store (you get to keep what you buy!), get another $100 for your pay, and you send back the change by Western Union to some address. Piece of cake, right? Except two weeks later, when it turns out that the check was forged, you’re on the hook for the entire amount, plus a fee for depositing a bad check. You’ve already sent off $2,700 and change. Which you’ll never see again.

While the short change con relies on people being distracted and trying to be helpful (and cashiers are paid to try to be helpful), the counterfeit check scams rely on people trying to be helpful and honest. (You can, indeed, cheat an honest man.) Here’s the scam in the form of someone who wants to rent a property (or a room, or an apartment) who sends a check for more than the deposit/first month’s rent/whatever and asks the landlord to send back the change.

Which gets us to the current variant. A nice young lady is looking for a job as a babysitter/nanny/whatever, and advertises. In comes a letter, with picture of a cute kid, asking a lot of questions (e.g. “Are you CPR and first aid certified?”). You reply to the letter, having put no small amount of time/effort into answering the questions (thus getting invested in the deal, along with the promised $900/week). Hurrah! You’re hired!

You get a check from some third party, for your first month’s pay, plus a couple of thousand dollars that you weren’t expecting. Now … oh noes! You get a panicky phone call from someone claiming to be the lady who just hired you. She’s in England, having gone there with the Cute Kid to attend her mother’s funeral, and her banker/accountant/lawyer/agent has sent you your pay plus the price of her plane ticket home! She’ll be stranded! Could you be a dear, pop down to the bank, take the overage and wire it to her? Thanks! You’re a peach!

Again, the high pressure.

Then, a week later, the bank tells you that the check didn’t clear, and you’re on the hook for the entire amount, as above.

Here’s a story in the New York Times on this exact swindle. And here’s another story in the Times about a young lady who was taken by it to the tune of $3K. Please do read the entire article. (If it changes location, search on “Dazzled by a Cute Picture, More Nannies Fall for Swindle.”)

What can you do? Don’t accept checks for more than the agreed price. And never wire money to anyone that you aren’t related to by blood or marriage, ever.

Comments on The Short Con:
#1 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:09 PM:

I got taken by that short-change con once, in the bookstore.

When the same person tried it again, they got kicked out. By me.

And there are occasions when wiring money is appropriate -- I've sold some artwork to people in Italy for over $1K including shipping, and wiring the money was the least expensive way to handle the transaction. So I wouldn't go along with your last sentence....

#2 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:13 PM:

Ages ago when I worked in retail, the store policy was never to make change for the customer, period - this was put in place right after someone walked through the mall and scammed a whole string of businesses. It was way easier to just have a flat policy than to try to train everyone to spot the scam - although our manager, a crusty old dude who cordially loathed humanity, was happy enough to demonstrate it (successfully) on one of the hapless cashiers just to prove the point.

Stuck with me, that one did.

#3 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:18 PM:

"And never wire money to anyone that you aren’t related to by blood or marriage, ever."

I'll add to that "never wire money to someone who's not somewhere you expect them to be."

Because one of the other cons going around is for someone who's gotten access to someone's email credentials or cell phone to send out an urgent message to their address book or phone directory, saying "Help! I've been mugged while traveling/lost my passport! I need to get $BIGNUM right away to get home/out of trouble! You can wire it here..."

I've gotten a couple of these myself over the years, and if I know the person, I let them know via more usual contact means that their account or phone has been hacked. But some folks have sent off lots of money before they realize what's happened.

#4 ::: Sylvia Sotomayor ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:18 PM:

The rental scam almost happened to me the first time I put my spare room up for rent. A nice sounding young lady from England wanted to rent it, and sent me 3 postal money orders for about twice the amount, with instructions to wire her the excess. (It was a friend of her dad who got things wrong, she said.)

Me, I've always banked at a credit union that was now 400 miles from where I was living, so I took the postal money orders to the local post office, where they know me, and they confiscated them as forgeries. That kinda clued me in! I gave them the info I had, including the envelope they had come in.

(The woman at the private mail box place I was using at the time told me later she wouldn't have let me wire any money to whomever.)

I also received a check drawn on a midwest bank. I googled the bank's phone number and called them, and later sent them the check and the envelope that had come in, too. The check was fraudulent, of course.

I have no idea if the scammers ever got caught, though. That was the last I ever heard from them.

#5 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:38 PM:

I think I'd worked retail in a comic book store for maybe as much as two hours before someone ran the simplest version of this con on me:

"Hey, that's the wrong change! I gave you a twenty."

From then on I always remembered to keep the customer's cash out of the register until all the change had been tendered.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 07:44 PM:

A friend of mine who has been a freelancer for most of her working life got taken by the counterfeit cheque con a few years back. As she was living hand to mouth that stung very badly.

The short con is going to be hard to distinguish from honest mistakes. I've been confused over change a time or two.

#7 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 08:03 PM:

Zak #5: keep the customer's cash out of the register until all the change had been tendered

And this also helps when the customer did indeed give you a twenty. Which does happen.

#9 ::: Edd Vick ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 10:30 PM:

When I was working at the adoption agency, we did a lot of international business with wires and such. My boss must've gotten the fraudulent cashier check scam at least twice a month. Usually he just tore them up or sent them to postal inspectors, but one persistent cuss got the full treatment. Bossman Dave actually went to the bank to verify they were fakes, but then strung the scammer along through quite a few telephone calls (at the scammer's expense) before telling him.

