On reading the story about how a bus-load of police arrested a large gang of Romanian three-card-trick con men on Westminister Bridge recently, you might reasonably ask how members of the public allow themselves to be such mugs in the first place.
Well I would if I hadn't lost a week's wages to similar street tricksters. It still hurts and I can remember every second even though it was more than 45 years ago.
In a side street off Charing Cross Road I stopped to watch a small crowd gathered around the 'dealer' who was shuffling three cards face down on an upended cardboard box inviting the 'watchers' to Find the Lady (the Queen).
The 'dealer' plays slowly so you soon come to the conclusion you can always spot which one is the Queen. He's playing a 'mug' - and winning easily. He distracts the 'mug's' attention at the last moment by switching cards.
Easy money I thought if you don't let the dealer distract you. Quite soon from the back somehow I was in the front row.
Then I acquired a 'friend'. The man next to me whispered, "That bloke's a mug; as long as you put your fist on the card, it's a dead cert."
I agreed. A split second later the 'friend' grabbed my wrist and slammed it down on a card and shouted, "A fiver for me and my mate." With my free hand I pulled a £5 note out of my meagre wage packet. When upturned, the card was not the Queen, and I'd lost.
This is the really galling bit. Instead of walking away, I fell for the whole thing a second time. I went home with just coins in my pocket.
I don't know the sleight of hand behind the con but I understand perfectly the psychology that lures the innocent to part with their cash.
The 'dealer', the 'mug', the 'friend', probably the 'watchers' (useful if the victim complains) and 'lookouts' for the police were all in the scam.