Pigeon drop

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Shredded paper

The pigeon drop (also known as Spanish Handkerchief) is a confidence trick in which a mark, or "pigeon", is persuaded to give up a sum of money in order to secure the rights to a larger sum of money, or more valuable object.[1][2][3][page needed]

To perform a pigeon drop, two con artists pose as strangers to each other and manipulate a mark into seemingly finding a large amount of "lost" money. The two con artists convince the mark that they can all legitimately claim equal shares of the found money if they each put up some amount of their own money to prove good faith; the mark, unaware that the two others are confederates, believes that they have independently judged this to be a wise course of action. The con artists take possession of the mark's money and hand over what the mark believes to be his share of the found money, or even the entirety of the find if he believes he has been made its trustee. In actuality, the con artists use sleight of hand to give the mark a worthless decoy, such as an envelope full of newspaper scraps. The con artists can then easily leave in the guise of fulfilling some part of the agreed-upon process, such as depositing the funds or filling out legal paperwork, and will be long gone by the time the mark detects the deception.[4][5]

In popular culture[edit]

In the opening scene of the 1973 film The Sting, Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones) pull a pigeon drop on a numbers runner for Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), resulting in the murder of Coleman. This provides the motive for Hooker to seek out Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) to run the titular sting on Lonnegan.

In The Golden Girls, season 5 episode "Cheaters," Blanche and Sophia are victims of a pigeon drop at the local mall. They are unaware of it until Rose points it out.

In The Rockford Files, season 2, episode 2 "The Farnsworth Strategem," Audrey Wyatt (played by Linda Evans) states she had only met Simon Lloyd "last year. He was working a bad variation of the pigeon drop scam and I cleaned it up."

In John D. MacDonald's book Pale Gray for Guilt, Travis McGee, with the help of his sidekick Meyer, takes $60,000 from a mark using the pigeon drop scheme.

In Better Call Saul, season 1, episode 4 "Hero", Jimmy uses a form of the pigeon drop with his friend Marco, using fake Rolexes or "rare" coins as the lure.

In the 2003 film Matchstick Men, Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage), Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell), and Waller's daughter Angela (Alison Lohman) attempt to pull a version of the pigeon drop on businessman Chuck Frechette (Bruce McGill). It does not turn out well.

In the 1987 film House of Games, psychiatrist Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) finds herself joining a group of con artists led by Mike Mancuso (Joe Mantegna) in what she believes to be a pigeon drop targeting someone else, only to find out later she was the true target of the scam.

In the 1967 film The Flim-Flam Man, Mordecai Jones (George C. Scott) and accomplice Curley (Michael Sarrazin) successfully conduct an intricate pigeon drop on Jarvis Bates (Slim Pickens).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swierczynski, Duane (2003). The complete idiot's guide to frauds, scams, and cons. Alpha Books. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-02-864415-8.
  2. ^ Paul J. Zak (November 13, 2008). "How to Run a Con". Psychology Today. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  3. ^ Arrington, Rick (2007). Crime prevention : the law enforcement officer's practical guide. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7637-4130-3. OCLC 65537949.
  4. ^ "Wisconsin woman loses $2,000 after being 'completely fooled' by wallet scam". Fox News. September 5, 2017. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  5. ^ Bird, Allyson (June 4, 2012). "Police warn of 'found money' scam". Post and Courier. Retrieved April 11, 2020.

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