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Three-Card Monte

Find the card and win the money...

Be warned, this card game is a scam. No matter what you think, the hand is quicker than the eye. The only time you win in this game is when the suspect lets you; and the only reason a suspect will let you is to fool you into thinking you can beat them and make some money.

Three-card Monte is most often played with cards, but sometimes with shells. The ‘mark’ is supposed to find a particular card, or perhaps a pea hidden under a shell. If the victim does not select the right card or shell, he loses and must pay the suspect money.

Sometimes, people choose to partake in this game, thinking they may actually win money. Other times, a victim may be unwittingly roped into this scam.

Here’s how that might happen:

  • A suspect asks for help finding a church. He tells the victim  he is from out of town, usually somewhere “down south,” to gain your trust. Somehow the suspect convinces the victim to give him a ride.
  • When the victim and the first suspect get to the church, a second suspect joins the conversation.The second suspect may lead the victim to believe that he is affiliated with the church.
  • The two suspects start talking about a card game. One of the suspects conveniently produces a deck and the two suspects start playing.  The victim is then asked what he would do. As soon as he answers, he’s been sucked into the game.

The suspects then set up the victim by making him think he may have won some money. But then the tables turn and the victim is told that he owes the suspects money. The suspects may imply that they will harm the victim if he does not produce the money.


What to do if approached in this manner

  • Avoid the situation – give the suspect directions to the nearest church and let him walk there.
  • If you can’t get away, look for a marked police unit and approach it or call 3-1-1. Get as much information as possible and give it to the police when you file your report.


Should you become the victim of a theft by trick, con man or other theft by deception contact 311, your locate police district or the Financial Crimes and Fraud Unit on (202) 727-4159.