Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jamaican Switch

I heard on the radio of an unclaimed lottery ticket in Daly City worth eight million dollars.  This reminded me of the Jamaican Switch scam.  This is a reprint that ran over the summer.  It could be helpful to you, a relative or friend.  Please spread the word, so everyone's holiday season isn't ruined by some clever con artists.

Here it is:

Let’s talk about an old scam called the Jamaican Switch.  These scam artists usually strike a few times and then leave the area or lie low.  We haven't seen them in some time, so maybe they're due to resurface and ply their illicit craft.
The Jamaican Switch, or sometimes called the Pigeon Drop, plays on the greed of the victim.  The criminals play on the victim's vision of making a large amount of money in just an hour's worth of time.  There are usually two suspects.  They can be men or women.  One suspect plays the role of a hapless person needing help and guidance.  The other suspect plays the role of an incidental Good Samaritan.  Here is how it plays out:
The victim, also known as the mark, is walking to the supermarket, department store, or through a business district or coming from a bank.  One suspect approaches the victim with the bait.  The bait could be the lure of a large amount of cash, a winning lottery ticket or even gold bullion.  The suspect tells the victim, "I am new to the area and have fifty thousand dollars in my bag.  I don't trust the banks.  I don't have any family, but you look honest.  I'll pay you if you help me.  Can you help me?"  The suspect opens the bag and shows the victim a large amount of cash.  The victim takes the bait and tries to offer advice.  This is when the second suspect walks up to the victim and the first suspect and says, "I happened to overhear your conversation.  I think I have a solution to your problem."  The second suspect explains that he and the victim can put up "good faith money" to show they are honest and wealthy enough not to cheat him.  Once the good faith money is shown, the victim can deposit the fifty thousand dollars in his bank.  All three agree.  The victim goes to his bank, withdraws five thousand dollars and proudly shows his good faith cash.  A quick slight-of-hand is done between the suspects, and the victim is handed the bag of cash.  The suspects promptly excuse themselves, and the victim walks to his bank to deposit his small fortune.  Usually at this time, the victim begins to feel uneasy and wonders if this was too good to be true.  The victim looks into the bag and finds cut up newspaper.  He turns around to look for the suspects, but they've disappeared in thin air with his five thousand dollars.  The victim is literally left holding the bag.
Bank tellers are trained about this scam.  If the teller has a customer who withdraws a large amount of cash, especially when the customer rarely deals in cash, the teller will ask what the money is for or if he had been talking to strangers with tall tales.  Some victims actually respond by saying they're going to Lake Tahoe for the weekend.
Some suspects are so smooth, the victim will drive them to the banks and even to their own home.  Some victims even offer jewelry for the "good faith" cash.
The best defense to stop this scam is to be informed and immediately call the police when you have been propositioned.
Captain Louis Cassanego