And I worked bookstores for 25 years and would happily make change... "juuuuust as soon as I'm done counting out your change from that twenty. I'd hate to get confused."

#10 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:10 PM:

My older sister got taken by the short change con when she was a teen working as a grocery store clerk. She got fired.

#12 ::: Dan Boone ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:25 AM:

At about the age of 13 I had an old retired guy tourist try to pull some version of the short con on me while I was behind the register at our very rural hardware store. His version only involved fives and ones, and I didn't fall for it; I didn't understand what was happening but I sensed a flimflam in progress and stalled until my dad came out of the office and sent him packing. The dude was relying heavily on trying to pull an age-and-authority routine on "the dumb kid" and I never did respond well to that treatment.

In the small rural town I currently inhabit, the only business that did Western Union recently took out the machines and sent them back. Lady who ran the place told me she just couldn't handle the moral pain of watching little old ladies in the process of falling for various versions of the overpayment scam; she'd tell them not to do it, they'd insist, and either she'd let them (to their eventual loss and her guilt) or she'd lose a customer forever by refusing to do the transaction. She couldn't win, so she stopped playing the game.

#13 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:46 AM:

I wonder if countries (Like Canada) which have gotten rid of small denomination bills see a corresponding drop in the con? Not to mention, the (until recently) uniform coloring of US Bills wouldn't have been helpful in detecting it...in more than one way: more than one tourist in the States has been swindled for handing over a large bill by mistake and getting change for a five back.

#14 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:49 AM:

I first heard of this by seeing Harry Anderson do it on an episode of Cheers. (Just looked to see if it was on YouTube; found a different Harry-Anderson-on-Cheers scene, but not that one.)

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:53 AM:

People who scam the elderly . . . I wouldn't feel the slightest pang of sympathy on hearing that such somehow had their kneecaps bashed in.

#16 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:10 AM:

Thomas, #7: Yes, it does. I paid for my order in a fast-food drive-thru once with a $50, and got back change for a $20. They had to shut down the line and count the register while I waited, but I considered that a reasonable precaution and didn't fuss. And yes, I got my remaining $30 back.

Takeaway: don't pay for anything in the drive-thru with more than a $20. It doesn't take that much longer to go inside, if you only have a large bill.

#17 ::: Everbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:55 AM:

I would never accept a cheque, except for one from the tax office. I do pay rental bond by teller's cheque, but that has to be the exact amount or it will be refused, since it's paid to some trust or something, not the landlord. I don't even own a cheque book, and I don't know how to get one!

Also, haha, one dollar bills. Those things crack me up.

#18 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:55 AM:

Thomas, #7: Exactly. Everybody benefits.

#19 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:59 AM:

If they ever do away with one-dollar bills magicians all across the country will mourn.

Heck, we're still using old-style English pennies for tricks and those haven't been minted since 1962. (They're used because they're the same size as a half-dollar.)

#20 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:40 AM:

A couple boat-related anecdotes, and a non-nautical rip-off (vaguely connected to horse-racing):

I did once wire a fairly substantial sum of money (probably greater than my credit card limit at the time) to someone I'd never met, over a thousand miles away. I was buying a folding kayak from a shop in Alaska; I later learned that the shop itself was also up for sale at the time. The story ended happily, my kayak arrived by air freight a few days later, and I still have it. I'm not sure I'd do that again today.

On the other hand, when I advertised a decrepit elderly 16' sailboat for sale on the internet a few years ago, I discovered that the counterfeit check scam is now automated. I received many emails offering to send me the price of the boat, plus a substantial extra amount to cover shipping, and I was supposed to wire them back any excess. Many of the emails referred to the boat as if it were a car, or referred to it by quoting back the exact text I'd used to describe it in my ad. One even had a bug in their software, so the email started off "I'd like to buy your $YEAR $VEHICLE".

I eventually came up with a stock response email which said "I'm eager to sell my boat, but I'm not a bank. I'm happy to help arrange shipping, but I insist on being paid whatever price we agree upon, no more and no less." I never got a second email from any of the scammers. This story also ended happily; a man from central California came down, looked at my boat, offered a little less than I was asking, and drove home with her.

Lest it sound like I think I'm immune to scams, I did once fall for the "front me bus fare to get to my next job as a stable boy, and I'll mail the money back to you." This was at a shopping mall next door to a race track (the one where the Marx brothers filmed "Day at the Races"; Florida doesn't have hills like that!). I naively went to an ATM, withdrew sixty bucks, and handed it over. Six months later, I saw the same guy giving the same sob story to another shy nerd at the same shopping mall. I walked over and told the new mark my experience. The scammer denied it all, and quickly left the area.

#21 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:50 AM:

One time, when I was out and about, I was approached by a man who asked if I could spare him some money for a bus fare he needed to get back to his home town for a relative's funeral.

Bearing in mind the echoes of several stories I'd heard that started similarly, I offered to walk the couple of blocks to the bus terminus with him and buy him the whole ticket, figuring he'd beg off and go looking for someone who'd give him cash in hand. He didn't.

When I bought the ticket, I made a mental note of when the bus was due to depart, and when it was boarding the next day I was hanging around in the background to see if my fella got on. He did.

If this story has a moral, I'm not sure what it is.

#22 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:27 AM:

Paul A. @ #21

Moral: There are good people around, and you're one of them.

(But we knew that already.)

#23 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:07 AM:

And in the large: the whole room erupted in howls at the mention of Charles Ponzi on Downton Abbey last night.

