New Yorkers Falling Victim To Scams, Just Like Dumb Tourists

by BILLY GRAY · March 15, 2010

What is going on with savvy, street smart, no-BS New Yorkers? First came word of a sweeping price-gouging scam among cabbies. Now comes news of a resurgence of age-old con jobs successfully swindling us.

The Times broke news of the taxi scheme on Friday. In the past two years 35,000 of the city's roughly 50,000 cab drivers charged passengers double the proper fare (by switching to the fare applied to trips outside the city). One guy fleeced 574 passengers in a single month. Kinda quells your anger about those incessant subway fare hikes, huh?

Today the Post jumped in on the story of the dumbing down of New Yorkers, with a piece about how susceptible we are to scams that make those emails from Nigerian princes seem convincing. Jonathan Lemire notes the disappearance of three-card monte thieves from local sidewalks (I miss them and swear I made $10 off a game once in high school), but maybe getting rid of such obvious, public cons made us drop our guard.

Now, New Yorkers and tourists alike are falling for tricks including the street peddler hustle (a hawker of CDs, posters or souvenirs gives his product away and then violently demands payment), the pigeon drop (in which victims are given a bag of fake money "found on the street" by the swindler, who demands a retainer fee for so generously splitting his phony loot) and the broken glasses scam (grifters feign anger over a fragile item they claim their target broke and demand payment).

And just think of the mainstream steals embedded in daily life: the cost of a pack of cigarettes, a drink at Avenue, a mediocre lunch at Nellos.

Everyone might hustle in New York, but it seems that a lot of people are getting hustled too.