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View Full Version : In which I get scammed at the bus stop.


WishfulSpirit
06-27-2015, 03:48 AM
Ok so today I was at the bus. I was taking a different route than I normally do (the other stop has shade). Well this frail-looking woman who appeared to be of Indian descent (she had a cane, which she apparently needed, and no front teeth) came up to me and said "dollar bus pass?"

So I got out my book of bus passes (which strain my budget as it is) and gave her one. Next thing I knew, she's going up to someone else, says something I can't hear, and trades the bus pass I gave her for dollar bills.

Next we board the bus. The money she got from the trade remains in her hand. She shows the bus driver something else, which, since he didn't take it from her, I assumed to be a monthly unlimited pass (which, btw, I'd love to have but can't afford). Then she sits in one of the front seats and falls asleep.

Panhandling on Denver streets isn't illegal as far as I know, and she wasn't begging on the bus, so there wasn't much I could do about it.

EvilEmpryss
06-27-2015, 04:06 AM
You have a good heart, Wishful, and I won't fault that, but it's time to get your smarts engaged there, too. In my experience, anyone asking for anything on the street is a scam artist. This is a percentage nearing 100 so close as to not be worth mentioning. The truly needy either know where to go to get help and don't need you giving them stuff in the street or they're too proud to beg in the street for what they need.

Just the other day I came up behind a woman stuck at an intersection. She claimed her car was out of gas and was crying loudly that she needed a tank of gas to get home. I offered to help get her car to a safe spot out of the intersection, but she kept going on about needing gas money. I finally cut her off and told her firmly that I wasn't going to be buying her any gas, but I would help her push her car out of the road so she didn't get rear-ended. If she didn't want my help I would be on my way. The blubbering shut off like a switch and she said she'd just call her brother for gas money once we got the car moved. I made her try to start the car so I know it really was out of gas, but how many times has she pulled this trick to get people to give her a tank of gas? She wasn't asking for a gallon, or even a couple of gallons: she wanted a whole tank of gas. Yeah, not going to happen.

If you really feel you need to help someone, there are plenty of charities you can give cash to. They will also direct you to individuals and families who you could donate your time to help, if you can't give money.

cindybubbles
06-27-2015, 06:57 PM
I got scammed like that too. A woman asked everyone for $2 for bus fare. I gave her $5, saying that's the smallest bill that I got and I didn't have any change. She said "That's OK!" and darted off. WTH?

I also got scammed by an elderly woman on the subway, again, losing $5. EvilEmpryss, you're right about donating to charities. My family donates money to the church and to ShareLife.

nutraxfornerves
06-27-2015, 07:09 PM
Tickets for our light rail system are good for 90 minutes. It's common to see people hanging around the ticket machines, offering to sell a ticket that still has a half hour on it, for half price.

There are also kindly souls who put unexpired tickets on top of the machines after exiting the train, for anyone to take. I have a sneaking hunch that a lot of the entrepreneurs acquire their inventory that way.

Slave to the Phone
06-27-2015, 09:19 PM
I also don't give money to people on the street. I do carry granola bars and bottled water to give away. Also small bags of dog food for those who have dogs with them. It took me a LONG time to learn that most of the people asking for money are probably scammers.

Monterey Jack
06-27-2015, 10:05 PM
If someone is truly hungry, they'll accept a gift of food, or at least an offer to take them to the nearest fast food place and buy them a burger and fries or something. If they insist on cash, that money is going towards booze, drugs, cigarettes, or all three. I never, EVER give money to people on the street. At most, I'll drop a few bucks into a Salvation Army bucket near Christmas.

MoonCat
06-28-2015, 12:25 AM
Some years ago, the cops in my town let people know that most of the panhandlers on the street were well known to the police as alcoholics and drug addicts, and they advised people not to give them money. For a while the stores had a thing going where you could drop change into a collection box that was then given to the homeless shelters, but I think that's gone now. Still, there is a well-known men's shelter within walking distance of the downtown areas the panhandlers favor; and other places as well. I NEVER take my wallet out on the street.

