| Style over substance|
Rice pullers are a specialty of scammers on the Indian subcontinent. They are metal objects which are purported to attract grains of rice. And, seriously, that's about it. It is this magical property that makes such items extremely valuable, though it is unclear how it could be especially useful.
What are they?
Rice pullers can be any old metal object such as cutlery, bowls or jewellery. The most prized of all rice pullers is a cheap, crudely faked Anna coin dated 1616, allegedly minted by the East India Company (they minted no such coin in 1616). Scammers will demonstrate the "power" of these objects through unimpressive illusionist techniques.
The scam usually works like this:
- The "trader" will attract numerous "buyers" who are merely shills. This gives a public appearance of the metal being easily saleable at premium prices (up to Rs500,000 for an old spoon (that's 9,000 USD)).
- Interested parties will come forward with their old cutlery and request that they have it appraised and if interested, that the "trader" might purchase it.
- The "trader" will respond that he's had a major crisis of some kind and is no longer buying but instead needs to sell his stock at bargain basement prices.
- The target, believing there is a ready market, will leap at the opportunity at making a quick profit and snaps up the "bargain".
The advent of the Internet has enabled this scam to flourish as "traders" flood forums and business directories, making it look like a vibrant and respectable industry.
- "Baba sells fake 'rice puller' for 2cr, flees", The Times of India, April 9, 2011 (archived copy from 7 Jul 2013 14:02:31 UTC)
- Metal Corporation (archived link from 2012), an example trader, whose site includes some wildly pseudoscientific claims
- A rice puller demonstration by Aswin Pathrudu (Mar 10, 2012) YouTube