Bait & Switch Fraud – The Pigeon Drop Scam

In this scam, there are two dishonest people working as a team to deceive you and part you from your money.

Conveniently, Scammer#1 will “find” a bag, package, etc, stuffed full of bank notes, just as you pass by them in the street or shopping centre.

They will then stop you to ask if you know anything about it.


Alternatively, they may have already “found” the cash and will bring it up in conversation after stopping you to chat about something else.

Seemingly doing the right thing, the scammer and the potential victim then open up the bag and check for identification.

This will reveal that there is none, however, a scribbled note will suggest that it is the proceeds of some sort of illegal activity, such as drug selling.

With this being the case you realise that returning the money is not feasible.

Enter Scammer#2, the passer-by who just happened to see the bag get dropped or chucked out a car window or whatever.


Working as a team, Scammer#1 and Scammer#2 will then try and entice the victim into sharing the money.

By encouraging the victim to partake in the decision making process they aim to appeal to their sense of greed.

One of the scammers will, naturally, work for a lawyer, thereby giving them the means to lay a legal claim to the cash.

It’s not a simple question of just filling in some paperwork though.


The lawyer has a lot of legal maneuvering to do which of course costs money.

Therefore, the scammers will suggest that you all make an equal contribution to the cost of claiming the small fortune.

They will get the victim to add, typically at least a few thousand dollars, to the bag and will then drive to a lawyers.

Once there, the victim will be left outside whilst the scammer enters the building.

Unseen, the scammer will leave the bag somewhere safe or pass it off to another accomplice before exiting.

The victim will then be told to contact the lawyer in a week or so and they will have a one third share of all the money.


It goes without saying that after the week has passed the victim will call or visit the lawyer only to find they don’t exist and that their money has gone.

Another alternative to this is that the two scammers will be in a hurry and need quick cash – they will take a few thousand dollars as their share and leave the victim with the entire bag of money.

In this scenario, the victim takes the cash to the bank only to open the bag and discover that it has been switched for an identical one full of worthless paper (hence why the victim is called a pigeon – they are left holding the scraps) whilst they were expertly distracted.

It is useful to remember that, whilst we would hope everyone would do the right thing, it is unlikely a stranger would offer to share a large sum of money they have just found – it’s far more likely they would keep it to themselves!

Watch a video of the pigeon drop scam here.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. I wondered what the pigeon frop was ever since I heard it mentioned in Lost as done by Sawyer.

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