FLORISSANT, MO. (KPLR) – Police in Florissant are warning residents, particularly the elderly, about a string of so-called “pigeon drop” scams which they fear may spread as the holidays approach. It’s a con where the suspect confuses the person, gains their trust, then rips them off.
Florissant police say it begins with the con man stalking his prey, following them to a public place like a grocery store parking lot. Incidents have occurred at the Dierberg’s on Lindbergh, a Save-a-Lot just down the block, and a K-Mart on West Florissant, among other locations.
Police say the suspect approaches, flashes a wad of money, and offers to pay a hefty sum for a ride. It turns out the person being taken for the ride is the elderly victim if they allow the bad guy into the car. Soon the suspect strikes up a conversation.
“Asks the victim, would they mind holding this money for them?” Florissant Police Officer Andy Haarmann explains. “Because they’re afraid of losing it or afraid of getting robbed, and they just don’t trust banks to put it in a bank. Would they mind holding on to it for them?”
The victim is convinced to go to an ATM. A Bank of America on New Halls Ferry is one that was used. There, the victim is convinced to take out a sum they’re told is the same as whet the suspect has. In one instance it was $3000.
Next, according to Haarmann, “They play a trust game. Suspect asks the victim, ‘Okay, if we can trust each other, how about you hold on to all my money and all your money while I walk around the block, and when I get back if you’re still h ere with all the money, then I can trust you.’”
Then the victim reciprocates. But when the victim or “pigeon” takes their walk, the con man takes off with their cash.
Haarmann says they’ve worked five such cases, just in Florissant, in 2012. He fears, however, there have been more that simply weren’t reported to police.
“They’re just embarrassed. Once they realize they got scammed, they don’t want to let anybody know. They don’t want to let their families know. They don’t want to let police know. Because they’re embarrassed of what just happened to them.”
As the holiday season approaches, Haarmann says his department is consulting with other agencies, hoping to prevent more of these sort of scams by others. Police don’t think this is the work of just one man.