Other Con Artist Stories

by Joey deVilla on November 26, 2001

My “con man” stories from the past couple of posts have stirred up something. Friends and family have been telling me about how they were recently approched by con artists.

Clothes make the scam

This happened only a couple of days ago. My dad was using an outdoor ATM in the parking lot of a Royal Bank, out in the deep suburbs of Toronto. A man approached him and asked for directions to the airport. He gave them, after which he was asked “Would you like to buy a Prada suit?” The man said that he had some overstock that he had to get rid of because it would actually cost him more money to bring them back to the warehouse. He pointed to a white van parked in the lot. This seemed way too sketchy, and as my Dad said, “even if it was legitimate, who’s going to buy a suit in a parking lot? You can’t try it on.” Sounds like a variant of the white van speaker scam to me.

More bank machine hijinks

A couple of months ago, my friend Adina was burned in a scam that’s been making the local news. She tried to withdraw money from the bank machine when it suddenly refused to work and wouldn’t return her card. A stranger offered to help, saying that this sort of thing sometimes happens and the way to fix is to repeatedly enter your PIN number (the “secret code” you have to enter). As Adina entered it, she noticed that the stranger was leaning a little close for comfort. The card never came out, and the stranger assured her that she could just get a new one from the bank on the next business day.

What she didn’t know was that the stranger put some kind of device in the card reader slot, causing it to be stuck part of the way in the machine. The stranger’s touchy-feeliness was just a way of covering up an attempt to see her entering her PIN number. When Adina left, the stranger retrieved her card, and knowing her PIN number, had complete access to her bank account. All the money was drained from her account, and a cheque for a large amount of money was deposited and withdrawn from it as well.

What’s in the box?

My old high school pal Nat was once approached by a guy offering to sell him a video camera for around a hundred bucks. Nat’s a screenwriter and director, and being able to get a video camera on the cheap sounded appealing to him. However, he was a little short cash and had to talk his friend into loaning him some money for the camera. As the deal drew to a close, the stranger grew increasingly agitated and Nat got slightly suspicious. Wanting to make it clear that he was no sucker, he said “Hold on. I want to see this box. I’ve bought empty boxes before.”

The stranger opened the trunk of his car and handed Nat the box. It was a sealed box for a video camera and had the right heft to it. As soon as he got the money, he drove off. Nat opened the box to discover that he’d really bought a stack of old magazines.

Recommended reading

ATM safety tips: Here and here. and more ATM safety tip: Good advice, especially since they’re phasing out tellers in favour of ATMs.

Forget the PIN, just look into the ATM’s camera: An old CNN article on ATMs using eye-scanning instead of a PIN number to identify customers.

Crimes of Persuasion: A site devoted to “schemes, scams and frauds”. Check out the section on street scams.

Next on AccordionGuy

All this talk about scams reminds me of a sketchy business I used to work for, and how I managed to get out of a street scam in Prague. As long as I’ve got a theme going, I might as well milk it…

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