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The Con
aka: Massive Multiplayer Scam

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This type of plot has been done hundreds of ways, with dozens of names in every language, so pinning down exactly what each element is called can be difficult. It starts with the Con Man, who might also be called a grifter, a hustler, a scam artist. They hatch a plan, which might also be called a grift, a ripoff, a swindle. They target a victim, who they may call the mark, the rube, the sucker. The con-artist tells their victim some sort of story (perhaps with props and assistants) to gain their trust and run away with their victim's money.

Yes, this is basically the act of pickpocketing, except that instead of having dexterous hands, the confidence man has a silver tongue. Sweet-talking the victim might take only a few moments (where you're probably only getting the money they had in their wallet and maybe not even all of that), or they might take place over the course of several days and weeks (in which case, you'll probably need some help to keep the scam going, but you're looking at a much bigger payday).

A short con ("Hey, can I hold your wallet for a moment?") by definition doesn't take very long and establishes the conman's credentials. A longer con can form the basis of an entire storyarc, pulling an elaborate theft by multiple members of the crew gaining the trust of their victims and betraying that trust in a critical moment. A fictional version of the long con may involve a payday of millions of dollars for everyone in on the scam.

Other roles in a confidence game include:

  • Someone to filter through the options and find/prime the victim. This is typically an attractive woman, but a small child is also good. This person typically meets a lot of potential marks and is looking for which one will be easily fooled by the story being told by the group. A common name for this role is the roper.
  • Someone to provide urgency for the scam. This can be in the form of competition ("There's only one left, let me cut in ahead of you.") or in the form of cooperation ("Check out how much I got from their last investment strategy!"). A common name for this role is the shill, as they appear to be providing third-party approval of the scam, but are actually part of it in the first place.
  • A different form of urgency is a way to discourage the victim from chasing after the members of the scam. The scam may have involved an illegal investment, and the FBI or local SWAT shows up to capture the scammers, but the victim manages to get away. Except... the so-called police were in on the scam as well. The victim now believes that a more powerful group has control over their investment, and knows not to bother the con artist who, despite being released, is still being watched and can't get the money, either.

See also An Offer You Can't Refuse or a Leonine Contract, where the mark knows they're being cheated but can't do anything about it.

Not to be confused with a Fan Convention, or with someone who is in jail due to being convicted of a crime; though an unsuccessful confidence man might end up there.

Related tropes:



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Lupin III is both a gentleman thief and a conman. Think of him as a eastern version of Bugs Bunny. The Mystery of Mamo does this in the Streamline dub when Jigen expresses his incredulity at what Lupin's studying after the Philosopher's Stone job.
    Jigen: If you buy that, I've got some Siberian beachfront property on sale.
  • In One Piece Film: Gold, the Straw Hats fall victim to one when they get lured to come to the VIP area of the casino they're in and tricked into playing a game of Craps against the owner of the boat they are on, Guild Tesoro. After they end up losing (thanks to one of Guild's associates having a Devil Fruit power to steal luck), Guild reveals that everyone in the room, the workers and the guests, work for him and the whole thing was to put the Straw Hats under his debt.

