We hope that no one ever has to suffer the embarrassment and heartache of being swindled. That being said, there’s something fascinating about the classic cons–and their catchy nicknames. These frauds have been around for a long, long time, but they are still effective today.
This scam gets its name from an old con in Japan. Melons were very expensive at the time this scam was popular. Con artists would buy a melon, “accidentally” bump into a tourist and drop the melon, then insist on being paid an inflated price. The tourist, feeling guilty and not really know how much things were worth, would pay up.
These days, the scam usually involves a wrapped box full of broken glass or pottery. The con artist bumps into you and drops the box. Then they spin a yarn about how it was an expensive gift for their mother to elicit sympathy. You pay up, apologizing all the while, and they walk off with your cash.
If an attractive young woman ever approaches you with a tale of a missing engagement ring, beware! This scam targets retail employees or restaurant workers, and involves the promise of a big reward from the poor woman who lost her ring. She leaves her information with you, and a while later, somebody walks up with the missing ring in hand.
The idea is that you’ll pay them a reward and then collect your own finder’s fee from the fiancée. Of course, she never shows up and the number that she gave you is bogus. And that “diamond” ring? It’s a total fake.
Think you’d never fall for it? A con artist ran this scam in Oakland for over a year in 2018.
This con is as basic as it gets. You’re walking down the street when a good Samaritan tells you that there’s something on your jacket. Sure enough, there’s mustard on it! The con artist hustles you out of your coat while appearing to “help” remove the stain.
But while you’re distracted, he’s removing everything of value from your pockets.
This might be the most famous–and long-running–scam in history. The classic scam involves a con artist who claims to represent a wealthy nobleman who has been wrongfully imprisoned in (you guessed it) Spain. They need your help–specifically, your money–to help free him. In return, once the nobleman returns home and can access his wealth, you’ll get a huge reward.
The con artist may pressure for more money, citing complications or bribes that need to be paid. This keeps going until the victim either refuses or has nothing left to give.
The basic structure of this scam is better known today as the “Nigerian Prince” scam. And yes, people are still falling for it.