The Con Man
and his crew represent that they can give access to advance information available to no one else, for a price. The off-track betting tale from The Sting
was a Delayed Wire
Advance stock-price movement, "hacked" access to currency fluctuations, a "tip" on zoning regulations that will boost the price of real estate are all updates of the kinds of information for sale. A key element of the tale (called the "hook") lies in convincing The Mark
that he has a short window of opportunity to cash in, in a situation where he has all the control. Often the mark is steered toward "discovering" the illicit operation in such a way that he feels he can threaten to call in the police.
A variant is the Reverse Pyramid Scheme, where a large pool of potential marks are given predictions about events, and only those marks who have received correct predictions are retained. The pool dwindles to a small pool of marks who have received a stunningly accurate series of correct calls and are then offered one last prediction at an obscene price.
open/close all folders
- The Sting has a horse racing variant.
- The immortal "tootsie-frootsie ice cream" scene from A Day At The Races.
- The Grifters uses this as a long con.
- The end of Trading Places.
- Wall Street has Budd Fox tell Gordon Gecko that Blustar Airlines is about to settle a strike and the stock should soar on this news when Gecko is interviewing him for a high-level Wall Street role. Budd is desperate to impress Gecko and passes it off as his research. In reality, this is insider trading, since Budd knows it because his dad is a union rep for the airline. Of course, Gordon then learns the truth - and doesn't care, because trading on inside information and manipulating the financial press are all in Gordon's bag of tricks.
Live Action TV
- Done in the first series finale of Hustle, which references The Sting, then again in the first episode of fifth season.
- The Remington Steele episode "Sting of Steele", inspired by the movie The Sting, plays this trick with betting on overseas sports results.
- An inversion of this took place in an episode of Series/FX:The Series, where Rollie delayed the transmission at the gambling house so he could find out the winner and relay the info to his father (a gambling addict who owed a lot of money), who would then bet on the horse and get out of debt.
- The Dukes of Hazzard had an episode involving a gambling operation like this. The Dukes turn the tables on them by Luke intercepting the phone call with the winner, giving the gambling house fake results and a disguised Daisy (wearing the most unflattering outfit she ever wore on the show) bet on the real winner.
- Used in an episode of The Riches, as are several other types of cons,
- Alias Smith and Jones, in "The Great Shell Game"
- Is the original con in the Leverage episode "The Bottle Job".
- Neal and Peter have to pull one in the White Collar episode "The Dentist of Detroit". Several references to The Sting are made. It's even an off-track betting tale.
- The Reverse Pyramid variant was used in one of Square One TV's Mathnet serials—the first serial after their transfer to New York, in fact. A character calling himself "the Swami" sent predictions to pretty much all the retired lawyers in the city, including a basketball game, a football game, and a trial, before separately offering the last seven the name of the winner of a horse race for $5,000.
- In an episode of M*A*S*H Hawkeye discovers that Frank has been cheating enlisted men by betting on baseball games, the broadcasts of which are delayed until midday for the sake of the troops but Frank listens to the live broadcasts overnight. Hawkeye breaks into the radio feed (with Radar's help) and broadcasts a bogus game, which Frank then loses big time on.
- Mission: Impossible episode "The Money Machine" uses 'advance information' about a copper mine and a moved-up government deadline on a loan to reel in the mark.
- An episode of Las Vegas ran around a similar scan. It involved delaying the satellite broadcast of East Coast football games and waiting until the last possible minute to enter the bet (and seeing who won).
- A self-running version of the Reverse Pyramid was a minor plot point in an episode of The Simpsons. While it was never explicitly revealed, Lisa pointed out how incredibly easy it would be for a sports prediction pamphlet to print both possible outcomes in different books, thus priming the handful of people who only got correct predictions to blow loads of cash on their call-in line.
- Truth in Television! Those who can act on changing market conditions first hold an advantage over those who get the word later and allows the first movers to profit from arbitrage. Advances in communications like carrier pigeons, stock tickets and telephones would provide sizable profits to early adopters in the finance industry. Currently companies are battling over who can build the shortest fiber option line between the commodities markets in Chicago and the Stock Exchanges in New York as a time advantage of even a few milliseconds can generate substantial profits.
- Though this is not a scam. It is simply a competitive advantage, regulators have been trying to ban high-frequency trading (computer automated trades that can detect minute fluctuation in the market and buy/sell stocks within milliseconds) for years now.
- Possessing real information in advance is called insider trading, and is illegal, but often very hard to prove.
- A common variant is posting on common sites about stocks and trading based on the information you are putting out there. This can happen through TV shows, podcasts, and even internet forums. Of course, since so many are receiving the same information (often of dubious quality) and act on it, the prediction becomes self-fulfilling.
- The Motley Fool podcast includes a disclaimer that its panel guests may own or have interests in companies they talk about. So at least they put it out in the open.
- The Reverse Pyramid Scheme is a favorite for scammers when it comes to sports bets. Find a pool of pigeons, send them predictions for big games, then offer to sell your "insider" picks for a game which is sure to have heavy betting. NFL games are a favorite target.