    Comic Books 
  • Hellblazer series is an example of this trope, although its plots features supernatural (say fictional) elements. John Constantine, the protag, is known in the DC Universe as the "Ultimate Con Man", which he got from conning his enemies with wit, including the Devil and God themselves.
  • Loki is not far behind, if there is someone in the Marvel universe they didn't con, and they already conned themself, that must be probably part of a con yet to come. This is more evident in series featuring his kid (Journey into Mystery (Gillen)) and teen (Loki: Agent of Asgard) versions who don't have the raw magical power. They're the kind of guy who would con Mephisto to get an inside man for a caper that turns out to be a diversion for a spy mission.
  • Robin: Tim's dad Jack falls for a con which involves some crooks going around claiming to be contractors looking to repair damage after the big quake but requiring a heavy deposit since things are so hectic. Tim manages to get the money back as Robin and tells his dad they came back and said they were too busy while getting the con artists arrested. It foreshadows Jack losing the family fortune not long after.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Huntress uncovers a rather sinister nested con where a group of conmen convince thieves and other criminals they'll help them fake their deaths and get away to start a new life, and while they do help some of them fake their deaths once they have all the information they need to take a larger percentage of their target's loot they kill them and cremate them, which explains why the fake deaths are so successful at keeping their supposed temporary allies hidden from authorities.
  • Doctor Doom often conned Latverian nobles in his early years, with help from his Gadgeteer Genius qualities. For example, he sold a device that he claimed was a violin that played amazing music regardless of the player's skill, but was actually a remote-controlled radio.
  • Walt Disney provides at least three examples:
    • In one José Carioca story, José gets out of an American jail by paying his bail with Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil. Later he gets himself a disguise by trading a random key, which he claims is for the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car, for a random person's clothes. And in another story aliens come to Earth to sell the moon to humans, when they try selling it to José, he ends selling the Sugarloaf Mountain to them.
    • In a Mickey Mouse story, Goofy gets conned into "buying" the Eiffel Tower during a vacation with Mickey in France, prompting Mickey to look for the con man and bring him to justice. At the end of the story when everything is resolved, Goofy announces to Mickey that he bought Notre Dame, causing Mickey to faint... but then Goofy takes out a scale model of the cathedral from his bag.
    • Scrooge McDuck once buys the actual deed for the Castle Sforzesco in Milan from a thief who happened to pick it up. The purchase isn't remotely legitimate, but because the story needs to lead to a faux-medieval battle over the castle, the offended officials of the city recognise his claim because he shoots at them with a cannon when they try to disagree.
    • An Uncle Scrooge story has Scrooge and his nephews trying to buy famous landmarks from all over the world. Everybody just angrily tells him no, until he gets to "buy" the Cheops pyramid from a local huckster in Cairo.
  • In a Le Petit Spirou book, Spirou and his friend sells the local church to a Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense Eaglelander.
  • Goes awry in at least one Superman comic — an alien buys (the Metropolis equivalent of) the Brooklyn Bridge, then miniaturizes it and carries it off.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Modesty Blaise story "Take Me To Your Leader" revolves around an alien visitation — complete with flying saucer, heat rays, Missing Time incidents, and all the trimmings — witnessed by a disparate group of people under circumstances that make it unlikely any trickery could have fooled all of them. It turns out that it's an elaborate con aimed at one man, a respected scientist with the ear of the British government, and everybody else present for the incident is in on it. After uncovering the truth, Modesty remarks that it's possibly the one explanation even less likely than it actually being aliens.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes Calvin tries to sell Earth to some aliens.
  • In Alan Moore's Tharg's Future Shocks strip "Grawks Bearing Gifts" in 2000 AD, the Grawks are alien (and stereotypically Australian) tourists, who have people lining up to play this con on them, until they reveal that under Galactic Law all these sales are valid, and they now own the planet.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 36 Hours (1965): Just before D-Day in 1944 the Germans try to get an American intelligence officer to reveal the time and location of the landings by setting up a fake American military hospital and convincing him that it is 1950 and that he has had amnesia and forgotten the last six years.
  • The Deputy Prime Minister in Ali G Indahouse plans to raze Staines so that Heathrow Airport can be expanded.
  • American Honey: Jake is a member of a traveling crew who sells magazine subscriptions. While trying to make a sale in an affluent neighborhood, he claims to a mother that he is with a "collegiate communications competition" and needs the money for school.
  • One of the main characters of An Education partakes in "blockbusting": a scam often performed prior to the 1970s in which a Shady Real Estate Agent would convince white homeowners into selling their homes at a loss to them by implying that black people or other racial minorities would move into the neighborhood and cause property prices to plummet.
  • Big Fat Liar: The climax is Jason and Kaley getting every single person that Marty Wolf has pissed off during the film (and that is a lot of people) together to pull a Humiliation Conga scam on Wolf that will end with him giving an Engineered Public Confession.
  • Blazing Saddles: The railroad line currently being built has to be re-routed through the town of Rock Ridge. Big Bad Hedley Lamaar comes up with a scheme to drive out the town's residents and acquire the land cheaply, then sell it for millions to the railroad company.
    Hedley Lamarr: Unfortunately, there is one thing standing between me and that property: the rightful owners.
  • In Blonde Crazy, Bert thinks he's going to get big bucks with his counterfeit bill swindle with Dapper Dan, but what Dan is really doing is stealing the actual cash.
  • The Brothers Bloom shows three cons, one after the other. The last one gets complicated.
  • The basic plot of Burn After Reading is that a few morons discover a manuscript for the written memoir of a former intelligence agency employee and, falsely believing it to contain classified information. After trying and failing to ransom it back to the author, they try to sell it to the Russian government. The Russians can't be fooled though and reject what turns out to be useless drivel.
  • In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale thinks he found an attractive woman willing to take a romp with him only for her to reveal herself as a high-class prostitute. Frank turns the tables on her, by overpaying her with a phony cashier's check and receives his change in cash, effectively tricking a gorgeous hooker into paying him $400 for a night of testing the hotel's bedsprings. According to Frank Abagnale's book (which was the basis for the movie), this incident ultimately cost him big-time as the hooker gave the FBI a description of him, something they didn't have before then.
  • Circus contains multiple nested cons, to the point where it becomes hard to work out just who is conning who. As a tip, whoever thinks they are winning at a particular point, probably isn't.
  • Confidence is about a group of con men, led by Jake, who successfully pull a con on a mark at the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately for Jake and his crew, the mark turned out to work for King, a mobster, who kills one of Jake's men. To make it up to King, Jake agrees to pull a con on a mark King chooses, but there are a couple of problems - Morgan Price, a banker also involved with the mob, is the mark, and Jake is being pursued by Special Agent Gunther Bhutan, an old adversary is. Except Jake is actually conning both King and Morgan, and Gunther is actually a Dirty Cop working for Jake.
  • The Con is On: Despite the title, The Caper Harry and Peter plan is not a classic con game. Instead it is part con/part heist, with a lot of improvisation thrown in.
  • The TV movie, The Cover Girl Murders. On a remote island, Rex (Lee Majors) a ruthless and greedy magazine owner fighting a hostile takeover, gets his models together for a big issue. One by one, they're killed off as suspicions grow huge. Attacked by one model accusing him of being the killer, Rex shoots her in self-defense and his long-time aide says he'll keep it quiet in exchange for Rex signing over half the company to him. Rex does so... at which point, all the "murdered victims" walk in with smiles, revealing they're the new board of directors for the company and this whole thing has been one massive scam to get back at Rex for his behavior and also save the magazine from his mismanagement. They leave the island with Rex just sitting stunned at how this could happen.
  • At the end of The Dam Busters, a high-ranking official shakes the hand of the scientist that pitched the plan for Stuff Blowing Up: "I didn't believe you, but now you could sell me the Brooklyn Bridge!"
  • A variation in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown as vigilante Kersey is brought to a mansion owned by millionaire Nathan White. White, who lost his daughter to crime, wants to finance Kersey and gives him information on wiping out some local gangs. After escaping a trap, Kersey returns to the mansion only to find a complete stranger claiming he's Nathan White, back from three months in Europe. Kersey realizes the man he's been dealing with is another drug lost using Kersey to take out his rivals.
  • Derailed has Charles (Clive Owen), a married man, meeting up with Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston) and soon intrigued by her and her tales of her late daughter. They share a hotel room only for a man to burst in, beat Charles down and rape Lucinda in front of him. The man then calls Charles and demands a huge payoff or he'll reveal the affair to his family (the same reason why Charles can't report Lucinda's rape to the police). Charles gets his friend Winston to try and scare the blackmailer off only for Winston to be shot dead and holds Lucinda hostage to get Charles to pay up. Charles does and tries to move on with his life, going to see Lucinda one last time at her office... and meets a completely different woman who identifies "Lucinda" as her temp, Jane. Charles realizes this whole thing was a massive scam and finds Jane already pulling another mark into a romance where the "attacker" (her real husband) is ready, pushing Charles to pull his own scam in retaliation.
  • Diggstown involves a Battle of Wits between a hustler and a conman over a boxing match. Both try to rig the match in their favor, but the conman ends up coming out on top, when he anticipates the hustler bringing in a Super Ringer in the form of a guy he knew from prison and bribes the inmate beforehand to throw the fight.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Two men try to scam a woman by way of pretending they are competing with each other to see who gets all the money... when it turns out the woman is an even better scammer, using them both as pawns to get the money herself.
  • The Distinguished Gentleman opens with a con man who operates by getting his mark into a sex scandal, then showing up and arresting the "blackmailers", who are part of the con. The mark is so anxious to avoid publicity that he bribes the "FBI agent" to keep it quiet.
  • Subplot out of Evan Almighty — The main character Evan, who is a congressman, cosponsors the destruction of a natural forest for urban development.
  • The specialty of the servants in Fitzwilly.
  • Gambit follows a con by an inept art curator, attempting to convince his employer to buy a forgery of a Monet painting by use of a confederate. At the end of the film, he seems to have failed, revealing the forgery as part of a show of competence, only for it to be revealed that he was actually after another painting owned by his employer, which he stole and replaced with a forgery.
  • In Go, one of the characters sells harmless household products as drugs to inexperienced teens. This includes aspirin, chewable vitamins and anything else vaguely pharmaceutical they could obtain at the supermarket.
  • Going Postal, from the book by the same name, upon recounting Von Lipwig's cons, shows a newspaper frontpage with the headline reading: "Conman sells city bridge — Three times!”
  • The Grifters is about a con man whose loyalties become caught between his mother and girlfriend—both of whom are also con artists.
  • House of Games: Two con artists show the protagonist a nickel-and-dime Pig-in-a-Poke scam that involves pretending to seal a $5 bill into an envelope in front of a cashier and then using the envelope to make change, having already slipped the bill out before sealing it.
  • Inception in a weird sort of way.
  • Jean's part in The Lady Eve is to lure rich men into playing high stakes card games with her Card Sharp father.
  • Lady Killer: Myra's role in the gang is to lure susceptible dudes into her apartment and into Duke's rigged poker games.
  • Many works by David Mamet.
  • Matchstick Men, where the "big hit" on Chuck, Angela's arrival, and Roy's visits with Dr. Klein are all part of a massive con by Frank against Roy.
  • Nine Queens and its American remake Criminal. In this case what we are actually following is not the overall con but a con within the con itself and then at the end the real con is a Twist Ending.
  • The remade Ocean's Eleven and its successors are mostly Capers, but also rely on the kind of psychological manipulation more closely associated with a Con.
  • In Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, the Big Bad orchestrates a crimewave alongside an old bus route, which would soon be the route of a train line. The crimewave would then drive down property prices allowing him to buy them and then resell them when the train line is complete and the price skyrocketed. It's even lampshaded at the end:
    Commisioner Hurst: So you're saying all of this was nothing more than a real estate scam!?
    Sgt. Hightower: A billion-dollar real estate scam, sir.
  • Road to Zanzibar: Julia Quimby convinces the Vagabond Buddies to buy the lovely Donna Latour from a local slave trader. The two girls split the proceeds afterwards.
  • In Romeo Must Die, two gangs are trying to buy up every property in a part of the city, because the NFL wants to build a new football stadium nearby, and providing a properly sized plot of land with only one or two owners to deal with instead of dozens would save the NFL a great deal of effort and make the gangs millions.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Kanryu starts up the fake Battousai murders to scare the locals into selling out and moving so he can turn the village into a port he controls so he can ship guns and drugs without the risk of being caught by the police.
  • Happens twice in the poker film Shade (2003):
    • Small-time hustler Larry hooks up with crew Tiffany, Charlie and Vernon. The plan is to have Larry win big on Vernon's crooked deals so no one will suspect Larry of cheating. Larry gets impatient and on his own crooked deal gets $100,000 in the pot, including money that belongs to Larry's mobster boss, and loses. The whole thing turns out to be a scam by the game to take Larry's boss's money.
    • In the film's climactic final game, Vernon is going up against legendary underground player The Dean, who he discovers is using a marked deck. In the final hand he deals the Dean Kings and Queens with one Queen in the hole and himself two Jacks with a seven in the hole. With $2,000,000 in the pot at showdown Vernon switches his hole seven for a Jack for three-of-a-kind. However, the Dean has switched out his hole King for a Queen make a higher three-of-a-kind. The next day the Dean and Vernon meet up to split the cash. The whole thing was a scheme between them to rip off Charlie and Tiffany.
  • Shark Attack: It turns out that the mayor is responsible for the surge in shark attacks (who were spiked with hormones that made them more aggressive), as he intends to drive down real estate prices so he could buy out the whole town.
  • The Spanish Prisoner
  • The classic movie example is The Sting. In fact, the title is a term from con-artist slang: the climax of a big con, the point when the mark is actually relieved of their money, is known as the "sting". Its spiritual remake Confidence is also con-artist slang - "con man" is, after all, short for "confidence man".
    • Interestingly enough, The Sting was inspired by real events; while Johnny Hooker was not a real person, Gondorff (actually, the Gondorff brothers, Fred and Charley) were very real; while the fictional Gondorff (and Hooker) got away with it, the real Gondorff brothers' victim went to the equally-real police, and the brothers were quickly arrested.
  • Superman: The Movie — Lex Luthor's plot to buy up all the cheap land in the desert bordering California before blowing up the fault line and turning that desert into beach front real estate.
  • In Superman Returns, Lex wants to create a new continent in the Atlantic Ocean, destroying half of the US in the process, and then sell it at a premium.
  • The Swindlers: Many, in a movie about a group of con artists who band together to take down a fugitive Ponzi schemer. The first con is shown when Choon-ja flashes her cleavage to distract a jeweler which allows her to switch out a real necklace with a fake. That turns out to not have worked, as it was actually a sting and two cops pop up immediately to arrest her. But that was the actual con, as the two cops weren't actually cops, but Choon-ja's partners in crime, Seok-dong and Kang-suk.
  • Italian actor Totò sold nothing less than the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) to a gullible American tourist in Totòtruffa '62 ("Totòscam '62”).
  • In Vabank Kramer accidentally meets a young, pretty socialite who invites him over. So he spends the evening wooing Natalie, just as Kwinto and company rob his bank. This serves three functions: one, Kramer is kept busy and out of the way, two - this is the brilliant part - a completely innocuous act of helping Natalie unclasp her necklace gets Kramer's fingerprints on the crucial part of evidence that the boys plant at the scene, and three, when he needs an alibi and goes to Natalie for it, she's not there, there's no sign of her and he's made to look foolish.
  • Referenced in Way Out West:
    Stan: That's the first mistake we've made since that fellow sold us the Brooklyn Bridge.
    Ollie: Buying that bridge was no mistake. That's going to be worth a lot of money to us someday!
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the conspiracy to buy Toon Town and turn it into a paved highway.
  • The Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad in You Don't Mess with the Zohan tries to make the New York Israeli and Palestinian communities fight each other so he can buy off the neighbourhood and build a mall on top of it. When creating a conflict doesn't work out, they hire a group of neo-nazis to vandalize the neighbourhood.

