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(See also TRICKERY.)
fleece To swindle, defraud, or con a person out of a sum of money; to cheat someone, take him for a ride or to the cleaners. This expression stems from fleece ‘to pluck or shear wool from a sheep.’ In its figurative sense, fleece implies that a victim, usually a gullible person, is led willingly and unknowingly into giving up some of his possessions.
To divide what they fleeced from these poor drudges. (Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, 1840)
fly a kite To raise money through misrepresentation, such as by the sale of bogus bonds, specious stocks, or spurious securities; to write a rubber check, i.e., one for an amount which exceeds available funds. In this expression, kite, a Wall Street term for worthless bonds, stocks, or securities, may stem from kite, the falcon-like bird with a forked tail (implying dishonesty) and a toothless bill (implying worthlessness). It is more likely, however, that kite refers to the paper “toy” that soars in the wind, the implication being that these worthless papers (bonds, etc.) are good only for constructing kites.
gazump To cheat or swindle; to defraud.
Grafters speak a language comprised of every possible type of slang … These include ‘gezumph’ which means to cheat or overcharge. (P. Allingham, Cheapjack, 1934)
This British term (also written gezumph or gazoomph) is a descendant of gazamph, an obscure word for dishonest auctioneering. Nowadays, the term usually describes an unethical increase in the price of real estate after the original asking price has been agreed.
palm off To dispose of fraudulently; to deceive someone into accepting a worthless item, plan, or other matter about which bogus claims have been made. This expression alludes to magicians and other sleight-of-hand artists who are able to trick a viewer into believing that an object concealed in the palm of their hand is actually somewhere else.
Have you not tried to palm off a yesterday’s pun? (Charles Lamb, Elia, 1822)
pig in a poke A worthless, uncertain, or misrepresented bargain; a risk or chance; some item purchased or accepted on blind, and possibly misplaced, trust. This expression recalls the county fairs which were once common in England and elsewhere. If a customer bought a suckling pig at one of these fairs, he would usually take it home in a poke, a small sack. Since some pigs were sold at bargain prices sight unseen in a sealed bag, an occasional unscrupulous purveyor substituted a cat for. the pig, hoping to deceive the buyer of “a pig in a poke.” A cautious customer, however, would open the sack before buying its contents, thus “letting the cat out of the bag.” This expression often appears in the context of to buy a pig in a poke. The French equivalent, acheter un chat en poche ’to buy a cat in a poke,’ refers directly to the deceptive practice described above. See also let the cat out of the bag, EXPOSURE.
take to the cleaners To defraud someone of all his money; to wipe out; often used passively in the phrase to be taken to the cleaners. This rather recent American slang expression is thought to be a modernized version of the earlier slang phrase cleaned out, which is still in current use today. Its meaning is similar to that of taken to the cleaners, but it lacks the latter’s usual connotation of having been duped or swindled.