#24 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:12 AM:

Stefan Jones @15:

Zoë: Preacher, don't the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killin'?
Book: Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

#25 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:14 AM:

There's a horse version of the check/wire scam, that gets played a lot.

Owner lists horse for sale. Receives an inquiry from a potential buyer. The buyer is out of state, probably out of the country. After some back and forth, the buy decides to "take the horse on trial", since he can't come and try the horse before purchase.

"Buyer" sends a very large check, purchase price plus shipping costs...it might be a third-party check, signed over to the seller. The seller is asked to make the shipping arrangements, and wire the remainder of the funds back to the buyer. It's like "here's a $20, get the coffee and bring me the change" kind of deal.

Only, of course, once the wire transfer clears, the buyer is never heard from again. The original check proves to be bad. The seller is left with a horse and an even more empty bank account, and on the hook for the transport deposit and probably vet fees.

And this happens all the time.

#26 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:23 AM:

Jeremy Leader @20: about that last one the bus fare con, that's where a different approach to the world wouldn't have saved me from getting conned, but would have saved me some displeasure. If I'd had the amount of the bus fare to spare, I'd have handed it over and said "Pay it forward." If I could only afford a partial amount, they would have gotten that -- and if they objected, well, I'd have kept it, and muttered to myself about "some people."

I don't know what I'd have done if I saw him at it in the same place the next week. I hope I'd have done the same as you.

My "pay it forward" attitude doesn't extend to the occasional sort who comes begging at the door (or did, when I lived in a neighborhood of more expensive houses) claiming to need money for their baby's diapers. There's a difference, in my sense of security, I guess, between being approached in a public place and being approached at my home. The latter makes me worried that the beggar is an advance scout, and that those who have money to spare and trusting hearts are the best targets for being robbed.

#27 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:25 AM:

I work for a used machinery company. It's gotten so we can smell those scams (specifically, beth meacham's "horse scam" above) and have a form letter to respond to it. We have a wire transfer account that is emptied every day into a regular account to act as a one-way gate (it's apparently possible to clean out a wire transfer account with the correct information). We explicitly do not accept more than the purchase price; buyer must arrange and pay for his own transportation; ONLY wire transfers from foreign buyers.

And certain inquiries -- "I see you have (Band Saws) for sale; what credit cards do you accept" (and the parans are included; the type of machinery within the parens changes, however) are ignored altogether.

Some of our competitors have been very expensively taken.

(I remember receiving a traveller's check in payment before we instituted this policy which was so badly forged that it was obvious even to a civilian like me; that one was turned over to the cops....)

#28 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 10:23 AM:

@14: Here's the Harry clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7ea3KtXlk8

#29 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 10:58 AM:

In one of those moments of serendipity that I'm sure will be the result of some common cause or similar, this morning this link came across my Google+ feed: Understanding scam victims: seven principles for systems security

#30 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:28 AM:

Came here to say what John Mark Ockerbloom @3 said.

Another twist on that scam is phoning senior citizens, saying "Grandpa/Grandma?!" in panicked tones, and waiting for them to guess at which grandchild it is -- "Sally? Is that you?". Then say "Yes, it's Sally! I'm in [city] and need you to wire [amount] or I'll go to jail!" Optional: "Please don't tell anyone!"

I need to remind my grandma of this one and put a note by her phone saying, if anyone calls claiming to be a family member needing money, call them back on the phone number you already have in your address book for them. And if they don't answer, call a couple other family members to see if anybody ever heard that Sally is in London. Regardless of pleas not to tell anyone.

Paul A @ 21: Once I got asked for gas money at the gas station, and said "I don't have cash, but I'll buy you $10 worth of gas on my card." They accepted and let me do the pumping. I suppose they could have been just as happy to take some free gas while they waited to run the scam on others, but I felt better, anyway.

The other day I got flagged down by a guy in front of the hardware store who said, and I quote, "Could you do me a favor? My wife, my kid, I need $2.28." I did not ask him his wife, his kid, what, just said "Sorry, man" and moved on. I guess this was an attempt at "Let their minds fill in the details," but it was a bit weak.

#31 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:47 AM:

My mother was nearly caught by a scam regarding shares a couple of years ago: "you have these shares in XXXX and we're (a US company) trying to get a big block of XXXX shares together so we'll pay you 10x what they're worth if we can buy them from you quickly". After several telephone calls and legitimate-looking emails, they explained they needed £X upfront to pay "sales tax" or "insurance" or something like that - at which point my mother smelled a rat, thankfully, and contacted the police.

#32 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:49 AM:

#29 Daniel Martin

I'd put that exact link into Diffractions here last night....

#33 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:53 AM:

I recently encountered the "Help I lost my credit cards/ID/passport and I'm in Morocco and need to get home" scam: a friend's e-mail was hacked, and voila. I called her; of course, she was home and very tired of fielding calls.

People who scam the elderly are accumulating mega bad karma. The mills of God, etc. Meanwhile, those of us with inexperienced relatives or friends who might possibly be scammed might consider speaking out.

#34 ::: giltay ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:28 PM:

Caroline @30: Someone tried pulling that scam on my mother-in-law last year. She must have smelled something fishy, because she called everyone in her family (who told her it was almost definitely a scam) and we were eventually able to contact her step-grandson. Sadly, we weren't able to identify the grifter.

