In the 1921 film The Haunted House, the comedy legend Buster Keaton's character is a bank employee who is wrongly accused of peddling counterfeit cash. He eventually discovers the real perpetrators' hideout with predictably farcical results.
That such scams were already being lampooned as far back as the 1920s is an indication of the longevity, and consequently the lack of originality, of one of the oldest criminal tricks in the book.
As reported in The National yesterday, a visitor from Cameroon posed as African royalty and presented Dh14.6 million in photocopied US$100 bills to swindle a potential investor, the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance heard. To make matters worse, the investor was referred to the Cameroonian "royal" by "a friend". With friends like these.
Still, it shouldn't take a criminal pathologist to determine that photocopied bank notes won't pay the mortgage. In such situations vigilance, even outright cynicism, is advised. Anyone who offers to hand over a suitcase full of cash should, in one way or another, set alarm bells ringing.
In too many scams, the lesson that should be learnt is that easy money, whether genuine or not, is often too good to be true. Fraud is no laughing matter, but when criminals are as unoriginal as a fake African royalty, we feel confident the general public can rest safe.