  • The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf by Ilya Ilf and Eugene Petrov, being the adventures of a con artist, have lot of these. Ostap Bender, the protagonist, is mostly a master of the short con and uses this to swindle just enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle. One day, he's impersonating a White Emigre spy, the other day a repo man, yet another day an artist, the next day he's a chessmaster. His archnemesis Koreiko, on the other hand, is a long con expert and really money-grubbing, not stopping at stealing trains of food bound to famine-stricken regions.
  • In Time Enough for Love: when Lazarus goes back in time he arranges to meet up with his grandfather and when Lazarus starts to avoid questions about his profession, they start talking about the nicknames of common cons used.
  • In The Princes of the Air, the protagonists run a variety of cons, at first for their own benefit and later as loyal if unconventional servants of Queen and country.
  • Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive): After Shallan miraculously convinces a band of deserters to protect a caravan from a different band of deserters, she discovers that the leader of the caravan guards, Tyn, is a conwoman who is very impressed with what Shallan has done. Tyn asks to be brought in on Shallan's con, and Shallan admits she is traveling to the Shattered Plains to take the place of the prince's betrothed, who is presumed dead. She carefully neglects to mention that she really is that betrothed. Tyn spends the journey teaching Shallan the tricks of the trade, all while reminding her that Shallan is going to have to get over her naivete sooner rather than later. When Tyn discovers that Shallan is the ward of Jasnah Kholin, who Tyn was hired to kill, Tyn tries to kill Shallan. Shallan kills her first.
    Tyn: Sometimes, we must do things we don't like, kid. Difficult things.
    [Shallan summons her Shardblade and kills Tyn]
    Shallan: Difficult things. Yes. I believe I told you. I've learned that lesson already. Thank you.
  • The Mark and the Void: A novelist convinces a banker to let him shadow him so the novelist can write a book with the banker as the main character. It's actually a scam to find out the layout of the bank so the novelist can rob the bank. Unfortunately, the banker works at an investment bank, which doesn't have a safe full of money. Eventually, the novelist ends up writing his book.
  • The main character in William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley is a ruthless Con Man who poses as an upstanding spiritualist preacher to con wealthy clients. His biggest con is concocted with his mistress Lilith. Between them they plan to scam an extremely wealthy auto tycoon named Ezra Grindle who is desperate to contact the spirit of his lost love Dorrie who died during a botched back-alley abortion that he made her get. Stan's very reluctant wife Molly poses as Dorrie during a series of phony séances aimed to convince Grindle that they are contacting the girl's spirit so he will part with increasing amounts of cash for Stan to continue.
  • Discworld:
    • In Going Postal, Con Man Moist von Lipwig views a real ring and a fake ring as part of his basic tools for emergencies. When the man wants to have it valued and they go to an actual jeweler he shows the man a real diamond ring. Reassured that it's real the mark then buys the ring, and when he takes it back to the jeweler to sell he's informed that it's brass and glass. His backup plan, if he can't source the real ring, is to walk through the motions of this con... and then make the trade almost immediately thereafter, without any time for a switch, with the aim of proving to the mark that this relatively well-known con isn't going on. The trick here is that Moist bribed the jeweler ahead of time to testify that his glass ring was real.
    • The Discworld Companion notes that Ankh-Morporkians provide essential services for the rural people of the Sto Plains "such as selling them the Brass Bridge at a cut-down price".
  • A complicated con is used in the original version of Aladdin: The evil sorcerer('s brother) determines that Aladdin is now rich and powerful thanks to the power of a worn-out old lamp he keeps in his palace. So he waits for Aladdin to be out of town, buys a bunch of new lamps, and goes around town asking who wants to exchange their old lamps for new ones. He ends up drawing such a crowd that the princess (Aladdin's wife) hears what's going on, and then decides to take him up on his offer. The instant the sorcerer has the lamp genie under his command, he teleports himself, the palace, and the princess away.
  • In The Lies Of Locke Lamora, the Gentleman Bastards team of con artists pull a scam on a pair of nobles, claiming to need funds to import soon-to-be-priceless brandy into the city in return for a healthy cut of the profits. However, the Bastards pull a Kansas City Shuffle on their marks soon after putting the scheme in place.
  • David Maurer's The Big Con is a Nonfiction book about the criminals of the 1940s who used confidence tricks to gain the trust of their victims and take their money. It includes how scams are performed, the vocabulary used by the swindlers, and in-depth character analysis of several prominent hucksters.
  • Neil Gaiman's American Gods:
    • Conversed when Wednesday is talking about some of his favorite grifts, one of which involves a violin, two grifters, and an upper-class waiter as the mark.
    • In another, a bishop in all his official finery enters a jewelry shop and purchases a magnificent brooch, paying for it in cash. A short while later, a cop enters the shop with the bishop in handcuffs, and explain to the jeweler that the bills are all fake: the counterfeiter was counting on no one daring to question a high official of the church or his money. He then explains that he needs the bills and the brooch as evidence and leaves a receipt. While the bills are fake, so is the cop, and the jeweler hands over the incriminating evidence of his own free will.
  • In The Oregon Files book The Golden Buddha, in order to free Tibet, The Corporation is hired to steal the eponymous Golden Buddha from an entrepreneur with Triad connections during a party. They end up impersonating everyone from the band, to security guards to a mercy flight helicopter pilot. The only ones who aren't involved in the con are the police and most of the guests.
  • In The Mug and Spoon, a town is involved in a con that had been going on for at least fifteen years. A local girl is groomed to pose as a princess. The townspeople spread a rumour about a princess who was put under a sleeping spell and found by the town’s innkeepers. A would-be rescuer arrives to try True Love's Kiss. As he dines at the inn, the innkeepers ask him about his financial situation and the girl eavesdrops from the next room. After he finishes dinner, she lies down in a gilded coffin and pretends to be asleep. If she thinks him good enough, she "wakes up" after his kiss, and if not, she waits for a richer guy. When she "wakes up", marries and leaves, another girl steps in to take her place. Repeat on infinite.
  • The Cat Who... Series:
    • The villains of book #15 (The Cat Who Went Into the Closet), who run the Park of Pink Sunsets, a mobile home park in Florida, are running one. They trick their clients into making the park their heirs via blackmail and then poison them to ensure the victim doesn't pull out.
    • In book #19 (The Cat Who Tailed a Thief), Carter Lee James' restoration projects are all one big con, allowing him to swindle thousands from his victims.
  • Serge Storms: A major part of the plot of Triggerfish Twist. A real estate dealer owns most of the houses on Triggerfish Lane, and is trying to buy up the rest so he can level all the houses on the street and build more expensive homes there he can sell at a profit. This plot involves deliberately stocking his rental houses with the most unruly tenants imaginable in an effort to drive their neighbors away.
  • Part of Lockhart's plan to raise the capital to find his father and save his family home in Tom Sharpe's The Throwback.
  • One of these drives the plot in Orca. During a financial crisis some bankers squeeze money out of landholders with the threat of foreclosing on them, hoping to take the money and vanish once the bank collapses. Vlad is drawn into the plot by owing a favor to one tenant.
  • John Putnam Thatcher: The murder victim of Ashes to Ashes is a protest group leader trying to stop a parochial school from being torn down (along with the rest of the block) to build condos. The victim found out that he was tricked into starting the protest group solely to drive down the property values so his False Friend co-founder could buy several buildings cheap and then sabotage the protest group so the land would be expensive again once the development resumed. Interestingly, Thatcher notes that the scheme was actually legal, but that the killer, an aspiring politician, didn't want the bad publicity that would come with exposure.
  • In the Star Trek novel Spock's World, Dr. McCoy offers to sell Spock a bridge "with a great view of Brooklyn" after working out he'd been deceived by the person who engineered the Vulcan secession crisis. Specifically, that said person was lying about how they'd financed the grand-scale bribery that made it possible.
  • Subverted in the first book of the Star Trek: Millennium series, when Vic, in his lounge-singer milieu, tries to use the expression... except only the local Fan of the Past knows what the Brooklyn Bridge was, and they end up distracted by the fact that in the future, it was sold to a theme park on the moon as a tourist attraction.
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe New Series Adventures novel Big Bang Generation, the Doctor, posing as a master con-artist, claims to have sold the Sydney Opera House to five different people. The actual con-artist he's talking to doesn't believe a word of it.
  • David Macaulay's lavishly illustrated series of young adult books on the construction of various types of buildings (Castle, Cathedral, City, and so forth) has a book entitled Unbuilding that plays with this trope. The plot revolves around an elaborate scheme by a Middle Eastern prince to buy the Empire State Building, dismantle it piece by piece, and ship it overseas to be rebuilt as a landmark in his home country. Most of the book consists of detailed descriptions and intricate illustrations of the many steps that this enormous disassembly process would require. This trope is ultimately subverted in that the buyer turns out to be the real con artist. At the end of the book, the ship carrying the pieces of the Empire State Building mysteriously sinks in the Atlantic. The prince then collects on an insurance policy that he had taken out on it - a policy worth far more than what he had paid for the building.
  • In The Red Tent, Dinah says this phrase almost word-for-word to the audience, in reference to a belief that her mother Leah's eyes had been damaged or worn out by crying over the prospect of being married off to Jacob's "wicked" brother Esau. (In the source material, Leah's eyes are described with a word meaning (depending on your translation) "lovely," "delicate," "weak," "gentle," "tired," or "weary." In TRT, she has heterochromia, which got her teased and ridiculed by men and boys living nearby.)
  • The short story by Andrew Vachss has the mark turn out to be the New York City judiciary system. The Con Man appears to have stolen a bag from someone in an airport, but the person who entered with the bag and the witness both vanish, he produces the receipt, sues the state for false arrest, and gets a substantial amount of money.
  • In the Beka Cooper novels, marks are called 'coneys'. And being a series about police officers, there's a lot of them, from victims of pickpockets to people caught up in an elaborate scheme to trick them into spending counterfeit money and being arrested.

