Jamaican switch or handkerchief switch is a confidence game very similar to the pigeon drop. It manifests in various forms, although all follow a similar pattern. The offenses normally employ at least two suspects. The first suspect is “the catch” and is playing a foreigner from a third world country. The second one is called “the cap” and he is playing a bystander who doesn’t know you nor the first suspect, “the catch”.
If there are other con artists involved in the game, you usually will not know about them as they are only observers who signal if anything goes wrong.
How The Money Switch Unfolds
The Catch Apporaches You
You are approached on the street by “the catch” who will pose as a foreigner with a large amount of money, needing your assistance for whatever reason. The pretending foreigner may inquire you about a location and tells you that his taxi driver just dropped him here on the street.
As you try to give him the location details, you fail because this place doesn’t exist. It’s only a bait to get you involved in further conversation. “The catch” plays a foolish outsider with incorrect English and a foreign accent. Through the continuing discussion you are asked for assistance and feel compelled to help the “foreigner”.
“The catch” tells you more about the large sum of money and asks you how he could protect it. He says he does not know your country and is playing unaware of the dangers that come with carrying so much money, by waving with the bag of money and talking out louder. In effect, it seems that you are becoming more protective of the money than the “foreigner”.
Somewhere in between “the catch” determines that you are suitable as a victim and he signals “the cap” to join the conversation as a pedestrian who just came to walk by and managed to hear a part of the discussion. If necessary he will repeat to this new person all that was told to you before.
The Cap Joins In
“The cap” will caution him about showing the money in public, as people will rob him. “The catch” will explain that he can not take this money back home because of political turmoil. He may show letters from an attorney or insurance company indicating the amount of money and a letter from his home country explaining that he cannot bring the currency back for whatever reason.
He asks for your help in protecting the money and put it in a safe place. He promises to make it worth your while and give you a cut. And why wouldn’t you? He seems lost in this foreign country. If you don’t help him, he may get hurt in one way or another. In addition you will get a share for helping him. One good thing after another.
At this point a discussion about banks may ensue which will help determine if you have money in the bank. “The catch” does not trust banks and would rather give the money to you or “the cap” to safeguard it for him until a final decision is made.
“The catch” will clarify the various reasons why the banking system is not a good option. As the two strangers discuss, you explain the security involved in banking and that banks in your country are completely safe. In the end, “the catch” comes to the conclusion that if you can prove to make a withdrawal, he will be convinced that putting the money into a bank is a good option. With a bit of free time on your hands, you accompany the foreigner to the bank just to show how easy it is.
The Deal Is Made
In order to prove that banks are no big deal, “the cap” offers to withdraw the money from an ATM. Of course the withdrawal goes smoothly. However, “the catch” is still not convinced. Could someone else, withdraw a bigger amount and from another ATM?
“The catch” gives you his money too so that you can be sure he is not playing any tricks on you. The sum of money that he gives to you is hidden in a handkerchief (or an envelope). You proceed to withdraw your money as well. Who would have known, it worked as well! As you come back “the cap” suggests you put your money inside the same handkerchief or envelope that was given to you. For safety reasons.
The Handkerchief Switch
Grateful for the lesson, “the catch” wants to pay you for your time and service. He tells you to open the handkerchief so he can give you the amount of money that was meant for you. He also quickly demonstrates how the people in his country secure their money; a demonstration that involves the money you have just withdrawn from the bank.
He opens his jacket, inserts his hand with the handkerchief, exchanging it with an identical one and giving you back the handkerchief. “The catch” asks you if you could please wait for him, while he goes to the toilet. And if you can safeguard the envelope or handkerchief for the time being.
After a while of absence, “the cap” offers to go look for “the catch” as well and follows him behind the corner. If all went as planned, you now hold a fake handkerchief in your jacket. And the con artists are gone with the real handkerchief and the money you have just withdrawn.
The Bottom Line
This scheme will seldom work without “the cap”. This third person plays a crucial role in heightening the level of your trust and keeping your feelings of suspicion to a minimum. “The cap” will do everything first and if he seems to trust the stranger, why shouldn’t you?
The getaway vehicle driven will be within reach at all times. All have learned their special sign language or use micro-technology to communicate with each other. In any event, they can quickly disappear from the scene.