Don’t be a ‘pigeon’ and accept something for nothing
by Charlie Sewell
November 02, 2013 11:43 PM | 6567 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Retired Powder Springs Police Chief Charlie Sewell
Retired Powder Springs Police Chief Charlie Sewell
Does the word “free” make your ears perk or do you see red flags and hear bells clang? Years ago, I was on patrol near a shopping area and noticed a young woman standing on the side of a road in a place not common for pedestrians. I approached and asked her if everything was OK, and she replied by describing a vehicle she was trying to find. My intuition prompted me to ask her if she had given the driver any money. As instantly as a baby realizes mother is not in sight, the woman began to sob. She had foolishly given $5,000 cash to a complete stranger.

This woman was approached by a man (accomplice) who asked for directions to the post office. During the conversation, an older woman (scammer) walked up and asked if either of them had lost a bank bag? The older woman said she found the bag beside a bench. When neither the young woman nor the man claimed the bag, the older woman opened the bag and counted out $50,000.

Out of the goodness of her heart, the older woman offered to split the money three ways with the two strangers. Insert big red flag! The man said they should look around to see if they could find the owner. The older woman agreed but insisted they each put cash in the bag as collateral. Red flag and a clang!

The man stated he would go to his bank to withdraw his portion of the collateral. The young woman agreed to ride to her bank with the older woman to withdraw her collateral. The young woman exited her bank, inserted her cash into the bank bag, and the two women drove back to reconnect with the man. After the man placed his $5,000 in the bank bag, the older woman handed the bank bag to the younger woman.

With the young woman holding all the money, the trio agreed to split up and search for the owner of the bank bag and reassemble in 15 minutes. Clang, clang, clang – hello! It didn’t take but a couple of minutes after the older woman and man left before the younger woman started to feel a little dose of reality.

In her vision of getting something for free, something that did not belong to her, the younger woman became a casualty of a confidence game called the pigeon drop. She opened the bank bag to discover the original bank bag with $50,000 plus collateral had been switched for a bag containing stacks of precisely cut, dollar bill-size newspaper.

I questioned the younger woman exactly why it was necessary for her to put $5,000 in the bag to get one third of the loot. She answered with an almost unintelligible “I don’t know.” It was at that moment I realized the answer to my perplexing question was the word greed.

As the shopping season approaches, scammers turn up the heat on unsuspecting victims. Before accepting something for nothing, decide how much you are willing to give up. Everything has a price.

Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs monthly in the Marietta Daily Journal.

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