#35 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:15 PM:

#25 . that scam is very popular on Craigslist.

we ran into it a couple of months back trying to sell a piece of furniture. guy from out of town was moving to the area and said he wanted to buy it for his new house. sent us a check for the asking price + some money to give to his "mover" when he showed up.

we'd have been out a dresser and $500 if we didn't LOL when the check turned out to be a home-printed third party check supposedly drawn on the account of a local chemical supply company (WTF?)

a little research turned up dozens of similar fraud attempts (some successful) among CL users.

#36 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:24 PM:

#32 Jim

That's then probably the common cause I was expecting there'd be - it wouldn't surprise me if the person who repeated it on my google+ feed also reads ML, or follows whatever source led you to it.

#37 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:22 PM:

I came here to post the same thing Avram mentioned in #14 and Jon found in #28. I always remembered to pay attention when people around me were asking for change after that...

#38 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:29 PM:

Paul A. @21, my wife works at a church where they have a continuous stream of needy applicants for loans for food/hotel room payments/busfare/etcetera. A substantial fraction of her working day consists of metaphorically walking down to the bus terminus.. no cash, no cheques unless made payable only to the hotel/supermarket and confirmed by third parties, no credit card ever (since Fr.'s credit card got signed up for recurring hotel payments). Once in a while there are professional grifters drifting through, who don't realize that all the churches in the area are keeping track of the scams and sharing notes. It's a little sad.

#39 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:36 PM:

Nice to see that Harry got some work after his days at the Magic Cellar....

#40 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:45 PM:

What gets people with the check scam is that your bank making the funds available does not mean the check is good. A check can even bounce several months later, and you're still on the hook.

#41 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:08 PM:

What gets people with the check scam is that your bank making the funds available does not mean the check is good.

I know this, but have often wondered why. It seems that banks should (given the pervasive ACH system) be able to tell whether the account exists and is funded within a week. (In other words--why can't checks be like credit cards, where the fraud risk is with the issuer.)

My brother got caught by the Fake Goods for sale on Craigslist scam (in his case, a tractor.)

#42 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:29 PM:

I was the target of an interesting and well-done con last year.

It went like this:

One month, there was an ACH confirmation debit on my bank statement (the typical $0.01 debit from setting up an ACH account). I thought it was probably related to my employer changing paycheck processors and ignored it.

The following month, there was an "monthly recurring debit" from the same processor (which I didn't recognize) for $29.95.

Now it gets interesting. I looked at the transaction record image, and it had a customer service number. I called that number, and got a very polite, almost-certainly-American rep almost immediately--who was happy to cancel the charge, but was extremely vague about how it had been incurred. (First he was evasive, then with some persistence he said it was for "adult materials", and declined to give any more specifics because of "privacy concerns.")

I tried to report it to my bank--but since it had been cancelled, they didn't think it was worth pursuing. I looked online, and there were lots of reports of the same thing (same phoen number and amount).

Now--what proportion of people balance their checkbooks every month? Since anyone who notices can get the charge cancelled, there's no crime to report--but I'm going to bet that expensive call center and all, that scam makes a fair amount of money.

#43 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:36 PM:

SamChevre @41: When I was working retail (which was in the late 90s), our store got in these machines that plugged into a phone line. They were small and rectangular, with a U-shaped channel: you fed a check into it numbers down-and-inwards and a little motor pulled it through and spat it out. Then it called home and ran the bank account number and basically asked the bank to validate whether a check for $xxx.xx (whatever we entered; the amount of the transaction) would bounce.

It apparently completely eliminated the bad-checks problem at our registers. But I haven't seen them in use at all lately. I wonder why they went away? Not enough checks in use since debit cards came in?

#44 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Dunno, Elliot. We still have those at our local gas station/convenience store and supermarket.

#45 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:31 PM:

re 43/44: Local hardware and the grocery stores run those things through as an instant debit against your account; they print a block on the back of the check with the "what you have just agreed to by giving us a check." I don't know whether these are bounceable after the fact. One day we went to pay with a check at the hardware place, and as the cashier went to go through the process the owner happened by and told her not to bother; he knew we were good for the check.

#46 ::: Quixote ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:08 PM:

I've had the short change con attempted on me twice when I worked at a gas station back in the 80's. the fellow wasn't successful (he was both drunk and obvious when he tried it). I used Edd #9's method of dealing with it, which made the con artist very angry. He stormed out, accusing me of not being willing to help a customer. The boss had a chuckle when I told him.

A week later the same guy showed up - drunker this time - and tried it again, to similar effect. I resolved that I was going to reverse scam him if he was dumb enough to try it a third time, but I never saw him again. Older and wiser now, I wouldn't scam him back, but I might threaten him with the cops just to get rid of him.

The same gas station some years later a fellow came in on the evening shift claiming to be the boss' new partner and demanded that the attendant give him all of the money in the safe and the till so that it could be deposited for the night. The con artist basically bullied the attendant into giving the money with threats of firing. Of course, the guy wasn't the boss' new partner and he was never seen again. Might be harder to pull this off now with ubiquitous cameras.

Finally, a friend avoided a scam the other day. She's selling an electric xylophone. The first two responses to her advertisement were:

1) A guy in a band who couldn't afford to buy it, but offered to be her boyfriend so he could borrow it. Not a scam, but amusing and I wanted to share.

2) The woman who wanted to use PayPal and have a friend pick it up. "Why can't she just give her friend the cash?" was the question everyone asked. A little searching online indicated that the person in question would keep the merchandise but claim "non-delivery" to PayPal so that the charges were reversed.

