The Definition: First, a word about the name Melon Drop Scam. You may or may not have been aware that at one time, melons were selling for more than £40 each – in
That scam has morphed itself into a much broader hustle. Now, a lovely lady scammer practices her nefarious trade using more common valuables, and on a much wider sample of folks walking the streets.
The Mark: Usually a male (remember, our scammer is a fetching female) who is well-dressed, walking in an up-market part of the city. He looks like he would want to avoid a scene, and he looks like he has a few pounds in his pocket as well.
The Scam: There are three distinct phases to this scam: the “bump”; the “apology”; and the “appeal.” Here’s how it works:
While walking in an area of high-end shops, our scammer is carrying a wrapped present, which ostensibly contains an expensive vase. In truth, the present contains nothing but broken glass, which has been packaged and festively wrapped during the set-up phase of the sting.
When an appropriate mark is spied, she positions herself so that she is walking in front of him, and at a slower rate of speed. As the mark comes to a position just behind and to the side, our scammer abruptly stops and turns – forcing the mark to bump into her.
Crash! To the ground drops the present containing the “vase”. The startled mark immediately stops to help out, often reaching down to pick up the package while the hustler is bemoaning the entire unfortunate situation. Phase One has been completed.
Now the scammer starts to create a scene, loudly blaming the mark for his carelessness. The more the mark protests that perhaps it was she who was walking carelessly, the more our phony “victim” howls in protest, as she shakes a boxful of an obviously broken vase. Now what? This was a present for mum! The poor mark is caught in a most embarrassing situation; heads are starting to turn. What is he to do but apologize? And so he does, and in doing so the vise tightens on his cash. He has been maneuvered into Phase Two, and by apologizing, has admitted some fault. Our scam artist knows quite well how to exploit this inadvertent “admission.”
She’s on her way to see mum for her birthday. What is she to do now? She cannot afford another vase…how much is it, you ask? Why, its £60.
Struggle as he might, the mark is sinking deeper and deeper into the scam, and now come Phase Three, the appeal to his decency. He is asked to “be reasonable.” He is mightily embarrassed, and now he is being advised by the mark to “do the decent thing.” Finally backed into a corner from which his only escape is to flee a damsel in distress, which he will not do, he reaches into his pocket and the negotiation begins. Where does it end? Twenty pounds later? Thirty? Fifty? Whatever the final amount, our poor mark has wrongfully enriched the scammer, who will move on to her next victim.
The Lesson Learned: Can we advise you not to be a gentleman? Hardly. As is the case with so many of these scams, the set-up is so well-thought-out and the execution so well-rehearsed, that it is often not possible to extricate yourself from the clutches of a determined scammer. All we can do is try to shine a bright light on the many and varied forms these scams take, and hope that by becoming educated, we can avoid becoming victims ourselves.