    Live-Action TV 
  • For the most part, the mark in Mission: Impossible episodes conning people was a villain being duped into admitting his guilt. This would put the Con Man of that episode into The Trickster category.
  • The main characters in Hustle are a team of con artists who pull at least one long con every episode, and several short ones including multiple landmark sales:
    • Mickey Bricks sold someone the Sydney Opera House during his time in Australia before Season 5 of Hustle. In fact, it was mentioned as the reason for his absence from Season 4, during which the rest of the crew sold someone the Hollywood sign.
    • The London Eye was also up for sale at the end of Series 1. Inspector Japp fell for it.
    • They also pull a variation in which they sell various London landmarks under the story that the crown is selling those artifacts due to the budget difficulties.
    • The Real Hustle is a consumer show detailing what to look out for and how to avoid falling for The Con.
  • In Leverage:
    • Many of the cons involve setting up the mark with a roper. Sophie the grifter is the most common choice. An excellent example of this is from "The Snow Job" where she pretends to be a olympic champion to attract their mark into spending money on a fake upgrade to the snow resort to finance his bad idea for an X-games. Later in the same episode, she ropes the marks younger brother into an even bigger scam involving buying life insurance settlements off of people with terminal illnesses. Sometimes the others - most commonly Hardison - serve as the Roper.
    • In "The Three Strikes Job", Nate poses as a real estate developer planning to build a baseball stadium to con a corrupt mayor. This requires him to make it look like an actual team was planning to move to the stadium.
    • In "The (Very) Big Bird" episode, the team sells the original Spruce Goose to a corrupt airline owner and Howard Hughes enthusiast. They also trick him into thinking he's actually flying it out of its museum.
  • F/X: The Series is about a special effects crew tricking criminals into situations where they revealed information about their crimes.
  • Hawaii Five-0 features one episode where a gang of criminals pulls a Mission: Impossible-style con on a businessman by imitating members of the main cast and having the required perfect replica of the real office in an abandoned building.
  • There was a double subversion in the flashbacks of the Lost episode "The Long Con"; the mark, a woman named Cassidy, sees through Sawyer's con game and demands that she become his partner. However, in the end, she still ends up being duped out of 600,000 dollars; it just takes significantly longer to do it.
  • MacGyver (1985):
    • In "Twice Stung", a friend of Mac's becomes suicidal after being swindled out of his life savings. Mac orchestrates a reverse scam to get the money back.
    • In "Jenny's Chance", Mac organizes a gambling sting operation in order to catch the murderer of a horse trainer, a money launderer for a Cuban drug lord.
  • In Psych, Shawn Spencer is a con man extraordinare. Fortunately, he only uses his powers for good. And the occasional pick-up line. And sometimes because it's really entertaining.
  • In Burn Notice, Michael Westen often gets something he needs out of criminals by pretending to be someone they would associate with for a full episode. In other words, he runs The Con...For Justice!
  • Several episodes of The Rockford Files involve elaborate cons to recover stolen money or avenge a wrong.
  • This (and being a Gentleman Thief) was Neal Caffrey's MO before Peter Burke caught him. Since then, he's often run The Con on criminals for the FBI. Burke himself gets in on the act sometimes.
  • In the episode "Mail Call" of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and Trapper trick Frank Burns to invest in the non-existing company Pioneer Aviation.
  • Played with on How I Met Your Mother: Lily's breasts are getting large due to pregnancy, and Barney keeps asking to see/touch them. They end up going to dinner at a hibachi grill place (one that Barney hates and always complains about going to, saying that the cooks are not impressive, etc). Eventually he ends up betting Marshal & Lily that he can do the cook's routine including the "pocket shrimp" (flipping a shrimp into your shirt pocket) - if he wins he gets to touch Lily's breasts, if he loses he wears the Ducky tie for a year. They agree, thinking there's no way he can do it. But then he starts acting super confidant (flipping a shrimp into his mouth). Marshal also realizes that Barney has been conditioning Marshal to always want to eat there whenever Barney sneezes. They begin to get worried, thinking they've been conned, so they change to agreement to let him see Lily's breasts if they call the bet off. But just before Lily shows them, Marshal stops her saying that no, this is the con and that Barney was just psyching them out so they would let him see Lily's breasts. Cue triumphant gloating as they declare the bet back on. Cut to Barney back in the restaurant cooking up a storm and them about to lose the bet. But then further subverted when, just as Barney's about to catch the shrimp in his pocket, Lily flashes him so he misses the catch, meaning he has to wear the ducky tie for a year.
  • Chuck's missions of the week usually alternate between this, The Caper, and full on action, and a major part of the spy game involves the team assuming identities that get them close to the target. And Sarah's father is a legitimate Con Man, and has used his skills to both help and hinder them, as well as teaching Sarah much of what he knows. Ironically, that still doesn't save Chuck and Sarah from being victimized by another con artist who makes off with their wedding money. Femme Fatale DEA agent Carina also makes heavy use of The Con, and particularly specializes in seducing her targets.
  • In Lost: Sawyer is caught out by this woman when trying to run a scam (something similar to a Thai Gem Scam), eventually he befriends her and takes her on several short cons, using her as a shill. Then he comes up with a longer con which would go for a bigger target but would require a little show money. She then reveals that she has some money that she got from a divorce which they can use. Psych! Turns out that this was just a really long con where Sawyer had been told by her vengeful ex-husband about the money and was there to get it from her.
  • In The Rockford Files episode "There's One in Every Port", Rockford is in the unenviable position of having to con a fellow conman, who is in turn running a con of his own against a third party. As a result, he has to come up with something the other guy hasn't seen before, which ends up being an odd three-layer con. He fakes like he's trying to steal his rival's mark, while allowing said pre-made fake mark to learn what he thinks is good blackmail material about the oil baron who Rockford is impersonating. Then he has some fake IRS agents rope the rival conman into a fake tax sting against his own mark, and allow him to hear said blackmail material when the mark attempts to use it against Rockford as the oil baron. Now the rival takes this information and attempts to use it against the real oil baron, and ends up buying a huge amount of stock at a steep discount (that way he gets money, but cannot release the blackmail material easily because he has a financial stake himself). However, the stock certificate ends up being a fake. The second oil baron was also a fake, and yet another fake mark.
  • Played with in Spaced, with the oregano-for-weed beat-bag variant. They weren't out to con anyone originally — everyone involved thought it was weed. Daisy had just got confused earlier and put their weed in a stew, while Tim was unknowingly carrying a bag of oregano when they were mugged. When a catering student among the muggers interrupts their Fake High to point out what they're really smoking, they confront Tim and Daisy again, convinced that they'd been the victim of this con - despite the fact that, as mentioned, they mugged the pair for it and didn't pay a penny.
  • Community has Abed's internet friend Toby, a banker in Nigeria, experiencing financial difficulties and requiring Abed to send him $700 to enable him to fly out of the country to meet him. After Abed explains this, Britta is just about to explain that Abed has fallen for one of these... when Toby shows up, thanks Abed, pays him back the $700 and complains how Abed was the only one to actually help him out.
  • A particularly notorious Judge Judy case involving an ebay scammer had the scammer advertise that she was selling two mobile phones, and what the marks actually received were two pictures of the phones, with the scammer being very careful to say on the advert that the buyers are bidding on "what [they] see in the photo" allowing her to claim she hadn't actually deceived the marks. Unfortunately for the scammer, between appearing on the show (where Judy can do whatever she wants and isn't as vulnerable to Loophole Abuse as another court might be,) slamming down hard on Judy's known Berserk Buttons (not having a job, making working people lose the money they've earned, and treating Judy herself as if she's an idiot,) and being less careful with the product description (she gave the weight of the product as 4.90 oz, and since the two photos the marks got sent obviously weighed far less than that, the Loophole Abuse itself had a gaping loophole,) the scammer simply got one of the most vicious humiliations in the show's history in front of 10 million viewers while the marks got compensated the maximum $5000 Judy's allowed to rule.
  • Charlie's Angels had several episodes like this. One involved getting a compulsive gambler thief to lose his ill gotten gains in order to force him to steal again at a time and place of the heroes' choosing, so the police would have the evidence to arrest him. Another involved conning a conman in order to recoup his victims' money.
  • CSI-verse:
    • Two episodes of CSI feature criminals pulling scams on the cops (with varying success).
      • In "The Finger," a man murders his mistress, then sets up a fake kidnapping to make it look like someone else did it, and deliberately orchestrates Catherine's involvement in the investigation.
      • In "Suckers," a casino security chief arranges a fake murder... which is a cover for the theft of a priceless antique... which is a cover for a heist from the casino's vault... which is the cover for a massive insurance scam. While the mastermind doesn't get arrested, Grissom does give all his evidence (circumstantial at best) to the insurance company. Presumably, they require less proof to deny a claim.
    • CSI: Miami has a neighborhood murder that turns out to be connected a plot to lower property values in the area.
    • CSI: NY: "Identity Crisis" features a female con artist whose favorite scheme is to dress as an elderly man and pull violin scams. She also tricks at least one boyfriend into borrowing money, which she then steals before disappearing from their lives, only to change her name and start over.
  • The Doctor Who:
    • In "City of Death", the con is that Count Scarlioni plans to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. He's set up a silent auction among a group of unscrupulous art collectors who think they're about to get the most valuable painting in the world, and they mail in their checks. Here's how it would normally work: The thief would steal the Mona Lisa, only for the Count to refuse it. The Count gets the money, the thief goes to prison, and the art collectors eat humble pie—they can't raise a fuss at the risk of incriminating themselves. Here's how it works on Doctor Who: the six art collectors get their Mona Lisas, each of which is a legitimate copy that was painted by daVinci himself. The Count is really an alien splintered through time, and he's been working a long con throughout human history so that he can eventually save his own species at the cost of preventing humanity from ever existing. The good Doctor saves the day by aiming to visit daVinci, missing intentionally, and writing "THIS IS A FAKE" in permanent marker on the canvases reserved for the commissioned Mona Lisa replicas.
    • In the Fourth Doctor story "The Ribos Operation", the scripted backstory for the conman Garron was that he had fled Earth after successfully selling an alien warlord the Sydney Opera House. The accent that the Doctor remarks on—changed to Somerset in the filmed version—was originally supposed to be Australian. When Iain Cuthbertson was cast the Australian backstory went, but the titular operation still involves selling not just a landmark but an entire planet to an ambitious but obtuse noble.
  • In Tales from the Crypt, a man gets his wife and brother, a coroner, to help him fake his own death to collect the $500,000 insurance money. After going to South America with a small part of the money, he keeps waiting for them to join him with the rest. Eventually, what money he has runs out and he returns to find his "widow" and brother are now married and living off the rest of the money. When he tries to turn them into the police for insurance fraud, he gets arrested, convicted and sentenced to death for his own murder.
  • Maurice Levy from The Wire constantly suggests his clients from Organized Crime turn to real estate; they do. One of the background subplots is that drug money is being funneled to State Sen. Clay Davis, who then tells Stringer which buildings are due to get revitalization grants so Stringer can buy them while they are still dirt cheap. Clay Davis, however, is just being a Snake Oil Salesman to Stringer.
  • The All in the Family episode "The Blockbuster" had the Bunkers dealing with the titular scammer.
  • Daredevil (2015): Armund Tully is a slumlord that is using vandalism and intimidation to drive out his rent-control tenants. Matt, Karen and Foggy suspect that he is trying to build condos on the property. This would not be out of character for Tully, given his reputation with them and with the cops, but the reality is that Tully is in cahoots with Wilson Fisk. And Fisk does not care about making a profit on the property because he's giving it to Nobu and his faction of The Hand, who do not want the residents getting in the way of their plans to build Midland Circle on that valuable block of Manhattan real estate so they can mine for dragon bones.
  • In the Married... with Children episode that introduces Jefferson, Al mentions to Bud that he bought a cabin near the shore of Lake Chicamocomico with the money he scammed from Jefferson and Marcy's wedding. A minute later, Jefferson comes in and Al asks him why was he in prison, and he responds that he was arrested for selling plots of land on Lake Chicamocomico, a toxic waste dump, and brags that "the truly stupid are still sending in money." Several episodes later, when Jefferson and Marcy decide to skip town after agreeing to help the Bundys claim the prize money they were not qualified to win (Kelly was a spokes-girl for the company), the IRS swooped in and immediately took the winnings, saying it was to be used as restitution for Jefferson's Lake Chicamocomico scam.
  • Supernatural: In the Scooby-Doo crossover episode, Sam, Dean, and Castiel get sucked into an episode of the cartoon, with Sam complaining that the real estate scams the Scooby Gang solve aren't good cons. It turns out, the villain of the week was using a ghost for his own real-estate scam.
  • Veronica Mars: Neptune, CA, real estate mogul Dick Casablancas built a significant part of his fortune on overvalued properties, deliberately using false advertising and such. It's only after Veronica accidentally does an on-site inspection (while performing an investigation on Cassidy Casablancas' behalf into his stepmother's infidelity) and notices the discrepancy that she informs the authorities, forcing Dick Sr. to destroy all his documents and flee the country. She tries to get one of her favorite teachers, who invested heavily in the company, to get his money back, but he refuses because his money is already effectively gone, and he doesn't want to save himself by saddling someone else on the market with the loss.
  • The A-Team: In the episode "The Road to Hope", Hannibal, discussing how suspicious their latest client is, says she should be selling the Brooklyn bridge. Face responds that the Brooklyn bridge goes for more than she's offering, which he knows thanks to pulling that particular con himself.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies:
    • The final season features a storyline where the Clampetts go to Washington and Jed is conned into buying the White House, the Capitol Building, and other landmarks. The previous season that same con man sold them the Statue of Liberty and Central Park.
    • In another (earlier) episode, a con man attempts to sell Hong Kong to Jeb. Jethro believes that it is a giant ape (most likely he's thinking of King Kong), but the con man explains that Hong Kong is on the coast of China. Jeb turns him down, explaining that he has no need for a Chinese ape. He does convince him to buy Canada however.
  • The Company You Keep: The Nicolettis are an entire family of con artists, so naturally they run cons regulardly. All of them are highly skilled at it.