#47 ::: anon regular ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:13 PM:

I work for a 3rd party ACH processor. I know how the backend of this stuff works, I know what a good merchant looks like and I know what a scammer looks like (from the financial side anyway). I know I've seen some scam merchants try to sign up with us.

SamChevre @42: That wasn't really interesting or well done. That was done in bulk, and you noticed. They count on some percentage of the people not noticing. Ordinary (good) merchants who process will have under 5% returns, and 1% chargebacks. Scam merchants can be up to 80% returns, or more. The worst I've seen lately was 82%.

Since you called them, they reversed it, but didn't get the chargeback from the bank. So it doesn't actually cost them more than the 10 cents to send the transaction. If it came back not authorized, then they'd be out whatever their return fee is, a few bucks normally, and maybe more for riskier customers. You have ~60 days to return for a not authorized transaction. To do that though, you need to make a signed statement at the bank, so it's a bit of a pain.

There's actually a way to do a 0 dollar transaction called a prenote -- It's intended as a test transaction for things like direct deposit. I'm not sure I've ever seen one show up on a statement either, but it's the right and preferred way of doing it. Alternately, if some company is trying to confirm an account, one acceptable way to do that is to credit a few cents, and then have you tell them the amount of the credit.

Elliot Mason @43: There are ways of doing verification, but they're not really cost effective for how good they actually are. There's something called ATMverify, but it only covers about 1/2 of the bank accounts out there, and it only tells you if there's enough money in there now, not if the check that's running is going to clear when it actually gets to the bank. (which is at least going to be end of the business day, if not a day or two later depending on cutoffs and how fast the back office is running.) ACH is the same way, It's a batched thing that effectively runs overnight. There are other ways of doing it that are essentially credit checks, but they're also not terribly effective on the data sets that I've seen. (huge false positive and false negative rates, with marginal improvements in return rates)

Returns can come back anywhere from next-day (for things the fed can't route) to a few days (nsf, account not found) to 60 days (not authorized) to indefinitely (fraud, especially when government checks are involved). Checks don't ever actually clear, they just haven't returned yet.

The key with the 'return some of the money' scam is that it's taking a forged reversible instrument and converting it to a non-reversible transaction. I've seen an attempt to do it for $3 million (which failed). Most things are reversible, in time, but a few are not.

Non reversible: Cash withdrawals, Western Union, Bitcoin
In extreme Circumstances: Wires, Cashiers Checks, Money orders
Totally: Checks, Cards, Paypal

#48 ::: RobW ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:21 PM:

I just thought I'd leave this here: the first time I ever heard of the short change con was when I saw this movie as a kid. It's still one of my all-time favorites: Paper Moon (1972)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqueZ1KNeT8

In this scene, Moze Pray pulls the scam on an old lady in a dress shop. Later in the film, his 10 year old daughter successfully pulls it herself. On a carnie, no less!

#49 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:53 PM:

The other thing is that victims will often say "But he didn't look dishonest!" There's the charm and patter of course, but also the costume. A suit and tie is a great investment for the con artist.

People think, that guy looks just like what a "bank examiner" ought to look like.

Or that three card monte game must be honest, because that guy in a suit just won. He couldn't possibly be a shill working with that scruffy-looking dealer.

#50 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:33 PM:

Alan, #49: AKA "exploiting privilege".

This can go the other way, if the con artist is unlucky and the mark sufficiently paranoid. I've had well-dressed people come up to me in parking lots with sob stories of one sort or another, and my immediate reaction tends to be, "If you look like a middle manager, you've got access to resources and don't need to be hitting up strangers in parking lots for cash." I'm more likely to actually give money to someone who looks homeless.

#51 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 03:03 AM:

I once overheard a victim of an overpayment scam trying to get his money back from the bank. The bankers gently explained the facts of life to the victim, a young man in his twenties.

#52 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 02:14 PM:

And people still repeat, ad nauseum, "You can't cheat an honest man."

#53 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 05:04 PM:

Co-incidentally, I'm reading David Maurer's book The Big Con, which documents the language used by confidence men in the early 20th century, and in order to explain the language, explains the games that they used.
One thing that comes up repeatedly is that although you can cheat an honest man, you can cheat a slightly dishonest one for a lot more. And if they believe they are acting dishonestly, the mark is much less likely to go to the authorities.
Apparently, the elite con men who worked the big cons looked down on the small time grifters who worked small cons, like short change, or the drop swindle. The double-think in the ethics is sort of astonishing.

#54 ::: Steve Downey - was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 05:06 PM:

Would the gnomes enjoy a slice of King's Cake? I'll even let them choose the slice.

#55 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 05:25 PM:

Cheques don't seem to work like that in Britain. To use them in a shop you need a cheque guarantee card You have a limit on the amount you can write one for and the bank will pay that even if you don't have the money. It goes on overdraft, so you owe it to the bank plus i terest. If you need to write a larger cheque than that retailers will ask your bank for proof. Tho its a long while since I wrote a cheque though.

#56 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:20 PM:

Steve Downey @ 53
And if they believe they are acting dishonestly, the mark is much less likely to go to the authorities.

That's pretty much what Victor Lustig traded on. My understanding was that when he posed as a government official and sold the Eiffel Tower to scrap dealers, he was playing for their bribes to accept their sealed bids, so that he'd make money even if the "winner" stopped his cheque; though Wikipedia has a slightly different version of the story.

