The Definition: The Ring Reward Scam taps a single mark for some serious money with a practically worthless bauble. A “lost and found” scam, it intricately sets up an unsuspecting barman with an eye for both the ladies and a few hundred suspiciously-gotten pounds. When he fronts reward money to the finders of a lost “diamond” he finds himself the victim of a real hustle.
The Mark: A local bartender in a quiet pub, lazily going about his business, setting up for the night’s trade. This turns out to be one mark we cannot feel too sorry for, since it is not only his greed that winds up costing him dearly – but also his dishonesty.
The Scam: The setup for this hustle starts with the purchase of a seemingly expensive ring, but which is actually a cheap piece of costume jewelry worth no more than £5. In the hands of a seasoned scammer, this junk will be passed off as a genuine diamond ring worth more than £3,000!
The sting starts with a fetching female scam artist, the owner of the “diamond” ring, walking into a pub on a quiet afternoon, and striking up a conversation with the bartender. After asking him to make change of a £50 note (to establish herself as a woman of some means), she casually mentions that the fifty is a birthday present – today is her 21st birthday! – and that she is waiting to meet a friend. In the world of hustlers and scam artists, however, there are no real friends. She is waiting to meet an accomplice – another striking female – and together they will set what’s known as The Honeytrap.
The accomplice has but a single job; after loudly congratulating the hustler on her “big day,” she must casually inquire about birthday presents the hustler might have received to mark the occasion. This is a key moment in the swindle, because the scammers must make sure that the unsuspecting bartender gets a peek at the fake diamond ring, and overhears it’s wildly inflated value. Within earshot of our mark, the hustler lets slip the fact that it cost £3,500.
Their turn on the stage is done; they have more-than-befriended the bartender, who is smitten with the two lovely ladies, and have given him false knowledge of the value of the ring. Having tossed the bait is in the water, the Honeytrappers depart the scene.
Within a short period of time, the male half of the scammer’s team enters the pub, posing as a couple of mates dropping in for a pint or two. This triggers the next phase of the scam: the phone call. It is the birthday girl.
Referring to the bartender by name (to help cement their “friendship”), she anxiously inquires if the bartender has seen a black box that she is afraid she has left in the pub – a black box with a valuable ring inside! The mark, knowing perfectly well what black box she is talking about – walks out from behind the bar to take a look. It’s not hard to figure out that the two scammers posing as mates have found the ring, and naturally, they are not pre-disposed to simply handing it back without a proper thank you.
The mark reports this turn of events back to the scammer on the phone, who promptly instructs him to offer £200 as a reward. Hanging up, the mark now shows his true colors: he offers twenty pounds for the return of the ring, figuring to put £180 in his pocket when his lady friend returns to pick up the ring and fork over the £200 reward.
With the hook now firmly set in our greedy little mark’s mouth, the scammers reel him in. Twenty quid is not enough, they insist, for such an obviously expensive piece of jewelry. Fifty might do it, though. Greed getting the better of him, the mark agrees to the fifty, and with more than a little irony, pays of the scammers with the very fifty pound note given to him at the start of the scam.
Our gang has invested £5 and a few pints to pick up 50. Not a bad hour’s work, and duplicatable many times over the course of a day. If they are lucky enough, this ring of thieves will find an honest barkeep that will front the entire £200 for the benefit of his fair lady.
The Lesson Learned: There is nothing wrong with doing the work of a Good Samaritan – we cannot counsel against it. But always think twice when you are handing over your own money to a nearly complete stranger. One of the sad by-products of a swindle is the unfortunate effect it has on otherwise generous folks. When they feel they have been punished for doing a good deed – they are less likely to do one again.