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Confidence tricks

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2009

Wikipedia’s list of confidence tricks page is very entertaining. Consider the pig-in-a-poke:

Pig-in-a-poke originated in the late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but apparently rats and cats were not. The con entails a sale of a (suckling) “pig” in a “poke” (bag). The bag ostensibly contains a live healthy little pig, but actually contains a cat (not particularly prized as a source of meat, and at any rate, quite unlikely to grow to be a large hog). If one buys a “pig in a poke” without looking in the bag (a colloquial expression in the English language, meaning “to be a sucker”), the person has bought something of less value than was assumed, and has learned firsthand the lesson caveat emptor.

A trick called the glim-dropper requires a one-eyed accomplice.

One grifter goes into a store and pretends he has lost his glass eye. Everyone looks around, but the eye cannot be found. He declares that he will pay a thousand-dollar reward for the return of his eye, leaving contact information. The next day, an accomplice enters the store and pretends to find the eye. The storekeeper (the intended griftee), thinking of the reward, offers to take it and return it to its owner. The finder insists he will return it himself, and demands the owner’s address. Thinking he will lose all chance of the reward, the storekeeper offers a hundred dollars for the eye. The finder bargains him up to $250, and departs. The one-eyed man, of course, can not be found and does not return.

A con called The Ogged contains a very specific example of its use.

A new con trick born in the age of blogs. For this scam, the con artist creates a pseudonymous internet persona and befriends a group of people online who will become his marks. Then the scammer feigns some terrible disease, such as stomach cancer. Finally, the scammer subtly pushes the idea that his online “friends” could pitch in for something to make him feel better, such as a $700 gift certificate to the French Laundry. After the boon is received, the scam artist claims a miraculous recovery or doctor error. Finally, once the gift certificate has been cashed, the con artist claims that he must “go on hiatus” or even quit blogging altogether.

I can’t find any evidence that the FL gift certificate incident ever happened or documentation of a trick called “The Ogged” anywhere aside from Wikipedia. Anyone? (via bb)

Update: Several people wrote in about “The Ogged”. The inclusion of the term appears to be a joke. A couple of years ago, a blogger named Ogged posted that he had cancer (but not really), he gets a gift certificate to The French Laundry, the cancer comes back, and then it was added to Wikipedia as a joke. (thx, everyone…especially andy)