Nickname for a kind of fraud or confidence game. More specifically, a kind of bill fraud.
A front company or grifter draws up an official-looking invoice addressed to the accounts payable department of a well-monied firm. The invoice outlines a payment due for directory listings in a telephone book, business directory or other similar publicity catalog.
This swindle is especially fruitful In cities where more than one firm prints yellow-pages-style directories, and is especially fruitful when employed against a wealthy firm or corporation or one which seeks the widest publicity possible. For obvious reasons, however, attorneys (solicitors, barristers) do not make good marks for this con.
This process is often legitimized by simply printing a small run of the directory in question without any real attempt to distribute or sell copies of it.
One of the best-known (and legitimate) variations on this con is the "Who's Who" directory. While a few legitimately edited "Who's Who" books are compiled (with bona fide selection criteria), there are countless others in which one can be listed by simply paying a "small fee".
A solicitation is sent to the mark containing copy which makes the solicitation seem unique and special. By appealing to the ego and self-importance of the mark, the solicitation is viewed in a more favorable light. A copy of the "world renowned" directory is included in the deal (with your name right there on page 736 right above sucker X and below sucker Y). Of course, those who paid the fee to be included in the directory are generally the only ones who receive the directory.
Many of these "Who's Who" books are targeted toward particular professions or toward students (e.g. "Who's Who of American Otolaryntologists"). This solicitation may seem unique and special to the mark, but, of course, databases of leads for specific professions and student rolls are commonplace in the sales industry.
The pitch usually includes the tell-tale (and cliché) phrase, "You have been selected." Of course, you have been selected—to be sent the solicitation. The criterion for selection is simply that you have a mailbox and are on the mailing list the sender bought.
An interesting twist to this process from the early days of the Nigerian Debt Scam (now more commonly known 419 Fraud), when these scams were perpetrated primarily via snail mail. In these earlier days, the "Who's Who" books were used by scammers as a source-book for the names and locations of potential marks, since the people listed in them were already proven to be gullible enough to buy their way into a Who's Who book. For this reason, among some insiders, these books became known as a "Who's Who of Marks".