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Green Goods Scam: Wikis


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The green goods scam, also known as the "green goods game", was a fraudulent scheme popular among 19th-century "confidence games" in the United States. In the typical green goods scam, which bears a resemblance to the modern 419 Scam, the mark, or victim, would respond to flyers circulated throughout the country by the scammers ("green goods men") which claimed to offer "genuine" counterfeit currency, sometimes alleged to have been printed with stolen engraving plates, for sale. The victim, frequently recruited from areas outside major cities, would be enticed to travel to the location of the green goods men to complete the transacton. After meeting with an accomplice (the "steerer") the victim would be shown large sums of genuine currency - represented to be counterfeit - that was then placed in a bag or satchel, which the victim would be offered the opportunity to purchase at just pennies on the dollar. While the victim negotiated a price or was otherwise distracted, another accomplice (the "ringer") would switch the money for a bag containing sawdust, green paper, or other worthless items. The unwitting victim would then exit, unaware of the switch. After discovering the ruse, it was believed that very few victims would report the crime, as attempting to purchase counterfeit currency was itself a crime and the victim accordingly risked arrest.


1. Timothy J. Gilfolyle, A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York (2006).

2. Alas, Poor Innocent, An Old Trick at the Green Goods Game, New York Times, November 27, 1887

3. Green Goods Men Turn to Burglary, New York Times, July 12, 1907

4. Green Goods Fraud By Machinery Now,New York Times, November 19, 1910



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