MadMike
06-28-2015, 12:38 AM
I got scammed like that back when I first started working at the job I have now, roughly 25 years ago. I work in the city, and I was walking somewhere to get some lunch. Some guy approached me, and told me he had just been released from the hospital earlier that day, and hadn't had anything to eat all day, and could I spare a few dollars so he could get himself something to eat? I gave him a few dollars and went on my way, feeling a little better about myself because I had helped someone.

A few weeks later, I was walking somewhere for lunch again, and the same guy approached me with the exact same bullshit story. I'm terrible with names and faces, and didn't recognize him, and I guess he scammed so many people, he didn't remember them either. But I remembered his story, and realized he was scamming people. I just mumbled something about not having any money and walked away, feeling my faith in humanity dropping.

mathnerd
06-28-2015, 01:06 AM
My view on panhandlers is a little skewed, as this is my uncle:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Cochran

Now don't get me wrong, I adored him. He's the only relative of mine who's funeral I could be bothered to attend. I couldn't be bothered to drive 5 minutes to another uncle's funeral, but I paid a fortune for a last minute flight from North Dakota to Austin, TX to be there in the days before Uncle Albert's death and stayed through his funeral.

However, before he transformed into Leslie and moved to Austin, he was a regular panhandler. For a few years when I was a teen, he lived not to far from where my family lived. Once a week he'd show up with a pick up truck load of food and other items that were given to him, which my mother promptly loaded up into her van and donate to a food bank. That was on top of the money he received, which was enough that he stayed in a reasonably nice hotel most nights and drove an older but well-maintained car (it wasn't until a little bit before he moved to Austin that he decided he liked his tricycle and urban camping). Granted, he might have been the exception, and he did put some effort into it. He played his guitar and cracked jokes in an attempt to entertain people into parting with their money. But still, because I know just how much he was given, I'm just not interested in giving my money directly to people on the streets. I'd rather give to established charities.

EvilEmpryss
06-28-2015, 02:27 AM
I admit that I feel differently about street performers than I do about straight out beggars. If you entertain me, whether it's song, dance, magic tricks, or whatever, I'll support that: you're working for your supper, not just wandering around with your hand out. They may wind up using the money for illicit purposes, but I have a soft spot for the performers. I just make sure I'm not being set up to have my pocket picked while I'm distracted.

I've been hit up more than once at gas stations by people who cars supposedly ran out of gas and they just need a few dollars to get some gas to get them to *insert name of next town over*. These people will pester everyone in a gas station for money, but when I reply "Oh, that's terrible! Where's your car? I have a five gallon can in my trunk. I'll fill it up and take it to your car for you" they back off like I pulled a gun on them.

Funny, that car never seems to be accessible to people with actual gas, just to the owners with money you give them. They won't even take a prepaid gas card (insane considering that damned near everyone needs gas at some point), but I guess a gas card can't be turned back into cash or traded for drugs.

Monterey Jack
06-28-2015, 03:20 AM
I've been hit up more than once at gas stations by people who cars supposedly ran out of gas and they just need a few dollars to get some gas to get them to *insert name of next town over*. These people will pester everyone in a gas station for money, but when I reply "Oh, that's terrible! Where's your car? I have a five gallon can in my trunk. I'll fill it up and take it to your car for you" they back off like I pulled a gun on them.

This seems truly stupid...five free gallons of gas? Yeah, it might not be the money they wanted for booze/cigs/drugs, but they're still getting something for free, and that's less money they need to spend on gas that they can use for booze/cigs/drugs. Unless these panhandlers don't have a car at all... :shrug:

EvilEmpryss
06-28-2015, 03:28 AM
Either they don't have a car at all, or me making this offer -- in a loud voice so the other people in the station could hear me -- killed their chances of getting any money from them in this round. I love messing with the ones begging for gas money. I suddenly become the most solicitous person in the world.

Your car's a couple of blocks away? No problem, I drive the gas can over to the car.

