It's easy to be fooled by the title of this blog into thinking that Pigeon Droppers are actually poop drops from real live pigeons, but that's a far cry from what it actually is.
I'll fast forward about a half century then go back. During a phone conversation with a cousin, who still lives in Arkansas, she mentioned Pigeon Droppers at which I exclaimed, "Oh girl, I had forgotten all about those people. Are they really still around?" With that, she told me about an incident that was in the recent news about a Pigeon Dropper who had just "ripped" off an unsuspecting victim.
Now, back to the 1950s. I'm not sure where these con artist got their name, but I suspect it's because of the pigeon's nature. When you're least expecting it, this nasty bird flies over your head, quickly drops on you and before you can look up good, he's gone on to his next target – while you're stained with his stinking splatter ball. Well, that was the nature of these flim-flam artists.
Obviously, I was never a victim, but I'll try and recall what I heard about how my grandfather and our neighbor, "Mr. Walker," got ripped off. These crooks are never from the parts where they intend to perpetrate their crime, so no one knows who they are. They come usually to older people and to those who appear more isolated from the rest of the social scene. I think they got "Mr. Walker" before they got to my grandfather.
Here's how it goes. Two people (a man and a woman) approach a gullible, unsuspecting "mark" (a country person) and ask about buying some land from them for cash. By the way, I never heard of any townsfolk being ripped off. Rural people are usually more friendly and accommodating than "city slickers" thus easier targets. These crooks are also very warm, friendly and outgoing, and the kindly rural person is taken in by this behavior.
So, this couple expresses an interest in purchasing some land (which they have no intention of doing), but in the meantime, they need change for some large bills and ask the "mark" to go to the bank with them and withdraw money from their account to exchange with them – which doesn't make any sense, except the con doesn't have an account in a bank and doesn't want to draw attention to himself by asking for change. Or they ask the "mark" to go to his stash in his old-fashioned trunk and get a large sum of money (bills) for them. They'll need change for when they're ready to make the purchase, and they'll pay the seller in small, cash bills.
My grandmother was more shrewd and a bit more suspicious and less trusting than my grandfather. The minute she saw those crooks walk up, she warned Granddad that those people were up to no good, but I guess men are a little more hard-headed than women. So, my grandfather didn't listen. And before he knew it, those turkeys had him change some money for them. They switched their phony bills for his real bills and disappeared like a snowball on a sweltering summer day.
I've left out a lot of details, but the bottom line is this. The con needed change for a large sum of money, and he would ask the unsuspecting "mark" to give him change. The "mark" would give the con the cash. In the meantime, the con (who had already pre-rolled his money to appear to be the right, legitimate amount) would exchange his money for the "mark's." The "mark" had no idea he had been cheated until after the con had left and he opened his roll to count the inside newspaper, which should have been his change.
While I don't know exactly how it happened, but based on what I was told, this is pretty good conjecture. I do know that each year, somebody that we knew well got "took." I went online and sure enough there is information on this scandalous scheme, but it doesn't read like the ones that fooled the poor people in my rural community. The bottom line is that ruthless crooks fooled some innocent victims out of their hard earned money, and that within itself is bad enough.