Deceptively simple - the craft of the con artist

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 December, 2003, 12:00am

The methods employed by the street swindler always appear obvious when put down on paper, but they prove effective, year after year.

Invariably they exploit the victim's good nature or greed. The following is the top five list of con tricks for this year, up until November.

1. 'Help! I need your phone/money'

Culprit poses as a tourist in distress and asks to borrow money or a mobile phone from the victim, leaving them a false contact number. 218 cases.

2. 'Evil spirit be gone'

The victim is taken to see a holy man to expel an evil spirit, in a ritual involving the use of personal valuables or money. When the victims are returned their 'valuables' in a bundle, they find only worthless items. 120 cases.

3. 'Let's split the money'

A 'passer-by' agrees to split some money which they find lying on the ground at the same time as a victim. Another person then arrives and accuses the passer-by of stealing the cash. They apparently decide to settle the matter at a police station and appear to give the victim the dropped money in a bag for safekeeping. In return, the victim hands over valuables or other cash as collateral. The pair then disappear, and the victim is left with a bag invariably containing only paper. 68 cases.

4. 'Those electronics are worth a fortune'

The victim is asked on the street to watch over some electronic parts, in return for a fee of about $300, while the conman 'returns to the office'. A second swindler then turns up, and tells the victim that the goods are extremely valuable and suggests that if they can be bought for the right price, a huge profit could be had. The first conman then returns and agrees to sell the victim what turn out to useless electronic parts. 54 cases.

5. 'It'll cure anything'

Culprits approach a victim trying to sell some herbs/pills/medicine by exaggerating their clinical effect. Alternatively, they lure the victim into buying the products as a joint venture, with the promise of huge profits. 22 cases.