Your car's in a bad part of town? Let me call the police; they'll escort us back there to make sure you're safe.

It's got engine/transmission/tire problems? Oh, my brother runs a garage here in town. He'll help you out. Let me call him.... (I don't have a brother, much less one that runs a garage, but I have never been called on this one)

For every excuse I get, I counter it, but I have never, in all my life, ever had to actually fill a gas can to take to a car. They always leave empty handed, often fuming over being blocked.

WishfulSpirit
06-28-2015, 06:10 AM
We actually had someone ask for money for dinner once. He really did just want food; we offered to buy him something to eat (were right outside the grocery store), he happily and gratefully accepted. We also wrote down some numbers of local charities that could help him, which he also thanked us for.

I like the approach of giving them exactly what they say they want. Separates those who really need something from scammers. My Church Leadership prof in college had the same policy at his congregation when it came to their benevolence ministry: if you said you needed money for the gas bill, they'd make the check out to the gas company. If you said you had no place to stay on a freezing night, they had hotel vouchers. Need food? Grocery vouchers (other churches had emergency food pantries as well). Nobody just got money.

That's actually why I would give people bus passes. If they really needed to get somewhere, that got them what they needed. Never saw someone trade it before. I'll probably NOT give one to someone who actually asks me, but if I see someone in need, I am not disillusioned enough to not step up. For example, I bet I'll still give a pass to the next person who gets on wearing a hospital bracelet (there's an ER on our route) and is begging the driver for a ride home (Ambulances don't do return service). I'm a softie like that.

Mr Hero
06-28-2015, 11:37 AM
I was going into Walgreens for some late night cough syrup needs. A guy outside asked me for money so he could take the bus home. I told him I didn't have any money.

About 5 minutes later, I realized that I do have bus passes. I saw him in the store and offered him the passes. Funny how he said he no longer needed money for the bus.

Dreamstalker
06-28-2015, 06:33 PM
During walk/ride/run 'season', a few enterprising souls will go so far as to use actual pledge sheets (sharp eyes will note that all the handwriting is the exact same, right down to the pledger's 'signatures'--and then guy holding the sheet doesn't look like someone who would be running or riding any real distance, let alone afford athletic shoes or a racing bike).

Also some guys near major bus stops (always Reverend so-and-so) with spiels about an urban youth program. I got taken by one of them when I was younger and far less wise--not a lot of money, but he started basically 'stalking' me when I was in that area so I had to call the cops on his ass. Even less legit-looking than the fake riders.

There used to be a guy wandering the major subway station with some slick-looking laminated literature about...some school or youth thing in the middle east I'd never heard about. Wore a very distinctive jacket so was easy to avoid if you knew about him. I decided to watch him one day (waiting for a train, I had some time to kill) and saw him hook a couple people, then when they left whip out a fat wad of cash from a pocket and start counting it. Transit cops approached him a few minutes later, and I never saw him there again.

XCashier
06-29-2015, 09:41 PM
I admit that I feel differently about street performers than I do about straight out beggars. If you entertain me, whether it's song, dance, magic tricks, or whatever, I'll support that: you're working for your supper, not just wandering around with your hand out.
Exactly. They're working, thus earning their money. Especially if they're good; some famous artists like Woody Guthrie, Gerry Rafferty and Tracy Chapman started by busking.

Water
06-29-2015, 09:46 PM
You have a good heart, Wishful, and I won't fault that, but it's time to get your smarts engaged there, too. In my experience, anyone asking for anything on the street is a scam artist. This is a percentage nearing 100 so close as to not be worth mentioning. The truly needy either know where to go to get help and don't need you giving them stuff in the street or they're too proud to beg in the street for what they need.