  • Inverted in George Strait's "Ocean Front Property," where he claims a number of negative feelings for his lover, then adds
    ...and if you'll buy that
    I've got some ocean front property in Arizona
    From my front porch you can see the sea
    I've got some ocean front property in Arizona
    And if you'll buy that
    I'll throw the Golden Gate in free.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • The story of King Minos: When asked to save Crete from a disaster, Poseidon agreed and sent a pure white bull to Minos and asked him to publicly sacrifice it after the disaster as a sign of respect. Instead, Minos swapped it out with a decently good but not divinely-granted bull, and as revenge Poseidon made his love Pasiphae fall in love with the white bull, thus begetting the Minotaur. (Please do not confuse this white bull, sometimes called the Cretan Bull, with the pure white bull whose form Zeus took to rape/seduce Europa to produce…er…King Minos of Crete. Yes, the same guy.)
    • One of the oldest cons involved Prometheus helping humanity out by killing a sacrificial ox and putting the meat and most of the fat into one big pile covered by organs, suspicious tubes and other squishy bits, then wrapping the bones rubbed with the rest of the fat in the animal's skin, setting the skin on fire, then asking the gods which one they wanted as a sacrifice. The gods much preferred the smell of the bone pile and chose that one, letting humanity keep the meat for themselves. In one version, realizing he's been tricked causes Zeus to curse the humans to be cold at night, causing Prometheus to give them fire and leading to his infamous punishment.
  • God in Malachi 1:14 from The Bible says "A curse on the cheat who has an [unblemished] male in his flock, but for his vow sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord!" Saying that God does not like people conning Him out of good sacrificial animals by offering a bad one in its place.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig's eponymous "Perfect Hoax" back in 1996. For weeks, he stole Triple H's valets and caused him to lose numerous matches because of the subsequent distractions. Finally getting fed up with it, Triple H challenged the retired Hennig to a match; Hennig accepted. However, on the night of the match during an episode of RAW, Triple H ambushed Hennig backstage before the match and seemingly injured his knee, preventing him from continuing. Then-Intercontinental Champion "Wild Man" Marc Mero decided to fight Triple H in Hennig's place, putting his title on the line. In the match's climax, Triple H attempted to cheat using a steel chair, but Hennig ran in for the save and took the chair from Triple H... only to wallop Mero with the chair, allowing Triple H to pin him for the title. Afterwards, the duo revealed that the debacle was a plan to put the title on Triple H (and return him to a prominent stature within the company), while embarrassing Mero for stealing Sable from Triple H.
  • Mr. Perfect was a point man for another one just four years prior. He and Ric Flair orchestrated a plot to get the WWF Title back to Flair starting at Summerslam 92. Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior were both fan favorites, but also accused of selling out to Team Flair. Both Flair and Perfect liberally attacked both the challenger (Warrior) and the WWF Champion (Savage) during the match. Warrior won when Team Flair jumped the champion on the outside, but only by countout, meaning Savage was still the champion. Flair beat the Macho Man shortly after this to win the WWF title for the second time.
  • This happened a lot to Sting in his WCW run, often at the hands of Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen or Lex Luger. Perhaps the most famous example occurred in an angle involving our hero and Flair in 1995. Flair lost a match to Arn Anderson at Fall Brawl due to interference from Brian Pillman, and spent the next month trying to convince an extremely wary Sting to be his partner against the duo for Halloween Havoc. After weeks of vehement refusal, Flair finally got Sting to relent, but not before the latter threatened to mess up the former real good if he got screwed. Before the match, Anderson and Pillman ambushed and seemingly injured Flair, forcing Sting to face the heels by himself. However, in the middle of the match, as Sting was getting his ass kicked, Flair appeared to the roar of the crowd and took his place at Sting's corner. Sting played Ricky Morton for a long time, getting closer and closer to making the tag to Flair each time. When he finally made the tag, the arena went nuts, and Flair looked prepared to kill Arn and Pillman...and then proceeded to immediately lay out Sting, revealing that the incident was a set up to re-form The Four Horsemen and humiliate Sting.
  • African-American female wrestler "Bonesaw" Jessie Brooks calls her German Suplex finisher The Brooklyn Bridge. The problem is rooted in the old scam, since she would want her opponents to, well, "sell" The Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Alexis Laree had no idea just how much Lexie Fyfe did not like her but the PGWA officials who listed her on the poll and the fans who voted her number one contender to the PGWA title held by Fyfe? They knew.

