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Gold Bricking, Grifting, Hustling, Cons, Conmen and Frauds
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PostPosted: 03-09-2005 08:34    Post subject: Gold Bricking, Grifting, Hustling, Cons, Conmen and Frauds Reply with quote

I couldn't find a thread with quite this theme, so I'm starting this one. This story appeared on today's World Wide Words newsletter:

"Back in the 1850s, a gold brick was just that - a brick-shaped
block of gold that had been cast at a mine for easy transport away.
A writer in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1888 described a gold
brick cast in Montana as being "a trifle larger than the common
clay brick", but weighing 509 ounces or nearly 32 pounds (roughly
14.5 kg). But as a result of what the newspapers at the time called
"the celebrated gold brick swindle" of October 1879, the term took
on a different meaning.

What happened was that Mr N D Clark, the president of the First
National Bank of Ravenna, Ohio, was visiting a mine he owned at
Leadville in Colorado. He was approached by five miners, who asked
him to advance money on a 52-pound gold brick, which for some
reason they weren't able to ship at the time. The owner told a
hard-luck story about having lost all his property and urgently
needing money. Mr Clark had the brick taken to a blacksmith, who
cut off one corner. An assayer pronounced the gold to be genuine
and Mr Clark advanced the miner $10,000 on condition the brick, and
the miner, accompanied him to Chicago to get the balance. The
miner, of course, vanished off the train on the way; Mr Clark found
to his chagrin that the gold brick was like the curate's egg - good
in parts. The corners were gold right enough but the body of the
brick was worthless. The ringleader, a man named Peter Lavin, was
later caught, though the record is silent on what happened to him.

This wasn't the first attempt at this style of fraud, but since
confidence tricksters aren't that imaginative, a number of copycat
attempts at selling people fake gold bricks followed. The phrase
"to sell someone a gold brick" went into the language meaning to
swindle and "to gold brick" came to mean perpetrating a fraud. (It
killed the old literal sense stone dead; everyone began to call
them ingots instead.)

Your sense was originally US Army slang, which clearly grew out of
this. In the early 1900s, "gold brick" was used for an unattractive
young woman (in 1903, midshipmen went on record that a "gold brick"
was a girl who could neither talk, dance, nor look pretty). This is
presumably from the idea of a gold brick being a fraud. Incompetent
officers appointed from civilian life at the start of the First
World War with only minimal training were likewise called gold
bricks by enlisted men.

At some point during that War, the term was extended to refer to
anybody not pulling his weight, a malingerer or loafer. This would
seem to have grown up not so much from the idea of a person being a
fraud (though that presumably contributed) but from that of a
criminal who would do anything, including sell fake gold bricks,
rather than do an honest day's work."

Any more good fraud stories out there?
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Is this water or air?
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PostPosted: 16-02-2006 23:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was surprised by the origin of the term "Confidence Man". I had always imagined that it had it's origin in sophisticated swindles. It was actually first used to describe a petty thief named William Thompson who used the phrase:

“have you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until to-morrow;”

So much for my fantasies of suave men, heiresses and family vaults.
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PostPosted: 21-02-2006 20:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is the scam described by Edgar Allan Poe as "salt and batter". Basically the trickster approaches someone in a public venue, and abruptly and bizarrely insults them so grossly that they reflexively lash out, "assault and batter". Then the mark gets sued, and the truth sounds so outlandish that he ends up paying a huge settlement.
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PostPosted: 24-02-2006 06:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a good one, from The Everything Tall Tales, Legends & Outrageous Lies Book by Nat Segaloff:


The Pedigreed Pooch

All good cons presume a high level of venality on the part of their victim, but the pedigreed pooch swindle is one that has a special place in the hearts of animal lovers. This one was performed by two of the most skillful con artists of all time: Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil and Fred Buckminster.

Here's how it went: Weil struts into a barroom leading a well-groomed dog (this was in the days when dogs and cigars were allowed into eating and drinking establishments). He chats up the bartender and announces that he is killing time before "the most important business meeting of my life." Unfortunately, he can't bring his beloved pet. Weil whips out pedigree papers attesting to the value of the dog, and offers the bartender a fast $10 if he watches the animal for an hour. Of course, the bartender agrees, and Weil leaves for his crucial meeting.

Not 10 minutes later, Fred Buckminster enters the bar. His eye is immediately caught by the dog, and he excitedly asks the bartender, "Do you know how valuable this animal is? Why, I'll pay you a hundred dollars for it right this instant!"

The bartender, of course, refuses.

"I'll make it two hundred," Buckminster enthuses.

Hanging onto whatever vestige of honesty he has, the bartender says, "But it isn't mine to sell."