Trust me. I had a guy approach me for gas money saying he forgot his wallet only to find out later that he was a scammer by my university's police department. Another guy approached me begging for $7 b/c he was stranded 111 miles away from home and that his dad wasn't answering his phone. Yeah, right . Unless he received the remaining $231 for a taxi or $65 for Greyhound and a taxi ride to the nearest Greyhound terminal, I'm calling him a "scammer".

seigus
06-29-2015, 10:54 PM
My view on panhandlers is a little skewed, as this is my uncle:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Cochran



I remember Leslie well.

dendawg
06-30-2015, 12:12 AM
I got scammed like that too. A woman asked everyone for $2 for bus fare. I gave her $5, saying that's the smallest bill that I got and I didn't have any change. She said "That's OK!" and darted off. WTH?

You were seriously expecting change back?? :lol::roll:

Seshat
06-30-2015, 03:25 AM
Sadly, the places which are supposed to help those down on their luck are ineffective here: or at least, they have been for me.

And yes, buskers/street performers are a very different thing from panhandlers. Here, they need to get a licence, which they audition for. The audition simply determines that the performer is actually skilled enough to entertain.

bainsidhe
06-30-2015, 05:04 AM
I've been approached a few times at gas stations. A couple times I used the excuse that sorry, I don't carry cash. The response was "That's okay, you can charge it to your card!".

Um, no thank you. :rolleyes:

Seshat
06-30-2015, 11:16 AM
Heh. I realised that should I be in such dire need that I'd be asking for food on the streets, there are things I'd have to refuse. A tuna sandwich, for instance. Or a bag of knockoff cheezels.

No point in being miserable AND having hives, just to make things worse. :( Although if I were starving ... <shrug>. I don't know what I'd choose.


.... although it occurs to me that the Hare Krishna temple offers free food and heavily discounted food as part of their spiritual practice. Vegetarian, so no problem to me for seafood, though I would have to ask about annatto.

And the temple would also be one place to find information on help getting back on one's feet.


Anyway: there's another option for those of you who want to provide genuine help to people, but don't want to be ripped off. Check to see if there's a Krishna temple in your area, and be ready to give people the address. ;)

jedimaster91
06-30-2015, 07:49 PM
When I was in college, I attended classes at the downtown campus. There was a homeless shelter not far and the old hotel across the street got converted into a Women and Children's center. Needless to say, I got approached for money on a nearly daily basis. Which I thought was kinda funny because college students are notoriously poor. Especially at a community college with a lot of non-traditional students just trying to get a degree (usually healthcare related) so they can get a better paying job.

There are also a few of the busier intersections in town that regularly have groups standing there with money buckets. And it drives me crazy. For one, it's dangerous. People around here drive like maniacs and these are major thoroughfares with high speed limits. Secondly, if you really want money for your basketball camp (or whatever the cause du jour is), do something to earn it. Have a car wash, a bake sale, mow lawns, babysit, get a summer job, whatever. Don't just stand there with your hand out. One club I belong to does bake sales during fish fry season at one of the masonic lodges. Our record is $600-something for a Saturday. In air conditioned comfort and free lunch.

EvilEmpryss
06-30-2015, 10:45 PM
Needless to say, I got approached for money on a nearly daily basis. Which I thought was kinda funny because college students are notoriously poor. Especially at a community college with a lot of non-traditional students just trying to get a degree (usually healthcare related) so they can get a better paying job.

You've also got a bunch of idealistic kids who aren't used to handling their own money and aren't as worldly, making them easier targets than your typical adult.

WishfulSpirit
07-02-2015, 05:02 AM
Have a car wash, a bake sale, mow lawns, babysit, get a summer job, whatever.

Interesting fact from fundraising days. You tend to get more from a FREE car wash. Charge $10 and people will pay that and only that. Do it for free and they'll hand you a $20.

mjr
07-02-2015, 11:06 AM
Interesting fact from fundraising days. You tend to get more from a FREE car wash. Charge $10 and people will pay that and only that. Do it for free and they'll hand you a $20.

Unfortunately, you'll get those who take FREE literally...and just show up so a 17 year old cheerleader in a bikini top and hotpants will wash his car...

I had some guy try to scam me with the whole "broke down car, family staying in a hotel nearby, just need some money for lunch" thing.

He basically hit a lot of the red flags. I told him no.

