Shill
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Basic Information

A shill is an associate of a person selling goods or services or a political group, who pretends no association to the seller/group and assumes the air of an enthusiastic customer. The intention of the shill is, using crowd psychology, to encourage others unaware of the set-up to purchase said goods or services or support the political group's ideological claims. Shills are often employed by confidence artists. The term plant is also used.

Shilling is illegal in many circumstances and in many jurisdictions because of the frequently fraudulent and damaging character of their actions. However, if a shill does not place uninformed parties at a risk of loss, but merely generates "buzz", the shill's actions may be legal. For example, a person planted in an audience to laugh and applaud when appropriate (see "claque"), or to participate in on-stage activities as a "random member of the audience", is a type of legal shill.

Both the illegal and legal gambling industries often use shills to make winning at games appear more likely than it actually is. For example, illegal Three-card Monte peddlers are notorious employers of shills. These shills also often aid in cheating, disrupting the game if the "mark" is likely to win. In a legal casino, however, a shill is sometimes a gambler who plays using the casino's money in order to keep games (especially poker) going when there are not enough players. (This is different from a "proposition player" who is paid a salary by the casino for the same purpose, but bets with their own money.)

Sources

Most of the above text comes from the wikipedia page on shills:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shill

see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Con_artist

Game and Story Use

  • Any scenario involving a confidence game might have one or more shills helping the con men. Sorting out the guilty parties from the fellow victims may be quite challenging.
    • Such shills are likely to be fellow con artists.
    • They might instead be fairly innocent individuals who think they're just performing as legal buzz-generating shills, and are not privy to the big picture of the scam. Such a distinction may or may not matter to the victims of the con, and/or the authorities attempting to bring the con artists to justice.
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