Play It Again Sam!
By now you likely have seen the person outside Target, Wal-Mart Best Buy, or grocery store, play their electric violin for the crowd of shoppers. On the surface, it looks like it is just some person who is down on their luck and who can play well and they are using their talent to entertain the crowd in an effort to make a little extra cash. And on the surface you are right, but it turns out that it is all a scam and they are only pretending to play the violin.
The act of performing in a public place for gratuities or monetary donations, is called busking, thank you Wikipedia, I learned something. Now the question is they are technically called a busker as they are not actually playing, they are just scamming. In my opinion, they are still a busker, they are still putting on a performance, but since they are not actually playing the violin, it is a performance that I personally do not care to support with a donation.
A quick Google search for “violin scam” and you will turn up dozens if not hundreds of articles and stories about this scam and how it works, though most of the articles are very much lacking in how this scam works.
To join in on this scam, all you need is the music, the amplification system, and an electric violin (I’m in no way advocating that you or anyone scam the public in any way). Here is how this fraud works:
You set up your amplification system, you plug your electric violin into the amp, you put out your sign that is stating some sob story like “Out of work, can’t pay medical bills, please help if you can” and then you open the violin case, turn on the pre-recorded soundtrack and pretend to play the violin and rake in the money. Often this swindle is pulled off by a team of two or more, where one person is either holding up the sign and showing it to the crowd, or the other people in your team pose as a fake audience, banking that others will follow suit and toss some cash in the case. I have also seen it where the family hangs out with the scammer to help pull on the heartstrings of the gullible public.
This particular scam has been going on for a couple of years now, and though I can’t seem to find out how to join the club, there must be a place where you can go, so you can download the music and tell you how to pull off this scam. The reason I say this, is that this scam is everywhere in every state and at just about every major shopping location.
How Do I Know This Is Fake
The one telltale sign is that they will not want you to record or take their photo, but that is not always a given. It is usually difficult to tell and that is why this fraud is so successful. Unless you can talk with them and corner them in the lie, there is not much you can do to tell them that they are lying.
How Can I Help Stop This Scam
The first thing you can do is not give them any money and encourage others to do the same. The next thing is the call the police and let them know where it is going on.
Of course, this scam isn’t really any different than paying several hundred dollars to see your favorite performer lip-sync to all your favorite songs, but hey, who am I to point that out?