Handkerchief Switch – Jamaican Switch

Handkerchief switch or Jamaican switch is a scam which was first seen on the southern coast of the United States over one hundred years ago. Handkerchief switch is a confidence game 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 usually 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.

handkerchief switch - jamaican switch

You are approached on the street by “the catch” who will pose as a foreigner with a large amount of money. He received this from the insurance company; his father who recently passed in this him foreign country; or a similar settlement. The foreigner inquires you about a location and tells you that his taxi driver whom he paid a hundred bucks just dropped him here on the street telling him he will find this place here. 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 fix the wrong done to this seemingly innocent victim of a greedy cab driver. “The catch” tells you about the large sum of money and plays to be 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 scared about 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 all that was told to you before. “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. So he thinks out loud, if I can’t bring this money home I will donate it to a humanitarian organization or church. Please help me and I will promise to make it worth your while. 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 to spread the money between humanitarian organizations. 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”. But how can he thrust you? How can he be guaranteed that you won’t steal all the money? In order to prove your honesty you both should deposit a larger amount of dollars inside the bag that already contains the insurance money he got. Your deposited money will only be used as a good faith sign and will be returned to you afterwards. So the story. “The cap” immediately agrees and goes to the bank to withdraw a few thousand dollars. He fills the bag with this newly acquired money and “the catch”, who is very religious, asks both “the cap” and you to place your hands on the bundle while they pray that the money will help those whom it is donated. Then it is your turn. If you go to the bank, both appearing strangers to themselves will usually wait outside while not talking much with each other. If you go to your home they will accompany you. While you discuss the money with “the catch”, “the cap” will ask to use the bathroom. A theft of whatever valuable property seen may take place or information about contents of the house gathered for a later burglary.

Once you acquire the cash and put it in the bag along with the other money, “the catch” wants you all to place hands on it an pray again. At this point there is some distraction, either conversation with “the cap” or something convenient which gives “the catch” time to switch the bag containing the real money with a previously prepared false identical bag of same weight. “the catch” now receives an important call and “the cap” offers him a ride. “The catch” gives you the false bag for safekeeping until he returns. After they leave the area, taking the your money with them there are zero chances of their return.


This scheme will seldom work without “the cap”. The getaway vehicle driven by the observer will be within sight at all times. All have learned their special sign language or in some cases use mini technology to communicate with each other. In our example we used a male model, but the con artists can just as well be women.

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I would love to see any information about the secret movie. Do you have any? thanks.


Is there anyone on the site that has actually done this?