Confidence Games, Scams and Ripoffs, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

Life in the USA is a complete guide to American life for immigrants and Americans. All materials on this site Copyright © Elliot Essman 2014. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    Next

Life in the USA
Everyday Life
Personal Safety

Confidence Games
Confidence games often victimize foreigners or people who cannot speak English. A confidence artist may even be a person from your own ethnic group or country, who specializes in building trust based on your common national heritage.

Be extremely wary about any situation in which you and another person “find” money. One sign of a confidence game is that the other person trusts you too easily, then wants you to come up with some money to prove your honesty. Another common swindle involves fortune tellers or “reader-advisors” who tell you that your money is “cursed”. Rest assured that they would be happy to take the “cursed” money off your hands--and spend it.

If some thing or situation seems “too good to be true”, it probably is. Hundreds of confidence games and swindles exist. Sophisticated companies advertise goods by mail that are never delivered. Other companies operate legally--but very deceptively--by telling you that you have “won a prize”, and that they are ready to send it to you once you pay them a “handling charge” of $20.00 or so. (If you ever do receive the prize, be sure you will be cruelly disappointed at its quality; it will never be worth more than the “handling charge.”) You might have someone come up to you on the street and try to sell you a watch or television which has supposedly been stolen. Cheap and worthless imitations of expensive goods are often sold on the streets. Supposed appliances are sold on the street in sealed, shrink-wrapped boxes filled actually with newspapers (anyone can buy a plastic shrink-wrapping machine).

Another confidence game to watch out for is “Three-Card Monte” or the “Shell Game”, played out on the street. You cannot win this game. Skilled gangs use "shills" who look like normal people and who actually win money at these games. The spectators then get excited and lose their own money very quickly.

Many confidence games exist. Your local police department will probably have a publication that can help you avoid them. Your local public library might also have some information.


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