Don’t Fall for the Falling Lady Scam


The Falling Lady is a scam that’s very common around the world. Scammers use an attention-grabbing situation to create commotion so they can distract you and steal your valuables. When you see a lady falling down on an escalator, your first impulse is to rush to help her. As you do that, your attention focuses exclusively on the event, and you stop noticing what’s going on around you.

That’s how this scam works.

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As you run to help the falling lady, scammers get busy and empty your pockets. They primarily target phones and wallets, which they quickly hand over to accomplices going the other way on the escalator.

Now, the obvious part is that the falling lady is not helpless after all.

She’s one of the accomplices. She’ll stage a fall to distract you so that “her friends” can empty your pockets. If you plan to go into crowded places as you travel, you must know how this scam unfolds. Let’s dig in!

The Falling Lady Scam [Step-by-Step Breakdown]

The Falling Lady scam is often carried out in crowded places, especially airports, train stations, and popular shopping centers. Usually, tourists are the primary targets of this scam, but any crowded place is good enough for scammers to carry out their plans and find potential victims. 

Step 1: The Setup

Scammers rely on a woman dressed as an old lady to stage a fall and trigger the scam. She’ll often stage the fall on an escalator, but it could be anywhere crowded.

She might drop a large shopping bag to make the fall seem more realistic and draw people’s attention.

Step 2: The Hook

As a bystander, your first reaction is to help the poor old lady, and that’s what scammers count on. If passersby doesn’t react, she’ll cry out for help, asking specific people to assist her.

If you’re scrolling on your phone at that moment, you’ll quickly slide the device into your pocket to free your hands so you can help her. Your attention focuses exclusively on her, making sure she’s not hurt.

Step 3: The Scam Unfolds

Her accomplices, blending in as bystanders, use the commotion to steal wallets, phones, and other valuables from good Samaritans.

They move quickly and discreetly, taking advantage of the confusion that the old lady has created.

Why This Scam Works

Many people can only focus on one variable at a time—in this case, the falling lady. Our perception is limited, and our brain cannot process all the input from the environment. In other words, our brain chooses what to focus on, called selective attention.

If you’re curious to see this selective attention mechanism in action, play the video below and count the number of passes the white team makes.

This exercise will help you better understand why this scam and magic tricks, for that matter, work. After watching the video, the big question is: Did you see the gorilla?

If you didn’t, play the video again and check if you can see it now. The chances are you’ll see it this time because you’ve instructed your brain to focus on the gorilla specifically. That’s how selective attention works and why the Falling Lady scam is so successful.

How to Avoid Falling Victim to This Scam

Watch out for the following red flags:

Unnatural fall: Don’t get involved if the fall looks exaggerated or staged.

Group behavior: If several people hanging around the scene start acting in coordination as soon as an old lady falls, that should ring alarm bells.

Listen to your gut feeling: If something feels off, it probably is. If you’re usually the first person to help someone in need, but this time, if something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and walk away.

Next time you see someone fall, take a few seconds to assess the situation. Look around you to see if you notice anything suspicious about the people nearby. Are there other people already helping?

Before helping anyone, make sure your valuables are safe. Keep them in front pockets or bags that are difficult to access.

The possibility of that event being a scam should not turn you into a cold-hearted citizen. However, it would help if you took the necessary precautions to avoid getting robbed.


The Falling Lady scam is a distraction theft that preys on people’s willingness to help. However, that doesn’t automatically mean all the people who stumble or fall in public places are scammers. Be aware that scammers use this tactic, and always remember to approach such situations with caution to protect yourself. Secure your valuables in public places and remember to report suspicious activities to authorities because not everybody knows the falling lady tactic.

Have you ever witnessed this scam unfold before your eyes? Share your experience in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Fall for the Falling Lady Scam”

  1. Thank you for all your information as I have a disability and when shopping I have a carer, she would rush to help and I would do anything I could do to help. Thanks for the thumbs up, totally appreciate what you do.

  2. It is hard to believe an elderly woman would scam in such a way… Aren’t older persons aware of how many elderly people have already lost so much, both in their bank account and also in their physical and mental health because of Grandparents’ scams and other similar ones? How insensitive of these crazy ladies to pretend being hurt in order to scam others!!

    1. Grace Alexandre

      How insensitive of ANYONE to scam others of their hard earned money!! They must have no conscience at all.

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