Pigeon drop is the name of a confidence trick in which a mark or "pigeon" is convinced to give up a sum of money in order to secure the rights to a larger sum of money, or more valuable object. In reality the scammers make off with the money and the mark is left with nothing.
In the process, the stranger (actually a confidence trickster) puts his money with the mark's money (in an envelope, briefcase, or sack) which the mark is then entrusted with. The money is actually not put into the sack or envelope, but is switched for a bag full of newspaper, etc. The mark is enticed to make off with the con man's money through the greed element and various theatrics, but in actuality, the mark is fleeing from his own money, which the con man still has (or has handed off to an accomplice).
In popular culture
- An elaborate version of the pigeon drop can be seen in the movie The Sting.
- In a three-part episode of The Jeffersons, "Mission: Incredible", Tom Willis becomes the victim of a pigeon drop.
- Details about the pigeon drop are in the movie House of Games.
- The lottery scam in Matchstick Men is a pigeon drop.
- Another version can be seen in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, in which a criminal fools two tourists into cashing fake chips at a casino after having them leave a deposit with him. When they return, he is gone.
- A version of the Pigeon Drop, wherein the mark pays thousands of dollars for a worthless fiddle misrepresented as priceless, is described in Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods by Mr. Wednesday as the Fiddle Game.
- In the Travis McGee novel Pale Gray for Guilt, a variation on the pigeon drop plays a key role in the plot.
- It can also be seen on the "Numbers" episode of Showtime's Bullshit!.
- There is a pigeon drop in the "Cheaters" episode of The Golden Girls.
- In the American TV Show Lost, in the episode "The Long Con", confidence man Sawyer demonstrates a pigeon drop with his new accomplice, who is in fact the target of a much larger "romance" con.
- There is a story in the documentary show Unsolved Mysteries that shows a lady who was a victim of the pigeon drop.