#57 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 10:10 PM:

A paper analyzing scams like these in the context of the economics of banking password theft just crossed my radar -- Is Everything We Know About Password Stealing Wrong?

Their conclusion is that money mules -- the seller, in the overpayment scam -- are the limiting resource in the grift economy, the ultimate source of the grifter's real gain, and the ultimate victim, not the hijacked bank accounts used to source the money which the grifter sends to the mark, which will be made whole by the bank.

#58 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 07:14 AM:

Ken Brown @55: Cheque guarantee cards were scrapped a couple of years ago, though I think a lot of shops stopped accepting cheques a year or so before that. A shame; cheques were handy for skint people trying to do essential food shopping a day or two before payday. (Or, er, so I hear from other, less law-abiding types).

#59 ::: Keith Edwards ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 03:16 PM:

My wife and I were almost taken in by what we later learned was a common Craigslist scam targeting apartment hunters:

An add goes up with a picture of a beautiful bungalow in a great neighborhood for about $300 under the going price for rent in that area. Seems the owner is going oversees for a couple of years, needs to rent the place to a nice responsible person fast and since they own the house and aren't trying to gouge anyone they're up front about how low the rent is. Oh, but don't bother the current tenants by going to look at the place just yet, they work the night shift and sleep days, but don't worry, they'll be out 1st of the month and I'll have the place professionally cleaned before you move in.

So you email them and express interest, with some vague personal details (married professional couple, no kids, 2 cats, etc.) they email you back immediately, saying you sound like nice people, mail them a check for first and mast month's rent and they'll have their agent drop the keys with you when the check clears.

Which all sounded to good to be true, because of course it was. We cheated and drove by the property. It was a nice house, but occupied by at at least 4 college kids who weren't even remotely packing to leave, nor sleeping. So we did not send the check and reported the advert. It was down the next day 9but alas, I've since run into the same scam at least 3 more times on Craigslist).

What raised my suspicions were the details. There were Slightly too many, they were giving you too much info a spiel about how they were going to work for an NGO in Africa, and the house had been in the family for blah blah blah. They were telling a story. legit landlords don't tell stories, they rent properties. It's a business.

I like to think watching 5 seasons of Leverage has clued me in to some of the details con artists use 9either that or just made me more paranoid).

#60 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 04:03 PM:

Speaking of cons, I just got this email from "Charles Pinot, publisher to CEOs":

"I wanted to write and let you know that we're in the process of finalizing our editorial calendar for the first half of the year and my book division president wanted me to reach out to you one last time to see if you were interested in discussing a book deal. Please let me know either way if you are interested in moving forward as our calendar is filling up quickly. I'd like to schedule a call with you this week to discuss. Let me know what day/time works best for you!
Chelsea DeMenno, Book Agent"

The scam from here is obvious. My question is, why am I being targeted for this? Did CP just spam a million email addresses, or did he pick me because I'm a CEO or because I have an unfinished book deal?

The temptation to bait CP and drag this out through a series of fishing emails is irresistable. I'll let you know how it goes.

#61 ::: Holli ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:15 AM:

I'm still a little unsure of whether I got scammed the other day.

I was walking back to my car when I realized I didn't have my phone in my purse. I knew I'd had it in the car earlier; I had a vague memory of leaving it in the cupholder. It also occurred to me, as I approached the car, that I might have forgotten to lock the doors. Got to the car-- was it unlocked? Where was my phone?

Before I could check, or start to worry, a man approached me and asked if I was missing a phone. He pulled my phone out of his pocket, said it had been lying on the ground by the car, and asked if I could spare ten dollars as a thank-you for finding it. He looked like he could use it more than me-- and, after all, he could have gotten more money for the phone-- so I gave him ten dollars and left.

The whole interaction left me feeling rather uneasy. Still not sure exactly what happened there.

#62 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:29 AM:

Holli @61: Was the car actually unlocked? If so, he might have found the phone inside; but if it was locked, he probably found it outside and asked for a reward. Not really a scam, but slightly tacky (and if he really could use the money, much nicer than trying to resell the phone!). Also not really a scam if he took the phone from the car: that's simple theft, and you could have called the police on him. At least, it's not a scam under my definitions.

#63 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:02 AM:

I haven't gotten any scams other than the usual 419 emails, but back at my first job (fast-food drive-thru, local chain) 2 different people tried to pay with a counterfeit $20 bill. This was right after the US Mint changed the bill to its current multi-colored version, so there were a lot of news articles online with pictures of the bill, front and back.

One of the bills looked almost-right, but was blurry. As a matter of course, I used the fancy counterfeit-detector marker we're required to use, and wasn't surprised at all that it was a fake. Scammer realized I knew what was going on and drove off.

The other was by a particularly stupid fellow who gave me a bill that was about 1 cm too small in each direction. As if someone who handles money all day isn't going to notice that she's getting a smaller piece of paper than usual! Marker says counterfeit (again, it was obvious before, but we were required to mark every bill $20 or higher as a matter of course), and I say, "Sir, this bill is counterfeit." Idiot insists that the bank gave him the bill (as if bank tellers wouldn't also notice a SMALLER BILL) and demands to speak to my manager. Manager comes to the window--and the would-be scammer spent 10 minutes arguing over why he should get his bill back (nice try, genius, it's going into the police evidence box). This, of course, gave the other manager on duty plenty of time to go out back and get the fellow's car tags recorded for the police.

