Thursday 20 June 2013

Scam Art Sam : The Man of Authority Scam

Dear Scam Art Sam,

This one has significant variation, but it can be a highly profitable (with quick and sometimes outrageous rewards) for an often minimal effort (in some cases, you can just show up and hold out your hand).  If you get your set up right, you can make a happy career.  On the flip side, the risks are considerable (if the Scam gets on the wrong side of your government’s anti-corruption campaign, and you don’t change jobs or angles in time, it could mean really big trouble) and the preparation is extensive, especially if you are a real Man of Authority, and not just an actor.  In the case of the latter, you’ll need to hone your performance skills, follow your strategy right, and get out when the shit hits the fan.  In the case of the former, you’ll need money, family connections, the proper qualifications and characteristics, and possibly years of training, and all this just to get you through the door of being a cop, gendarme or border guard; it could take an equally monumental effort to secure the good grounds to set up the Scam.

The good news is, if you are a real Man of Authority with a few years behind you, and you’re in the right country, all kinds of bad money will come your way.  This is where the scammers give you a cut of their earnings, and it means you won’t have to do the dirty work yourself.  In other words, you will be safer from discovery, be surrounded by scapegoats, and can feel a little better about yourself.  But let’s consider this tithe-receiving position as the ultimate reward for the Scam at hand, which we will now discuss.

You Will Need
The personality, confidence and base interpersonal skills of a cop.  You may want to work this Scam as a pair, or even with more – but keep your circle of Scammers tight, and with their eyes on the ball.  I recommend you have a uniform, identity card or badge, belt with a lot of unseen gadgets and, if possible, a gun (the bigger the better).  It is definitely easier if you actually are a police officer, gendarme, customs official, border guard or other authority figure, but not essential: acting can take you a long way, and if you set the Scam up right, your Mark will have no way of verifying you are who you say you are.  And if you’re good, they won’t even think to question it.

Your Grounds
Are in a country where you can get away with this, probably in Africa, parts of Asia and eastern Europe, and Central & South America, typically with a high rate of tourism and/or travelers passing through.  They should be a good distance from central authorities (like capital cities) and anyone in power who might take issue with you scamming tourists and travelers for money.  The best grounds are found at borders, ferry crossings and other barriers that bottleneck travelers; if you are a real Man of Authority, you may get the chance to man road checkpoints, which can be just as good.  Less recommended, but still lucrative, are other spots where you can plant yourself: perhaps as a traffic officer pulling over motorists for made-up reasons, or even just as a beat cop walking around asking for people’s papers.  The most important element about your grounds is that they help you, and your Scam, appear more convincing.

Are, or appear to be, a Man of Authority.  Beyond that, the Scam is your art: you could be young or old, charming or mean, elusive or up-front, smooth-talking or cryptic.  You might speak the same language as your Mark or be bewildered by his speech.  So long as these traits and qualities are consistent and fit into your strategy (good cop vs. bad cop, bribe vs. payment, etc.), they can all work.

Your Mark
Can be almost anyone if you are actually a cop and can play this at a high level.  But for those at a beginner or intermediate scamming degree, this is anyone not from your part of the world, and who obviously hasn’t spent much time there.  Tourists will be your bread and butter, and you can also get a good pull from ill-aware and unexperienced travelers.  You may decide to prey upon your own population, but the returns are small and eventually they will turn against you.  This Scam can be very effective if you have your community on your side, blaming your Mark for all their troubles.

Your Target Emotion
Fear.  But not just fear of you personally – in fact, it might be effective for the Mark to like you and trust you – this is fear that their whole trip will fall apart, that they’ll have to experience the inside of a foreign jail, or best of all, fear of assault and death. 

The biggest trick with instilling this fear is that, logically, you should feel it more.  Typically, the stakes will be higher for you than for the Mark: if they get wise, refuse and report you, you could end up in deep shit.  Then again, if you’re smart in the set-up, you’ll lodge this Scam in a country and organisation that is just as corrupt as you are – and the Scam will be everything but official policy.

