The Sting Maybe?
On the American Movie Classics (AMC) channel, the movie The Sting has been showing over and over these past couple weeks. Paul Newman and Robert Redford play the likable con-men who cheat people out of money. In the movie, bad people are the victims of the sting. If it were only so in real life.
During one of the breaks for the movie, the AMC host mentioned that there are millions of cons of one sort or another operating each year. In Michigan here, a woman lost her life savings, $295,000 to a network of con artists who used three separate scams to coax her to mail 12 pounds of money to Europe and thousands of dollars of wire transfers to Canada. Police say they'll likely never catch the crooks, nor retrieve the money.
Although I’ve received numerous e-mail scams over the years, I’ve never met a con-man in person. But after an incident last weekend when my wife and I were on vacation, I wonder. See what you think.
Wendy and I were outside the main visitors’ center at the Smoky Mountain National Park standing in the parking lot. It was late in the day and the parking lot had cleared out for the most part. But there was a group of men on motorcycles at one end of the lot where we had parked.
As we approached our car, a middle-aged man got off his motorcycle and walked over. He asked if we were "from around here." In one hand, he held a large vinyl zippered bank bag with the name of a North Carolina bank on it.
We said, "Sorry, we’re not from around here" and continued to get into our car. The man smiled, voicing some forgotten pleasantry, but it seemed to me like he wanted to talk to us about something. We never gave him the chance.
Now, I just could be extremely cynical. Okay, I AM extremely cynical. Ask my wife. But as soon as I spied the bank bag, the first thought that came into my mind was "pigeon drop." There are many variations of that found money scam. In the movie The Flim Flam man, George C. Scott (another likeable con artist) gets the pigeon to put up his own money in order to collect a share of some found money in a wallet because there is an uncashed check that Scott says he can cash at a local bank.
Other variations involve the pigeon putting up his own dough as earnest money or for attorney’s fees. My thought was that this guy was going to say he was from out of state and couldn’t carry a bank bag that large riding a motorcycle (I wondered about that too). So he would give us the bank bag which probably contained some worthless cashier’s check of a large denomination, if we would put up some of our own money to share. So he ends up with some of our spending cash, we end up with a few small bills and a bum check.
Okay, so am I being too paranoid? My wife thought he might be just another time share salesman. We have run into those before too. Or maybe he just wanted directions to the nearest town.