78-year-old woman scammed out of $42,000 in 'pigeon drop' con

A 78-year old local woman was scammed of $42,000 last month, in a modern version of the old “pigeon drop” confidence trick, according to the Renton Police Department.

A male approached the victim as she was returning to her car in the parking lot of Fred Meyer in downtown Renton, according to a police news release.  He pointed at a wallet on the pavement and asked if it was hers; she told him no and that he should turn it in to the store.

The female suspect then approached, picked up the wallet, and opened it so the victim could see that it contained a large amount of cash.  Both suspects got into the victim’s car to discuss the “find.”

The male suspect claimed to be a “most-trusted” employee at a nearby bank and offered to take the wallet and contents to the bank to have them checked out.  While he was “at the bank,” his female accomplice (“Diane”) began talking about banking, using technical terms and industry jargon that made the victim feel like she could trust her.

The male returned to report that the wallet contained $1,000 bills that could not be cashed, but that the bank officer offered to buy the bills and would pay them $50,000 each. The suspects began talking about the need to buy the bills before they could get their money back, and told the victim they needed $45,000 in cash, according to the news release.

Leaving the male behind at the store, the female accomplice rode with the victim to five banking establishments, where the victim borrowed a total of $41,650.  At 6 p.m. the women returned to the Fred Meyer parking lot, where the male suspect was waiting.  He took the cash from the victim and said he was going to the nearby Key Bank to make the transaction, according to the release.

When he didn’t return, the female accomplice told the victim to drive to the bank to get her money – and got out of the car.  The victim drove to the bank by herself, parked, and walked to the door only to realize that the bank was closed and no one was inside.

Because the victim withdrew the money on loans on her existing accounts, general banking policy is that she will be required to pay it back - with interest, according to the release.

The suspects are described as:

• Light skinned black male, about 40 years old, 5-foot-9 and weighing 180 pounds.  He was wearing beige-colored clothing with an old-style golf hat (not baseball style).

• Black female 40-50 years old with a heavy build (not obese), chin-length black hair that was puffed out around her face, wearing a purple business skirt/suit.  She called herself Diane, smoked a lot, and seemed nervous.

The news release reports that according to the AARP, the elderly lose billions per year to scammers.  In some types of scams, seniors may be targeted more often than other age groups.  Additionally, elderly and vulnerable people are less likely to report the crime for fear of being seen as incapable of taking care of themselves.

There are many scams out there, and everyone is a possible target, according to police.  If something looks or sounds suspicious, it probably is … so take as much time as you need to make a decision: stop and talk to a trusted friend or family member if you’re offered something for “free.”

Remember, if you’ve been targeted, probably someone else has too – so report it to your local police.

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