"Nonsense," counters Buckminster. "I'll make it three hundred if you can persuade the owner to sell it." He hands the bartender a $50 bill, adding, "Here's a down payment. I'm in room 315 at the Plaza Hotel. Call me when you've made the deal." Then he leaves.

After the bartender stews for 45 minutes, Weil returns looking utterly crushed. "I'm ruined," he confesses. "My business meeting was a complete washout. I have no money."

At this point the bartender's wheels start turning and he says, "Let me help you out." I'll pay you a hundred bucks for your dog."

"Oh, I could never get rid of my beloved pup," Weil says, near tears.

"I'll make it two hundred," the bartender offers, secretly computing that he already has $60 ($10 from Weil and $50 from Buckminster, who had promised to pay him an additional $250 upon delivery). So, after paying the $200, he will still clear an easy $90.

"Well," says Weil, "Okay."

The bartender hands Weil $200 for the dog and heads over to the Plaza to complete the transaction. Naturally, there is no Buckminster staying there, and the bartender finds himself the owner of a stray mutt that has cost him $140.

Weil and Buckminster, meanwhile, cleared $140 on an outlay of $60. Since they were effortlessly pulling the pedigreed pooch scam on 10 bartenders per afternoon, they had no trouble raising a fair-size bankroll before word got around.
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PostPosted: 24-02-2006 20:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used to work in retail and saw all sorts of scams over the years. The funniest one was when I got a call from one of the girls on the till to come over, I was in the back-shop at the time cashing up a till.

As I went over to the till I noticed a middle-aged gentleman stood there with about 5 boxes of 1.5 kg washing powder. Now to take a deep breath, the man explained that his relatives from New Zealand had been in the previous day and purchased these 5 boxes of washing powder. They had tried to take them back to New Zealand on the aeroplane but were stopped at customs and ordered to leave the boxes of powder behind as they were deemed to be "hazardous substances". Our friend here was merely being a good relative and trying to get a refund on the boxes of powder, about £15.

Needless to say I could not keep a straight face. I asked him if he had a receipt. Non was forthcoming, "but honest guv I'm just trying to do these people a favour!"

I told him I would have to go and talk to "the manager", in fact I was the manager, but Mr.Confidence-trickster did not know that. So into the back-shop I went, and to be honest this is the best way to deal with these people. Once you have ascertained that they are not a violent threat, just leave them standing there telling them you must seek counsel with a higher authority. It makes them nervous as hell, they think you are phoning the police and they usually scarper. Which true to form our friend did, leaving the 5 boxes of powder behind at the till.

But where did he get the 5 boxes of powder from in the first place I hear you call? Well I had been notified of this kind of scam before, and on a hunch rewound the CCTV tape 15 minutes and watched the footage that was trained on the washing powder aisle, and there he was our friend the Con-Man. As brazen as a hussy, he picked up 5 boxes of powder from the shelf and walked around the shop to make it look to the young girl on the till, like he had just walked through the front door. He then made his attempt to butter up the "mark", until I thwarted his dastardly plans.
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PostPosted: 24-02-2006 21:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that story, Zeph.

I've just emailed it to my work colleagues at ROCS!
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PostPosted: 05-08-2006 08:43    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another one from World Wide Words:
BLACK DOLLARS This term usually refers to money belonging to black Americans, but another sense turned up this week in reports of a
London libel case.

Black dollars are black pieces of paper. In parts of Africa and India some people believe that if these are dipped in the appropriate chemicals, they turn into real US dollar bills. Fraudsters have reportedly sold paper dyed black to gullible businessmen. The scam reported this week added another level of confusion by alleging that red mercury was needed to make the change. This would be difficult, as red mercury doesn't exist. It
was supposedly a powerful explosive that could be used to make
fusion bombs; it was invented by the KGB during the Cold War as a
sting for terrorists. If they tried to buy it they were arrested.
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PostPosted: 05-08-2006 09:22    Post subject: Reply with quote

At a car boot sale here recently, a trader was shown two lovely laptops, in cases with all the accessories. He managed to haggle the two Polish sellers down to £700 for both, and rushed off to the bank.

You can see where this is going, can't you... Rolling Eyes

On his return, the money and laptop cases were exchanged with much handshaking and backslapping, and the sellers were waved on their way.

Whereupon the trader opened his laptop cases to find a curiously lo-tech mixture of potatoes and gravel.

I heard some of the pre-sale discussion, and thought, hmmm, that sounds like a risky purchase! But I didn't try to intervene - fat lip, no thank you sir.
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Piffle Prospector
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PostPosted: 05-08-2006 18:08    Post subject: Reply with quote

Look out for a large-format book called Hoaxes & Scams by Carl Sifakis. He gives dozens of these cons. The trick of leaving a supposedly very valuable item as surety for a substantial cash loan takes many forms. One rather complex variation was the Rosary Game, supposedly a trick played on American Catholics in Europe.

There was also the dodgy-dealing where a cash-transaction was interrupted by a pretend-murder so that the "mark" was grateful to escape from the scene merely fleeced. This one features in the film The Grifters, which covers a lot of scams.

While some of the tricks in the Sifakis book contain chapter and verse on who pulled them off, others seem to be too elaborate to succeed. Almost any battle-plan seldom remains unmodified after the first encounter with the enemy!

These days, I think the Grifters have all migrated into cyberspace where from servers in Holland or Nigeria they want our bank details to pay us our lottery-winnings. I've had a few of them in the last month or so. But of course mine was a genuine win and the money should be here soon!

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PostPosted: 07-08-2006 08:06    Post subject: Reply with quote

Police team-ups beat Nigeria's scammers

As part of BBC World Service's series on Intercontinental Cops, Jenny Chryss explores how investigators from London and Lagos have linked up to combat corruption and fraud in Nigeria.
Globally, Nigeria has become associated with what is known as "advance fee" or 419 fraud.

Virtually anyone with an email account will be familiar with this crime, which involves sending emails or faxes to potential victims around the world, sucking them into a highly attractive but utterly false financial deal.

Back in Nigeria, the rewards are potentially highly lucrative - but now, owing to a crackdown and much-improved co-operation between police forces globally, it has become more risky for the perpetrators.

"Historically we've always had a problem getting evidence from Nigeria, but that's changing," says Detective Sergeant Mark Radford, head of the Africa desk at New Scotland Yard.

"They're keen to co-operate and bring a lot of the criminals in Nigeria to justice."

Black money

At the holding cells in the centre of the country's commercial capital, Lagos, more than 50 suspects are waiting for court appearances on 419 charges. It is a busy place.

Recently Nigeria has, for the first time ever, begun a major crackdown on all sorts of economic crime - and it is needed.

Last year it was ranked the sixth most corrupt country in the world - and that was its best rating ever. Shocked

Now, though, internet service providers who allow online fraudsters to operate will face criminal charges, while decades in jail await the scammers themselves - with little chance of early parole.

Still, with rich pickings still to exploit, Nigeria's criminals will not give in easily.

As well as the most well-known scams, others are now coming into vogue. In one - the so-called "black money" scam - people are shown what appear to be bank notes which have been dyed.

The scammer appears to show how to remove the dye, and sells the "notes" for cash. In fact, the notes are worthless waste paper.

To give credence to their operations, the warehouses and hotels Nigerians use as meeting places are usually in European cities, with London being a favourite.

Olaolu Adegbite, head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's Advance Fee Fraud section in Lagos, said one man from the US had ended up paying $2.1m after been conned in this way.

"The gentleman got convinced when he arrived in the UK and the men were well-dressed, some black, some white, and looked responsible," he said.

"He was convinced, he was carried away."

In this case the fraudster was eventually caught in Nigeria and sentenced to 342 years in jail. He must also repay the $2.1m in full.

State corruption

But there is a long way to go. Allegations of corruption go to the very highest level.

London detective Peter Clark has been trailing one Nigerian state governor, suspected of corruption in Nigeria and money-laundering in London, since January 2004.

Only when he began delving into what initially was a credit card fraud case that he realised how significant it might prove to be, when it became apparent that millions of pounds had been secretly moved from Nigeria into London banks.

For years, widespread corruption has been blamed for many of Nigeria's ills. Schools, hospitals and public services are falling far short of what could be expected of a country that is oil-rich and, in many areas, highly fertile.

And there now growing evidence that the people living in Nigeria's poor Central Plateau state are worse off even than they should be, because, it is alleged, the governor has siphoned off millions of pounds from the public purse.

Specifically, it is claimed he redirected at least £6m meant for environmental improvements into his own bank accounts.

"Every so often states make a bid to the federal government for extra works within their state - and what we've been able to find out is that as a result of cheques being issued for that work, the state governor basically steals that cheque," detective Clark said.

"We've identified that portions of that cheque have found their way into London bank accounts."

However, the governor of Central Plateau continues to rule because the assembly here has elected to keep him in office, where he has immunity from prosecution.

Although he declined to be interviewed by the BBC, the speaker of the assembly, Simon Lalong, told us the money allocated to the central plateau had been properly spent.

"We invited the EFCC to come and prove the allegations - because what we had at first was just paper telling us this is the bundle of allegations against his Excellency, including the jumping of bail," he said.

"They wrote and said this is the allegation, but we said, 'what are the facts?'"

In Nigeria it is being reported that 24 of the country's 36 state governors are now under investigation.

Allowing these men to go free is not an option for the EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu.

"If this country is going to change, if anything is going to work, we have to fight corruption, we have to establish rule of law and order," he says.

"We cannot do it alone, because we are fighting the power, the authority, those with the money, and we need those who are good, who understands the need of such things to stand by us."
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PostPosted: 16-11-2006 22:27    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shoppers deceived in free-range egg scandal
By Valerie Elliott and Nicola Woolcock

CUSTOMERS across Britain have been sold millions of eggs passed off as free-range when they were produced in factory farms on the Continent, The Times has learnt.

A criminal inquiry is under way into how one firm alone might have been selling millions of eggs a year to High Street retailers who had no idea that they were part of a sophisticated scam.

Shoppers are believed to have been duped into paying double the price for free-range to avoid eggs from birds housed in battery cages. Many imported factory-farm eggs contain salmonella.

Police inquiries are centred on a business in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, where it is alleged that millions of cheap eggs were imported from France and Italy and repackaged and labelled as free-range. They were bought by wholesalers at free-range prices. The farm had its own free-range chickens and also imported genuine free-range eggs.

The egg industry fears that a prolonged investigation into the alleged fraud could blight the £220 million-a-year free-range market, which accounts for 35 per cent of the five billion eggs sold each year.

The business under investigation was selling around 360,000 eggs a week through Dean’s Food, the country’s biggest supplier. Dean’s supplies more than half the 1.75 billion free-range eggs sold in own-brand boxes to Tesco, Sainsbury’s Asda and Morrisons.

Retailers were last night urged to check immediately that none of their stock was being sold under the wrong label. The scale of the alleged fraud is unclear but the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) called in the British Egg Industry Council and leading supermarkets this week for a dressing-down.

Industry sources said that a whistleblower had tipped off Defra about alleged irregularities at the company. Imported eggs were allegedly stamped with bona-fide egg producer numbers.

John Widdowson, of the British Free Range Producers Association, said: “We are all absolutely outraged if this cheating has been going on and if proven we would support a high-profile prosecution.”

The British Retail Consortium said: “This practice is fraud, a deliberate attempt by rogue egg suppliers to mislead consumers and we fully support the immediate action that Defra has taken.”,,200-2455529,00.html

All right, I'll start: eggs-traordinary!
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PostPosted: 19-11-2006 17:13    Post subject: Reply with quote

My thoughts eggsactly!!!

A scam tried on me at an off liscence:
Miscreant buys gum with a £20 note, when you give him/her the change, they find enough change to pay for item in another pocket and ask for the note to be returned to them as they don't want a pocket full of change. They then proceed to swap money in a way that is meant to confuse you, and you end up returning their £20 while they have pocketed the other tenner. Can't remember the exact sequence, but it really was quite obvious. The guy attempting it seemed genuinely miffed as i slowly explained that he still had a tenner so I wouldn't be able to give him the twenty too!!!! This scam must work well as the guy turned up each Sept when you had a new batch of student employees to fool. Me serving him and making sure he knew I remembered him (staring into his beady eyes and smiling inanely did the trick) put a stop to his visits. Very Happy
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PostPosted: 20-11-2006 13:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a fairly trashy 15-minute program on BBC3 at the moment called 'the real hustle', where they pull off various very audacious scams on unwitting members of the public (and then get their consent to show the footage for "educational purposes"). Can't remember any of the specifics but some of them were really amazing.
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PostPosted: 22-11-2006 13:13    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a good one, from The Everything Tall Tales, Legends & Outrageous Lies Book by Nat Segaloff:

that one get's used in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, only using an 'antique fiddle' rather than a doggie...
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PostPosted: 09-12-2006 22:52    Post subject: Reply with quote

TV dentist jailed for £450k fraud
By Lucy Thornton

A DENTIST who won £64,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? was yesterday jailed for four years for a record NHS fraud.

David Heppleston claimed £450,000 over eight-and-a-half years for work on "ghost" patients and fictitious treatment on real clients.

He used the cash to prop up a bar business, pay debts and buy a bigger house, York crown court heard.

Judge Paul Hoffman said of his deception: "It was sophisticated. It was blatant. It was motivated by greed and nothing has been recovered."

Heppleston's wife had died leaving him to raise his son. The judge said he felt for his "wretched" situation but added professionals must be "scrupulously honest". Suspicions surfaced after Heppleston, 45, who ran a surgery in Scarborough, claimed to have fitted a huge number of crowns.

Heppleston, who collected his £64,000 cheque from ITV host Chris Tarrant in 2002, had earlier admitted 15 deception charges.

In early 2004, hundreds queued in Scarborough to register with a new NHS dentist with an estimated 17,000 people in the resort needing one.

When he shut his practice in June Heppleston had 5,000 patients, none of whom are thought to have a dentist.
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