You can also try annoyance, impatience, or resignation to the bullshit.

The Scam Itself
Is not just about getting bribed.  In fact, the more you can make your Mark feel like he is making a legitimate payment, the better.  The whole point is, you are catching the Mark at a moment when he is afraid of you and what you might do (delay him, charge him even more, send him to the station, keep his licence or passport, arrest him, hurt him, shoot him, etc.) and usually when he is unable to continue – say, at a crossing where you make, or appear to make, the decision.  If the Mark is convinced the payment is legitimate, he will almost certainly be willing to pay more.

The Methods
  1. The Traffic / Vehicle Infraction. You are a Man of Authority. The Mark has committed a traffic (u-turn, gone a foot past the stop sign, etc.) or vehicle offense (incorrect storage, no fire extinguisher, etc.). It is irrelevant whether the offense is real or invented. The Mark must pay you x amount of money. Make sure you get the Mark’s licence or passport immediately, and hold onto it. If the Mark insists on an official ticket, hold out for a bribe for less than the amount they will pay at the station.
  2. The Missing Document. You are or pretend to be a Man of Authority. The Mark is driving or on foot, and does not have a particular document on hand. It is irrelevant whether or not what you say is the law.
  3. The Crossing. You are or pretend to be a Man of Authority. The Mark cannot pass without paying you x amount of money.
  4. The Delayed Crossing. You are or pretend to be a Man of Authority at a crossing, where there is a delay. You offer the Mark to get him ahead of the queue, for x amount of money, mentioned then or later. You may or may not actually help the Mark get ahead, but if you choose the latter, make sure you get the money before your false effort is exposed.
  5. The Advanced Delayed Crossing. Same as the above, but with exquisite sophistication and a whole team of which you will be in charge. 1) The Buddy, who makes friends with the Mark and always has him in sight. 2) The Rebel, to whom the Buddy openly reports, who loathes corruption and wants to shepherd the Mark through without bribing anyone. 3) The thieves who try to steal from the Mark, but are stopped by the Rebel and the Buddy at the last minute. 4) The Uncle of the Rebel, who has some authority, and who will help the Mark get ahead of the queue but at the last minute asks for money, or a gift. 5) The security officer who sends the Mark to the back of the line when the Uncle disappears, accepts some money for the Mark to stay, and begins a scruffle with the Rebel and the Buddy. 6) You, who come in to fix the whole situation in the middle of the chaos and will let the Mark go just as the ferry is about to leave – for a fee. A huge fee. By now the Mark should pay.
  6. Just Demand Money. When in doubt or desperation or in sight of those one-in-a-hundred Marks who will pay whatever you tell them, just crisp up your uniform, puff out your chest, and demand x amount of money. Many, a glorious many, will simply shut up and hand it over.
For obvious reasons, this Scam carries big risks, both if you are actually a Man of Authority, or just pretending to be. In both cases, it is usually not so much a case of getting caught, but who you are getting caught by. Be wary of those who might be setting you up, of targeting the wrong Mark, and, if you are acting the part, that your grounds don’t go stale or your contacts sour. Here are a few other pieces of advice:
  1. Pick the right Mark. Learn by experience to know by sight alone who should a Mark, and who should not.
  2. Know your Mark’s price. Even if you know the Mark will pay up, there may still be a limit to his tolerance and his bank account.
  3. If the Mark turns out to be too big a risk, let him go. Don’t risk it. If they start asking too many questions, insisting on receipts or names, let the Mark go. You may win today, but it could come back to bite.
  4. Never give your real name. 

The best part about this one is the infinite possibility of variation: complexity or simplicity, real cop or fake, a lot of small returns or a few big ones.  There are whole careers made off the Man of Authority Scam.  Why miss out?

Happy scamming,