  • From the opposite side, several episodes of Dragnet — most episodes where Friday and his partner are in the Bunco department that don't involve forgery involve cons.
  • In the Hancock's Half Hour episode "Agricultural 'Ancock", Sid sells Lord's Cricket Ground to Tony, and Bill mentions that someone tried to sell him Sydney Cricket ground but, at the time, he had no money left after buying Sydney Harbour Bridge. Bill goes on to mention that he was still having a fight against Sydney Borough Council about who owns the bridge.
  • John Finnemore's Double Acts: "Mercy Dash" is about a man who stops an old lady with a story about his money and wallet being locked in his car and his keys being missing, leaving him with no way to visit his daughter in hospital unless someone lends him train fare. To his bewilderment, he finds himself at the mercy of an eccentric but extremely helpful woman who is quite prepared to drive him there herself after checking the train times, all while subtly probing at his story because she's already figured out it's probably fake.
  • The Storyteller sketch in one episode of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme feeatures a woman named Conina Artiste, who spins a story that nobody except the Storyteller would ever believe, but which fails to gain her access to his uncle's bank, because it never occurred to him not to tell his uncle about it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A weird variant in one of the Shadowrun short stories from Wolf and Raven: a Corrupt Corporate Executive is conspiring with racist gangs to drive out or kill elves living in a particular neighborhood. The twist is that he's not trying to buy the elves' property cheap, but to change the demographics of the neighborhood, so it'll be the ideal location for test-marketing his company's products. Same methods, different profit motive.

  • In "Things to Remember" from The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd, Sir advises the Kid:
    Never buy London Bridge from a stranger,
    Unless you can make a few bob on the sale.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: After Ann arrives at Harbor Town to look for someone willing to lend a boat ride, a passerby offers her one 'letter of introduction' that will help. Once she finds out the letter is a fake, Ann sees the con immediately ran into the nearby bar and tries to feign innocence.
  • The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers Updated Re-release Explorers of Sky has Snover use a Wounded Gazelle Gambit as one.
  • EVE Online: Because of the hands off approach of CCP regarding player interactions many stories of legendary cons, scams, and other debauchery are abound in EVE.
  • The story of Tales from the Borderlands is kicked off by a con from Fiona, Sasha and Felix involving a deal for a fake Vault Key. Things sort of escalate from that point on.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Case 4 of Trials and Tribulations is about how a cop's sister is kidnapped by her boyfriend, asking for a ransom of an expensive diamond of their father's at a mountain river. It was all staged in order to sell the diamond and split the millions of dollars amongst themselves. However, all of THAT was a scam; the sister planned this all along and jumped into a river with the diamond, keeping it for herself. (Until it was lost in the river, leaving her with nothing but a criminal background and a lot of karma to hit her over the head later.)
    • In case 2 of Spirit of Justice, Roger Retinz plots to pull a hidden camera "prank" on Trucy's first televised appearance with Mr. Reus and Bonny and Betty de Famme by tricking Trucy into thinking she had accidentally killed Reus. Like the previous example, it turns out to be an elaborate scheme by Roger to kill Mr. Reus and pin the blame on Trucy that none of the other characters are aware of. He gets bonus points for managing to convince Betty that the "prank" was all her idea.
  • "Nothing brings down real estate prices like a good old fashioned gang war" — said by Avery Carrington in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Donald Love in Grand Theft Auto III.
  • In Saints Row 2, one of the minigames available is 'Septic Avenger', where you ride around in a septic-truck and spray property with crap to lower the values. Ironically, this is feasible because of Ultor's reconstruction of the once-embattled Saints Row district, turning it into an upscale office-park... and creating a severe shortage of low-price housing. Meaning that hard-working low-income families are willing to buy a cheap house even if it's covered in crap. (The realtor-term is "Fixer-upper".)
  • A big scam drives the plot of L.A. Noire. The Suburban Redevelopment Fund, a cabal of several prominent local officials and citizens, buys up land along the proposed route of the new freeway, building cheap houses on them to drive up the value when the government offers to buy them out under eminent domain.
  • A driver of the plot of Yakuza 0. Tachibana Real Estate are slowly but surely driving out or buying out all of the tenants around a part of Kamurocho in order to bulldoze it for a lucrative new development, the Millennium Tower. The Tojo Clan are attempting to do the same thing to the same end, only less effectually; Tachibana plays dirty, hiring homeless people to intimidate existing tenants and reduce property values and in one case throwing money at them to bribe them to leave. The entirety of the plot is driven by both sides' attempt to locate and either buy out or silence the absent owner of a small pocket of derelict land slap bang in the middle of the proposed development. The Tojo Clan eventually win out, and Tachibana Real Estate is presumed to have died with its owner. The brighter point in that is that Tachibana's goal was to reunite with his sister, not to gain profits from the property, while Shintaro Kazama arranges it so that the development project stays out of Sohei Dojima's hands, undermining his power in the Tojo Clan.
  • Baldur's Gate II:
    • When a giant interdimensional starship appears in the slums district, one of the citizens will try and sell it to you. He also has one sales pitch to every NPC you can bring with you, all of whom know better than to accept. If you have Valygar with you he'll chase the conman off, seeing how it's technically "his" sphere since his ancestor built the thing. Strangely if you're a mage, you actually can get control of the thing yourself as your wizard's tower.
    • Edwin also references the trope at one point by claiming that if you really believe the Cowled Wizards are good for their word, he has a bridge in Thesk to sell you.
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow has this gem from Yoko.
    Soma Cruz: No way! He* did not look like a bad guy.
    Yoko Belnades: Right, and I've got a bridge to sell you! Don't be fooled by his appearance! He's not who you think he is.
  • Moraff's Revenge, an old CGA-DOS game, lets you purchase the city for 1 million gold. If you accept, the store owner mentions wanting to sell a bridge as well.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Referenced when one goblin says something along the lines of, "If you're stupid enough to believe stuff like that, I've got a statue in Stranglethorn Vale to sell you!"
    • There's also the rare drop item [Deed to Thandol Span]. Thandol Span is a massive bridge, making the item a WoW equivalent of a deed to the Golden Gate Bridge. The deed itself is classified as junk and as such has absolutely no use, but it fetches a high price from the vendors, and occasionally even from players who will buy it for its novelty value.
  • Team Fortress 2: The backstory. It begins when two complete dunderheads of Manns fall for multiple scams to purchase worthless acres of desert, causing their father to spite them on his deathbed by granting them the land to 'share', knowing they would fight each other for the rest of their lives over their moronic obsession with gravel. This seemingly pointless and overly-violent brotherly feud is then used by the true mastermind to con the entire world by tricking the United States into slowly granting her full authority over the 'useless' desert, by using the warring feud as an excuse to treat the southern border as a godforsaken war-torn wasteland that only she cares about... while it's being used to store the most precious material in the known universe. By the time she tells the truth to the senate, they're completely dumbfounded and practically kneel before her.
  • Vegas Stakes: During your games at any of the casinos, you are periodically visited by strangers who may be genuinely in need and helpful, but some of the Random Encounters are scams that cause you to lose money instead. Thus, part of the gameplay is choosing the genuine people in need if you so desire as this can lead to windfalls like from luck lottery tickets.
  • The rigged carnival balloon game scam (usually done with half-full balloons and dulled darts IRL) is Subverted in West of Loathing. The clown running the minigame in the "Barnaby Bob's Carnival" area tells you that the balloons are under-inflated and the pistol is undercharged. When your charachter asks if that means he gets no business, he responds that explaining how he rigged it makes people want to play it more, because if they win, they'll be the guy who beat the admittedly-rigged game.