I wish I could say that nobody could fall for an obvious fake bill, but...I also remember a cashier getting in huge trouble over a gag bill! It said "Sex Dollar Bill," had Bill Clinton on it with the caption "Slick Willy," and there has never been a $6 bill minted in the United States, ever, but this person actually fell for it and accepted it as real currency. I think that cashier was fired after that.

#64 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:03 AM:

Er, US Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The US Mint only does coins. Whoops!

#65 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 09:09 AM:

The_L #63: There's a story of a gang of counterfeiters who figured they'd go out into a rural area to unload their product. So, they drive a while, and find a tiny country general store. They go in, and ask "Hey, you got change for an eighteen-dollar bill?" "Sure, do you want two $9s or three $6s?"

#66 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 09:10 AM:

for a joke...

#67 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 10:33 AM:

I've heard of a cashier who accepted a hand-drawn banknote drawn on lined notebook paper.

Since the widespread use of those marker pens, the way around them has been to switch in fake pens that mark everything as genuine by sleight of hand.

#68 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 11:33 AM:

#30, re: Grandparent scam. My grandfather went through something similar a while back, where the person claimed to be one of my cousins. There was also some plausible-and-demographically-likely information about where she was located. Fortunately, he gave the simplest of security checks. "Oh, honey, that's terrible. Of course I'll help. Can you just prove that you're you by telling me your mom and sister's names?" (This cousin doesn't have a sister.) Some yelling about not trusting her, then a click.

Then he called the cousin and her parents to double check that she was fine, because the sphere of incredulity only extended so far.

I like my grandfather.

#69 ::: Quixote ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:28 PM:

#68: I've noticed that the dishonest people are more likely to react explosively when dishonesty is suggested.

Let me unpack that a bit.

"Are you sure that's true?"
"How can I prove it to you?"

"Are you sure that's true?"
"ARE YOU CALLING ME A LIAR?!?"

The former exchange is likely to be a normal misunderstanding (on either of our parts). The latter, in my experience, usually means that, yes, the person is a liar.

#70 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:48 PM:

Quixote, #69: That's a good point, and one which I think would be useful in the Dysfunctional Families thread. May I quote you over there, or would you come over yourself and repeat it?

#71 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:06 PM:

Quixote (69): I agree that that tendency exists, but I would like to point out that it's just a tendency, not a universal. If nothing else, some people can be twitchy because familial or other dysfunction has led to them being branded liars even when being truthful.

#72 ::: Quixote ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 03:41 PM:

Lee, #70, feel free to quote me. I read those threads, but rarely have anything to contribute.

Mary Aileen, #71, we are in full agreement.

#73 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 04:41 PM:

Quixote #69: That's just a basic "second try" -- if the initial appeal isn't working, try to hit them with a bit of fear or shame, see if that rattles their defenses. I suspect it probably works on a fair number of people -- even if, say, the folks here, could all recognize that as trollish behavior in text, we work a bit differently in real life.

#74 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 09:36 AM:

#69, Frustrated incomprehension can be another honest response but may vaguely resemble the latter at first.

I had a call a few months ago from a stranger who thought I had done something to get in on their book deal. (Note: I'm not even an author.) It took a few minutes of me being a bit rude about being accused of fraud, and thinking that some kind of con was being done on ME, before we were both able to calm down enough to figure out what was happening.

(Turned out that Proquest had had a computer burp that led her thesis and mine to be sort of added-together at some online retailers. The thesis was the basis of the book deal, and when the publisher found my name attached to the thesis, they were understandably concerned.)

But anyways, I can picture loud protestations as an early response, particularly if the accuser goes in with guns blazing. An honest person will know that the truth can only help them, though.

#75 ::: Dr. Hilarius ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 01:04 AM:

Some prosecutors are now charging the victims of the overpayment scam with forgery. This is on the theory that no one could be so stupid to fall for the scam, therefore the victim must be in on it or even the sole perpetrator.

As a side note, Western Union does not wire money anywhere. WU money can be picked up at any location with the proper authorization. The belief that the money goes to a specific location is the basis for a number of scams including the lost dog scam. Scammer sees a reward offered for a lost dog. Calls owner and says I've got your dog here in Nowhereville. Just send me the reward and enough money to pay for having your dog shipped back. Owner "sends" money to Nowhereville. Scammer picks up the money in the same location as owner.

#76 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 03:12 PM:

To digress a bit, but on the subject of cons: I once read that an American traveling in Sweden in the 50s managed to get a bank in a small town to accept Confederate paper money as if the bills were US dollars.

As to scamming by phone or e-mail, I remember that a few years ago there were some people that contacted government agencies after receiving e-mails from persons claiming to be Norwegians or other Western nationals (usually a pretty young woman, more rarely a handsome young man) stuck in a country on another continent because the authorities did not allow them to board a plane because they held insufficient funds (reference was made to an obscure rule, that turned out to be an old form of currency restrictions in the British Commonwealth immediately after WWII). The answer, of course, was that Western nationals in trouble abroad must contact their respective embassy. Strangely enough, those that answered so, never got contacted again. A variation of that scam was that the person contacting the Westerner was a citizen of that country who already held a visa, but could not use it unless she or he held a large amount in cash. Then, of course, the answer is that is another country does not allow a citizen to leave the country, there is nothing a visa issuing country can do. Furthermore, it seemed as if this kind of scam also worked on people who already held some convictions that the scammers played on, such as "people in the public sector are always incompetent, and they never do enough for the citizens".

