A 23-year-old Alexandria woman fell prey yesterday to a confidence game worthy of 'The Sting' as she handed $3,000 to two strangers for what was supposed to be a third of $70,000 found in a lost wallet.

The victim, whom Arlington County police would not identify, described to them how she had been bilked out of the money in an age-old ruse:

According to Arlington County police spokesman Barry Hulick, the victim and her two children were getting out of their car at about 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Sears, Roebuck and Co. in the 2800 block of Fairfax Drive in the Clarendon area when a woman in a white car parked near her. Moments later a third woman walked by and approached the victim and the woman who had just parked her car. She told the two women she had just found a wallet containing $70,000.

She showed them a wallet and what appeared to be a large sum of money. She seemed upset and said she worked at a nearby bank, and would ask her employer what she should do with the money.

She asked the women to wait in the parking lot until she returned, and said she would give each of them one-third of the money. The two waited and when the woman returned, she told them her employer advised them to keep the money, but not to spend it for several months.

She also said her boss suggested each of the three women withdraw about $3,000 from their accounts so that if anyone later questioned them about the money they were spending they could say they withdrew it from their accounts.

The victim, accompanied by her children, drove to Perpetual American Savings and Loan at 19th and K streets NW in the District and withdrew $1,000. She then cashed a $2,000 check at a nearby bank.

The second woman then went to a bank in Rosslyn and emerged with a sum of money, which she showed to the victim indicating it was from her account.

The woman who claimed to have found the wallet said she would take both women's money and show her employer they had followed his advice, and ask him what they should do next.

The three returned to a site not far from where they had met. The woman who said she found the wallet entered the Metropolitan Savings and Loan at 2930 Wilson Blvd. where she said she worked. Minutes later she returned and told the victim she left her one-third share of the $70,000 with her employer. She told her that she and the other woman would wait while she got her money from the bank employe.

The victim entered the bank and talked to the bank manager only to discover she had been duped. By the time she left the bank, the two women and the white car were gone.

Police spokesman Hulick said such swindles are not uncommon in Arlington and that it is rare that victims get their money back. Often, said Hulick, the victims are too embarrassed to report the crimes.

"Most people who fall for these scams are either very gullible," Hulick said, "or very greedy."