    Web Animation 
  • Gossip City: Kaori, Hiroshi's girlfriend appears to be a good woman but she is in fact a wedding scammer and she faked her pregnancy. When Hiroshi introduced her to his mom, she tells him to break up with her and he followed her to the pub where she is drinking beer despite the revealing her fake pregnancy.


    Web Videos 
  • SMPLive: Schlattcoin, which Schlatt initially sets up to get diamonds out of anyone dumb enough to fall for his very obvious scheme.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • An episode involved Bart and Homer working as con artists. Grandpa Simpson pretended to help them, but secretly lured them into a trap where they were arrested by a government agent who robbed them and turned out to be a con artist. Bart and Homer made up a story to explain the robbery, which inadvertently led to Willie being arrested, put on trial, found guilty, and given a long prison sentence. Out of desperation, Willie steals a bailiff's gun and starts shooting. When Skinner is apparently killednote ), Homer finally confesses, only for everyone else to admit their deception, down to the judge revealing himself to be Grandpa in a mask and wig. It turns out the whole town was working together to teach them a lesson.
      Homer: I can't believe everyone was in on it!
      Willie: Willie wasn't!!
    • The episode "Livin' La Pura Vida" has the Simpson family joining other Springfield families on the Van Houten's annual vacation to Costa Rica with Kirk and Luann saying that they will handle all the budgeting at the end of the trip. However, the Simpsons discover that the luxury villa they're staying in is actually owned by the Van Houtens and were lying to the other families so they can charge them top dollar for their "shared vacation" and pocket the money for themselves.
  • In an episode of Batman Beyond, a surgeon specializing in cybernetic prosthetic limbs is coerced into providing some punks with weaponized cybernetic enhancements because they've kidnapped his girlfriend. The girlfriend was working with the gang all along, and the whole thing was probably her idea. The doctor eventually finds out, but the gang's leader doesn't realize he knows, and comes to the doctor for repairs one last time...
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated; in the episode "Wrath of the Krampus", Mystery Inc, with a little help from several others, including Hot Dog Water, Jason Wyatt and former mayor Fred Jones Sr, created the hoax of the Krampus to distract Mr. E and his allies so they could acquire Mr. E's segments of the Planispheric Disc.
  • This happens in "The Itis", a first-season episode of The Boondocks. Ed Wuncler I shuts down a vegan restaurant that's across from a public park he wants to buy, and turns it into a soul food restaurant (run by Robert Freeman, natch). By the end of the episode, the restaurant gets closed down (thanks to a lawsuit from a former customer), and Wuncler owns the park (thanks to the lowered property values caused by the restaurant and its negative effect on the neighborhood).
  • South Park has the kid's parents winning a free trip to a ski resort in Aspen in exchange for attending a presentation offering a timeshare, which they are free to decline at any time. They soon find out that they are unable to leave or actually enjoy the resort because the salesmen keep taking them back to the presentation room until they cave in and buy the expensive timeshare. When the parents call the police, they find out even the police are in on it! Along with other powerful authorities like the United States government. As it is, the salesmen will not take no for an answer.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In Bowery Bugs Bugs Bunny successfully sells the Brooklyn Bridge after telling the story of how a man made a dive from it (after being hounded and tricked by Bugs endlessly).
    • In The Ducksters, Porky Pig is a game show contestant who is offered such prizes as the Rocky Mountains, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the Rock of Gibraltar.
  • Used as a Brick Joke in an episode of Top Cat: T.C. goes to the doctor after a nasty fall. When Choo-Choo mentions this to Dibble, the latter snidely remarks that T.C. will try to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge ("I didn't even know it was for sale!" replies Choo-Choo). Sure enough, when the doctor begins discussing his fee, T.C. then tries to pay him with a "business opportunity": "I can't mention any names but it's about a certain bridge..."
  • In the Filmation version of Mighty Mouse, a con man tries to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to Heckle and Jeckle. They politely decline saying that they own the Brooklyn Bridge. When the con man scoffs, he is utterly stunned when an armored car immediately stops by the magpies with the latest proceeds from the toll for the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Played in a very strange way in the Finnish animation Pasila, during the second season. The head of the police force, Repomies, has been, in his own words, tricked in a pyramid scheme and now claims to own a pyramid in Giza, Egypt. However, he had practically "sold" the landmark to himself. He had only been visiting a perfectly legitimate museum's Egypt exhibition, that advertised itself "See the pyramids!". Obviously, they just had scale models of the pyramids. Later, during his vacation to Egypt, Repomies wasn't allowed to enter his "very own pyramid" and became furious. Now, technically he didn't really lose any money since nobody was scamming him in the first place. However, all this leads him to order Pöysti to arrest Ramses II who inhabits "his pyramid". Before that, he actually tries to sell "his pyramid" to his colleagues. Repomies is a prime example of Cloudcuckoolander and a very senile one at that.
  • Cosmo of The Fairly OddParents! apparently fell for a con.
    Cosmo: So that's what con means. I've been wondering ever since that guy sold me the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Mudd's Passion" mentions that Harry Mudd swindled the natives of one planet by selling them Starfleet Academy.
  • In An American Tail, near the Castle Garden immigration center in New York, a salesman is selling the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Steven Magnet, a sea serpent, indirectly refer to it in conversation with a donkey.
  • In Family Guy's parody of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Duke and the King are introduced trying to scam Huck and Jim with this tactic. They don't make a convincing argument, though...
    The Duke: Hi, we're fake-selling the Brooklyn Bridge!
    The King: Don't call it "fake-selling!"
    The Duke: We're REAL-selling the Brooklyn Bridge!
    The King: Stop qualifying the selling!