#77 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 10:20 AM:

In the 70s, I saw part of what I think may have been the short con at a DAV store, but I didn't see enough of it to be sure. I felt awful for letting it happen, and I'm still indignant that it was imposed on somebody working in a charity shop.

More recently, somebody tried to scam me in town. I let him talk until I was sure of it, then pushed away from him. I didn't offer an explanation, just terminated the transaction. I put it in my Live Journal when the details were fresher in my mind, but don't feel like rehashing it all now.

#78 ::: Quixote ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 12:20 PM:

Per Chr. J. #76, I've heard people speculate on passing Canadian Tire money (a Canadian department store's loyalty program coupons) in the States, though I don't know that anyone has ever actually tried it.

#79 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 03:29 PM:

I know of a trainee postal clerk on her first day on the counter who had a customer come up and ask her if she could change a 100 Franc note *.

"Sure" she answered and gave him 10 x £10 notes. Whereupon he vanished before the chap supervising the trainees could react.

To this day I wonder if it was genuine - the guy was unsure if Post Offices did Bureau D'Change, and was quick on the uptake when he got way more than he was expecting - or a scam based on this particular office being the training office for the region.

* This was back in the 80's hence pre-Euro, and Fr100 = c£12 at the time.

#80 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 04:35 PM:

Hey, I woke up this morning to an email claiming to be from a distant acquaintance stranded overseas. Interestingly, though my spam trap had let it through, it had slapped a big THIS IS PROBABLY A SCAM warning on it – there must be something that gets pinged by phrases like “wire transfer” within the email itself.

Sent my acquaintance a fresh email warning her that her address is being used, but offering what help I can if she really is lost in Wales. No reply as yet.

#81 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 05:39 PM:

I had a young man try to hit me up for some family emergency. Problem was, he wasn't acting the part. He looked like someone had told him "go do this, they'll give you money." Without practicing the spiel. I was seriously tempted to give him a loud, crowd attracting lecture on how to play the part when trying to grift. I didn't. But I giggled about it all the way home.

The other scam I used to see a lot of in LA was the same "homeless vet" or some such, standing on the same corner every day. One, clothes/self too clean; two, clothes too pricey (not expensive, but homeless bums on the same corner for months do not look believable wearing Eddie Bauer clothes); three, take a look at the shoes; four, they look a bit too well fed to be truly homeless/desperate. Even the guy who looked like a wacked out crazy drooling nut job was clean, neat, had the good shoes, even his beard was clean. It was fluffed out all over, like his hair, to add to that wacked out homeless nut job, but all clean.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 06:24 PM:

81
There was the couple who were hitting up people in Pasadena for 'money to get home' - their story was that they were going from point A to point B and their car broke down in point C, somewhere more-or-less between the two.
I saw them get off a bus, once, so they actually had bus fare. And that was the day they tried to hit me up at two different locations with two different versions of the story, about an hour apart.

#83 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 10:09 PM:

I feel like I shouldn't get mad at people who are desperate enough to beg, but I do get annoyed at an overly-long build-up to asking for change; it's a combination of having my time wasted and being taken for a fool, plus anger at myself for not having the guts to ask them to cut to the chase, so instead I'm stuck there rolling my eyes: "Oh, so you want to know how to get to (subway station at the opposite end of the line)?" "Yes, that is quite a long way to walk, you'll have to buy a ticket to get there." "Oh, what a coincidence, you just lost your wallet, did you?" (end snark)

#84 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:44 PM:

I've given to beggars occasionally. When I was working at CopyMat and commuting by bus, I would have people come up to me and start a spiel; certain kinds of introduction became obvious ("Hi. [beat] Can I ask you a question?") and I got to the point where I'd sometimes say, "Let's cut to the chase here. You're going to ask me for money, and I'm going to say no."

#85 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 08:26 AM:

I generally give whatever change I have handy to anyone who bothers coming up with a vaguely plausible story. I'm sure this means I get taken sometimes; I don't really care. They bothered to make the effort. Similarly I give money to buskers even if they're bad.

I did have one woman snark at me because apparently the change I had in my change purse (all the cash I had at the time) wasn't enough for her. I haven't seen her since, but she wouldn't get money any more.

#86 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 11:58 AM:

I used to get hit up for money on my way to the bus stop in the evening. Invariably, the grifter-of-the-day was always wearing some kind of NFL jacket and top of the line Nikes or Air Jordans...and said items were brand new.

And as Lin D mentions -- clean, WAY too clean.

My response to the spiel, "You're wearing clothes and shoes that *I* can't afford. I should be asking YOU for money..."

#87 ::: Lori Coulson has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 11:59 AM:

Word of power, maybe?

How 'bout a nice cup of coffee?

#88 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 02:51 AM:

Late, I know, but a couple of stories to add.

Re: grifters, a librarian who had to walk daily through a park gave out MickeyD coupons. The truly hungry took 'em, the scammers snooted her and left her alone.

And for the overpayment scam, the paper had an article today about some guy who's on the hook for $100k, courtesy of that very scam.

#89 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 05:53 PM:

this is just to say
i have borrowed the plums
you had stored
in the icebox

which you were probably
saving for
a hamburger
on Tuesday

Forgive me a
surplumcharge
for their return
so brash
and so bold

--Dave

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