Imagine walking through Times Square circa the 1980‘s when you notice a small crowd gathered on a side street cheering someone on. You see a gentleman standing behind a table throwing three bent playing cards over one another, spitting out his well rehearsed spiel: “Come on, come on, let’s go. You ready? All you have to do is find the red ace. Remember there’s two black cards, one red ace, find the ace and you win.”
Suddenly, you get drawn into playing the game and you do win—at first. Then you start putting your money on the table, and you win some more. You double your bet, and that’s your downfall, because you’re being scammed. These guys are in cahoots, luring you to play so that eventually you lose, big time.
This scam is long gone, at least from the area around my building, but scam artists still exist and they roam your neighborhood, forever proving there’s a sucker born every minute. Here are some of the better ones I’ve met up with during my regular eight-hour shift.
The sickly, just-got-their-stuff-stolen scam Okay, I got caught by this one. I was a part-timer, new at the job and some gentleman walked up to the doors one night. He looked dispirited. He explained that he worked in the area and his locker was broken into. He was a diabetic and his belongings consisted of his wallet, medical supplies including insulin, needles and blood tester. He even had I.D. stating he was diabetic. He needed some money to get home and I felt bad. I shelled out $5. Four months later, the same gentleman walks by and approaches the door. He tells me that he works in the area and his stuff was stolen from his locker and yada, yada, yada. Not this time bud.
Stereo equipment at low, low prices scam A van circles the neighborhood. One guy from the passenger-side window yells out if you’re interested in buying a home theater system. It’s directly from the warehouse and they have three extra they want to get rid of. They go for like $800 in the stores, but you can have it for $100, negotiable. What’s not negotiable is whether the system works when you get it home and they’ve gone to another universe far, far away.
Leather jackets better than Fonzarelli’s variation Possibly the same van, but this time they’re telling some story about an expo at the Jacob Javits Center and how it’s going to cost them a fortune to have some jackets shipped back, and by the way they have to be on a plane this evening. The jackets regularly cost $500 and up, but they’ll accept $50, even $40. Ask them if you can put a small piece of the jacket over a lighter or lighted match. If they say yes, chances are the leather is real, since leather shrinks from a flame without forming a hole. If they say no, tell them to go someplace so hot no jackets are needed.
The family that preys together scam This one takes the cake. A family of four, hubby seems to be looking at a map and they’re lost. The mother is half asleep, dead tired from tending to the kids, who are so exhausted they’re walking in their sleep. They’re from out West, they tell you, looking for some place to sleep for the night, a cheapish hotel. Problem is, they’ve run out of cash and it’s late. Are your heartstrings tugged yet? If anything, I give credit to the kids. Emoting a state of catatonia for a whole day should merit some kind of reward.
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