August 3, 2022, 3:53 PM | Updated: August 3, 2022, 5:21 PM
Posing as buskers, the scammers mime playing the violin over pre-recorded tracks to solicit donations from unsuspecting passers-by.
Police across America are issuing warnings of a major new “national emergency”… involving violins.
Over the past two years, reports of scammers pretending to play the violin, posing as buskers on the street, have swept across the United States.
These mimic musicians will move the bow of a violin over a pre-recorded track, usually stolen from another creator.
Instead of just leaving suitcases aside, so passers-by can leave money – as most buskers do – these scammers will usually have someone with them, either to collect money or to play against a sign asking for money to help with rent, bills, or other financial issues. . Some falsely claim to be sick or raise money for a poor relative.
Real violinists filmed themselves taking on these fake performers, and a few of these videos went viral on the internet and were shared by numerous news outlets across America.
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Some reports call the scam “finger-sync,” a play on the term lip-sync, where a singer mimics another musician’s voice.
Most often, scammers use electric violins, plugging the instrument into a speaker via a cord.
This gives a reason, which scammers can use, as to why the melody of the violin can be heard coming from the amplifier, as opposed to the body of the instrument.
Violinists tend to stand with their backs to the audience, probably so as not to see their fingers, otherwise their mime might betray them.
In the video below, the person filming challenges a fake strings player outside Target, saying what he’s doing is “insulting.”
The videographer continues: “Do you know how insulting and awful it is for real musicians? It is not fair! You don’t deserve this – people work their lives to learn this instrument.
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In America, only a few of the states that have issued police warnings about this scam are Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Texas, and Arizona.
The scam has been called a “national problem” by many, and due to the spread of the scam, authorities suspect it may be more organized than initially reported.
Florida police believe these fraudulent fiddlers may be part of a larger group, who are traveling across Southeastern America, using the same scam to trick passers-by into soliciting donations.
Last week, Laura Moreau, the Township Supervisor for Springfield in Oakland County, Michigan, wrote on Facebook: “Warning to our compassionate and kind-hearted residents; don’t get scammed!
“This is a nationwide problem and we are addressing it at our Davisburg Kroger. They’re not your neighbors in need (we’ve seen license plates from Texas, Virginia, and Illinois) and they’re not real musicians (fiddle music is recorded).
“Please call the sheriff’s dispatch if you see this scam and don’t reward them with a donation!” 248-858-4951, option 8.”
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I just saw something I’ve never seen before – a fake busker. A man ‘playing’ an electric violin near the Farringdon tube. I had noticed it before, but never spent time watching his performance. He’s not even a good faker. I’m surprised at how angry this makes me.
— Dylan Emery (@dylanemery) March 6, 2020
However, the problem is not exclusive to the United States.
Twitter reveals that the UK has also experienced this problem, with instrumentalists impersonating musicians apparently appearing outside London Underground stations near the entrances to major city shopping malls.
Electric violins can be had for as little as $100 (£82), making this scam easy to copy.
Musicians who play regularly fear this scam will diminish their craft, and an accordionist on Reddit wrote: “I’m afraid this will spread as more videos spread online.”
The user wrote: “I guess [this sham] will do one or both of these things: show people who can afford a cheap Bluetooth speaker and instrument that they can do it anywhere, and trick more and more people into believing that all the street musicians probably pretend to play.
“I’ve worked half my life to get to where I am with my musical abilities. It’s sad to hear that [people could be told that] buskers are fake.