    Real Life 
  • "Blockbusting" was an unfortunately common practice between the 1940s and 1960s. When relatively affluent African-American families were finally able to buy property in formerly all-white neighborhoods due to the gradual victories of the Civil Rights Movement, real estate moguls would intentionally play up the fear of (mainly working-class) whites, and say that their neighborhoods would become ghettos and their properties worthless. As a result, the moguls were able to buy up the properties at a severe discount, and then sell them back to the arriving black families at a steep mark-up. Black people still had lots of problems finding banks that would give them favorable mortgages, so the deals that they made were very exploitative. The black residents, therefore, had little extra money to put into repairs or upkeep, leading to an unintentional deterioration of the neighborhood. Thus, whites viewed the blacks moving into their neighborhood as a death sentence on their hard-earned property value, and blacks viewed whites as part of the system out to exploit them. The entire core of modern racism, all because of some cynical real-estate moguls. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was intended to deal with some of this, but at the end of the day it barely put a dent in the problem.
  • Eminent Domain fraud. Eminent Domain is the power by which governments can take land (while, theoretically, providing just compensation). Usually, this is to remove houses and buildings to make way for things like roads and utilities. The fraud kicks in when some companies claim to have eminent domain power when they don't, threatening to throw people out of their houses when they have no legal right to do so.
    • Part of the controversy of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the claim that the company placing the pipeline is doing this to remove people who refuse to sell their land to them.
  • When looking for a house or condo to buy or an apartment to rent, or even when seeking a vacation rental, be wary. Some unscrupulous "sellers" will attempt to sell a house or rent out a property they don't have authority to sell, in order to earn a quick buck. Be suspicious of sellers/landlords who are unwilling or "unable" to show a property (or have someone show it to you), or who demand money up front before you've signed the lease or even seen the property.
  • Bad mortgage and lending practices played a large role in the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
  • Swampland in Florida. They have been a nuisance to Florida for many years. Starting in the 1920s, unsuspecting investors would be told of prime but useless swampland that was dirt cheap. The investors, so quick to make an easy buck out of it, would purchase said land before ever placing eyes on it, blindly unaware that it is nearly impossible to develop. The Florida land boom of the 1920s was riff with such scams as it was the first real estate bubble in the state. One example is developers busing in customers and selling them shares in "towns" that were only vast plots of uninhabitable swampland with signs stating where the nonexistent buildings would be. Unfortunately, it is still running rampant due to the ability of buyers and sellers to purchase and sell land over the Internet.
    • A variant of this occurs in the American Southwest, where scammers would sell off inaccessible desert land. The lots that are sold don't have access to utilities and are not accessible by road in many cases.
  • Landmark sales, where scammers would often "sell" landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge to newly-arrived immigrants or other gullible people. Some notable examples:
    • George C. Parker infamously "sold" landmarks such as the original Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant's Tomb, and the Statue of Liberty, going so far as to set up fake offices and forge documents "proving" he had the rights to do so. He was most notable for "selling" the crossing rights to the Brooklyn Bridge multiple times to the point that cops had to chase away his victims whenever they tried to establish toll booths on the bridge. "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you" is a phrase often attributed to Parker's cons that implies someone is gullible.
    • Victor Lustig, AKA "The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower Twice". Lustig's scheme was somewhat more nuanced than most landmark sales: in 1925, the Eiffel Tower was falling into disrepair due to rising maintenance costs leading to speculation that it would simply be demolished. Lustig set up a meeting with scrap metal dealers claiming to be a French government official in charge of finding an "honest businessman" who would help them demolish the tower for scrap, though it had to be done in secret to avoid public outcry. Lustig then selected who he perceived as the most gullible of the bunch, André Poisson, later met with him privately, and not so subtly asked him for a bribe to secure the deal for him (it helped that there was a significant corruption problem in the French government at the time since government officials recieved notoriously poor salaries). Poisson paid the bribe and the funds for the tower and Lustig immediately fled the country. Months later, Lustig could still find no mention of the fraud in the press, leading him to believe neither Poisson nor the other businessmen informed the authorities out of embarrassment. So Lustig went back to Paris and pulled off the scheme again only for his new marks to call the police, forcing him to go on the run once more.
  • This is a real problem with vacation rentals such as AirBnB and VRBO. Landlords know they can make much more money with a vacation rental over the long run than they can by simply renting their property out to a long-term tenant. So they take out multiple leases or buy up property in a building or in a city to use as vacation rentals. This takes that real estate out of the market, which in turn drives up the cost of rent in the surrounding area, leaving longtime residents with no choice but to leave. Some have even been known to evict current tenants, just so they can use the vacant apartments/cottages/etc. as vacation rentals.
  • Extraterrestrial real estate scams. This refers to so-called private claims of ownership of any outer space object by hucksters and conmen. They are bogus as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 views space as an "international common" for mankind's benefit and forbids anyone from claiming jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the scam persists with crooks "selling" parts of outer space through "titles" of ownership termed "lunar deeds," etc. People who tried making such claims via the courts have been laughed out left and right.
  • In some places, there's also straight-up theft of real estate. Usually, this involves a vacant property with a deceased or otherwise absent owner in a neighborhood with rising values. This con centers on the fact that in many jurisdictions, a deed to property must be notarized, and that a notary must have proof of the grantor's (i.e. seller's) identity to make sure that the person selling/giving the property actually owns it. In one variant of the con, the hustler presents false identity documents to the (usually innocent and honest) notary "showing" that the person in front of them (usually the hustler's partner-in-crime) is the owner;note  in another variant, the hustler cooperates with a crooked notary to "verify" deeds without any identity documents presented at all. Each variant has its own advantages and drawbacks; the first requires the con to get at least halfway decent forgeries, but doesn't require them to get a notary on payroll; the latter cuts out the need for a forger, but keeping a crooked notary happy can be expensive, and the operation is more vulnerable to interference (since the notary's commission could be revoked without a criminal proceeding). Since the actual owner is usually deceased or absent, it often takes the true owner or their heirs years to even notice that anything has changed, and since these fraudsters usually try to turn around and sell the properties to innocent third parties, it can create some major problems once discovered. Philadelphia has had a notable rash of these since the early 2010s at least, owing to the city's hot real estate market today after decades of hollowing out.
  • And, in a subversion, a gentleman from Arizona bought London Bridge and the city of London duly dismantled it and shipped it out to Arizona. (They built another one in its place). Rumor has it that the purchaser was dismayed because he thought he was buying the much more iconic Tower Bridge, though the Other Wiki insists that this is not the case. He also made a profit on the sale (the value of the bridge as a tourist attraction raising the value of the land where it was placed, which he owned), so it doesn't really matter whether or not it was the bridge he meant to buy since he still came out ahead.
  • When the Dutch bought the Manhattan peninsula from local natives, the people they negotiated with and who got the money were not actual owners of the land. But when the Dutch made an offer to buy the land, they gladly took the money.
  • Those "name your own star" things you see on late-night TV (or in magazine adverts), as our friends at The Straight Dope elaborate here.
  • The actual Eiffel Tower has been sold... piecewise. Or more exactly, it has been completely replaced part by part over time and the old parts were auctioned off.
  • Billy McFarland, of Fyre Festival fame, or, more accurately, infamy. Magnises, his first big venture, has also been described as a fraud; reportedly, internal numbers showed that the company lost money for every member, which McFarland attempted to counter by recruiting more members - at minimum, terrible business practice. While awaiting sentencing for charges related to Fyre, he arranged for a videographer to record his efforts at starting a new venture, "NYC VIP Access", which was also a scam, selling tickets to events that either don't sell tickets (The Met Gala, where all attendees are hand-picked by Anna Wintour), didn't exist (Taylor Swift meet-and-greets - Taylor Swift does not do meet-and-greets) or were far enough in the future that they hadn't even been cast yet (The Victoria's Secret show).
  • Anna Sorokin, who pretended to be a wealthy heiress under the name Anna Delvey, and ran up extensive bills at hotels and stores across New York, convinced her marks to pay for things by claiming she had forgotten her wallet or that her credit cards were temporarily maxed out, conveniently forgot about loans she had taken and promised to pay back, and tried to create the "Anna Delvey Foundation", a private members' club and art gallery. When she took the idea to actual financiers — complete with forged documentation — she got further than you might think, but not far enough - faced with questions about where her assets originated that she couldn't answer (because they did not actually exist) and unable to put up the advance money required to secure a loan, all her schemes came down around her ears.
    • In a bizarre twist, she met both Billy McFarland and pharmaceutical price-gouging fraud Martin Shkreli during her time in New York, and even lived in Magnises headquarters for a while - she said she needed to stay for a couple of days, and then ignored all hints that it was time for her to leave until the company solved the problem (well, this one problem, anyway) by moving the entire business to a new location.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Long Con, I Have A Bridge To Sell You, Confidence Trick, Con Game, The Tale, Real Estate Scam, Landmark Sale, The Mark, Short Con, The Roper, Big Store, One Born Every Minute, Quick Change, Beat Bag, The Con Within A Con, Pig In A Poke, The Shill, Spanish Prisoner, Delayed Wire, Good For Bad


One price! Ten pounds!

As the opening titles roll, we're introduced to Bacon (Jason Statham), selling boxes of jewelry that "are NOT stolen; they just haven't been paid for."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / ConMan

Media sources: