Found Money: Good Luck or the Start of a Scam?

Every year thousands of dollars are scammed via the Internet or slick-talking con artists on the phone or e-mail. Even old scams leave scars on the elderly.


There is no honor among thieves. Why should there be? They're thieves. Occasionally we get caught up in the Robin Hood Syndrome and think--maybe just for a second, that some thieves are doing good by what they steal or who they steal from. One word: Fiction, or no, or BS which stands for...okay two words.

Thieves are crooks. They are bottom dwelling, knuckle dragging, mouth breathing scum. Get the picture? They steal for what we work so hard for. They steal because they're lazy.

Excuses? Plenty. "Mommy didn't love me enough." "We were poor and didn't have anything." Here's my favorite: "I only steal what I need. Baby formula, diapers, and a bottle of Jack Daniel."

Don't come across with "poor me." There are hundreds of jobs waiting for someone to take them.

Thieves steal because it's easy.They steal from kids and they steal from the elderly, the sick, the weak, and even those who have passed on. Seriously, they are not good folks. 

Thieves come in many separate packages. There are the boosters or shoplifters. Car hoppers, purse snatchers, car thieves, bike thieves and even lawn mower thieves. Many, many different varieties of thieves.

If you read my "Weekly Wrap-up" e-mail, (if not e-mail me at srose@sandyspringsga.gov and yes, I shamelessly plug it,) you will be familiar with the shopping cart thefts of wallets from purses from yes, little old ladies.  Those are thefts of credit cards, personal I.D. and cash; maybe a couple of hundred bucks. Most of the time the cards are used within an hour or two and then canceled. It is a crime but recoverable at some point.

Lately though, an old sore spot resurfaced. The age-old "pigeon drop" or "found money" scam. (Google it so I don't have to explain in detail.) Oh nevermind, here it is: The victim, ususally a senior citizen, is approached (always) by a female. She has found a bag of money next to the victim's car. "Is it yours?" The honest victim says "no." The female opens the bag and there is cash and maybe (winning of course) lotto tickets or something that represents an immediate financial benefit to all.

The female says "I don't know what to do. I'll ask my boss, a reputable business person (of course) what we should do. A phone call later the woman tells the victim that they should put the money in the bank for 30 days and if no one comes forward, they will split it. Now there are variations of the details of this stage but always, the money is to be put away for a short time. The woman then proceeds to convince the victim that they are on the brink of wealth and all they have to do is either put up earnest money or money to be used for taxes, or some other means of claiming a stake until the time comes to split it.

Now at this time are you saying to yourself "Who would fall for this?" Someone who saw something for nothing and just plain didn't think it through.

Unfortunately, part of the scam involves intimidation. Remember the "boss" on the phone? Many times he will then contact the victim who of course exchanged phone numbers with the woman, and take over the scam. He tells her that she is to tell no one of this otherwise they may not be able to split the money and she will ruin it for everyone and that will make him very unhappy. At this point, they start throwing numbers out like hundreds of thousands or millions.

What happens next is greed and fear. The hook is always greed. Something for nothing. The fear is from the strong male voice on the other side of the phone line who sounds like he's six-foot fifteen and three hundred pounds.

Soon the victim puts thousands of dollars in the hands of total strangers who will look after the funds. The "earnest money" is gone and so are the thieves. Many of the victim know something is wrong during the course of the scam but are fearful that something bad will happen if they tell someone. Of course we find out when the victim finally cannot keep this to themselves and confide in a family member. Most of the time it is too late.

This old scam has many variations. Sometimes two nice ladies introducing temporary stock deals of a lifetime that are done in a parking lot. Professional looking business women who remind the victims of their daughters are the bait. Business deals normally done in a corporate office environment are done in an unusual place are hints that this isn't a legit deal.

Scams don't hold up to questions. The thieves know that they have to convince the person up front that this is going to financially benefit them. They have to get the greed factor in there quickly. Skepticism is your friend. Use it.

If you're a senior citizen, then don't make impulsive decisions. If this scenario presents itself, then disconnect and call the cops. If your parents are in their nest-egg years, know that they are particular targets of scams and cover the subject with them one night at dinner when your mother makes her famous salmon patties, the ones you hated so much when you were a kid. 

The best defense against fraud is information. Use it.

And for the record, I hate salmon patties. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

EdwardsHeating & Air November 25, 2012 at 01:38 AM
But have you tried Salmon Patties with a little mayo and hot sauce mixed together?


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