Protecting Poor From Fraud

Eighteenth century England was riven with class differences, and the only people with a good education were those with wealth and with this came responsibility for protecting those less fortunate. Preventing the poor from being conned was not purely altruistic; if a person lost all their money to a con artist, they risked losing their homes so could become the responsibility of the parish overseers, and the costs paid for by those same people too sensible to be similarly conned. In the absence of a national police force it was difficult or impossible to track down these petty criminals. This is from the Leeds Intelligencer, April 1765:

We hear from Settle in the West-Riding of this Country,that the principal inhabitants of that town have come to a resolution to prosecute all Mountebanks, and others, who shall there presume, in open violation of the law,to distribute prizes with their packets, or, under any pretext, to execute unlawful schemes of lotteries, &c. – A resolution worthy of imitation, as the poor ignorant labourer is frequently tempted, by these delusive means, to lose his time and the money with which he should supply his family with bread, and are too frequently an introduction to that pernicious vice of gaming – One of these itinerant gentlemen, in about 7 weeks time, carried off, from one circuit in the county,near 600 guineas from the above method.


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