Though I did help out a guy on my way to the office one day. Something about him...I don't know. Just felt like he actually needed the help. Bought the guy breakfast (he did, after all, ask for food).

notalwaysright
07-02-2015, 05:14 PM
I never have cash, so when asked for money I just tell the truth. I don't think I've ever been asked for anything but money. I don't even know what I'd do if someone asked for food, because I'd be expecting them to ask for money and I'd be all disconcerted. I generally carry a granola bar with me, so it wouldn't really hurt to give that.

I've had the gas station "I ran out of gas, my phone's broken, I just need a couple bucks to get to my friend's house!" Where my dad lives is not a great area and the grocery store parking lot is prime spot to get hit up for cash. When I'm able to donate, I generally give to shelters with rehab programs... Okay, that and pet shelters. :o

Lovecats
07-03-2015, 05:24 PM
I was in downtown Chicago going to a women's conference with a couple of other ladies (one of whom was my minister's wife). We were walking back to our hotel (this was about 15-20 yrs ago) and this guy asked us for money for food. My minister's wife, who worked downtown Chicago, offered to go across the street to McD's and buy him dinner but he didn't want that. She just told him that she knew that he was going into the bar he was standing in front of. He stopped bothering us after that.

foxytales
07-17-2015, 03:25 PM
This past winter, My daughter (with my new granddaughter in a snuggli-type carrier) and I were walking to the grocery store (I am disabled and thus can't drive--so I was on my scooter--Stephy, though an adult, has never gotten her driver's license) We were waiting at a crosswalk to cross a major thoroughfare and a man with his teenaged companion (i figured it was his son) were also waiting and we chit chatted waiting for the light to change. When it did, the man asked us if we were able to spare a few minutes and get them some food. We have an unfortunately large homeless population here in Florida. For once, we actually WERE able to help out. We went to the 7-11 right across the street-they stopped outside--we asked them to come in and choose what they wanted. I was beyond shocked when we were politely refused and told "just whatever you can spare" (turns out they had asked other customers in the parking lot and the management had shooed them away about an hour earlier--common practice, even though they never asked for money from anyone) We ended up getting them each a HOT sandwich (yes, even in central Florida is was freaking COLD in December, especially after dark) a salad, bottled tea and a bag of chips to share. When we came back out, you'd think we had just offered them banquet service at the Ritz. The man had tears in his eyes and the boy looked ready to bawl, himself (he MIGHT have been 15). The man had expected we'd get them a cold sandwich to share, but thanked us over and over as his son (i assume) tore into the food like he hadn't seen any in days.
I am rarely able to help out in any financial way--and usually, I would have passed right by..it was just something about them..all we gave them was a simple meal that cost us like $10 and some simple conversation--treated them like human beings. To them, it was something huge. All I did--was give them what they asked for. Everyone has to eat, right?
That still turns over in my head, months later. Had he asked for money, I probably would have told him (truthfully) that I had no cash and kept on going....and they would have been hungry for another night.

Dreamstalker
07-19-2015, 02:39 PM
There are a few panhandlers I've come to know on my trips downtown, genuinely nice intelligent people (nothing quite like a discussion on society and economics with a homeless guy on "Boston's Rodeo Drive" :D ) who just got screwed by various circumstances. Some of them just want to talk and be recognized as a human by someone. I'll always give them a few bucks or extra food if I have it.

I used to know a kid who was decently well-off but would go panhandling in a college area (he could look the part; not too neat but not too scruffy) if he wanted extra spending money. Made some pretty good money at it during tourist season.

Sandiercy
07-31-2015, 12:19 PM
I live and work in an area very well known for being one of the poorer neighborhoods in Canada/Usa. The local panhandlers have stopped asking me for money because most of them live where I work and I know when they just got paid (from the welfare system, I hand them their mail). I have seen pretty much every imaginable scam.

Tee
07-31-2015, 06:10 PM
Scammers like this are why I don't carry much cash with me anymore. So I can tell people, sorry, I don't have change I can give you, and be honest about it. :/