More Street Scams

This one from a reader on Irving Street:

Hello PoP:

This morning @ 8:00 a man (about 35 yrs old, 5-9, 160 lbs) knocked at my door, my brother in law answered. This fellow, in a friendly manner, told of his need for $18.00 to take a cab to the hospital to pick up his father. He explained that he lived “a couple doors down.” I asked him to point more clearly to the house – he said grey porch a few down. I asked him the house number – he said “21” (meaning 521 or 621 on this block.) I proceeded to walk to that house with him now saying he was ok and didn’t want to ask for the money now. Sure enough, the house was not 521 or 621 and he walked away. I would not have been adverse to loaning the money but since it was so easy to verify where he said he lived, I did so.

Also disturbing was that he approached our house at a time later than when I can easily be seen leaving for work, so I wonder if in addition to the money scam, was he also checking to se if the house was empty and easy to break into (we have no bars.) Saving grace is that brother in law works from the house.

Do you think this was handled appropriately, or should you just say, sorry and close the door?

13 Comment

  • These fools are getting more and more creative with their scams. In my neck of the woods, some fools are driving around asking people for gas money—yes, I said driving around.

    I think the best thing to do is nip it in the bud quickly. If it looks or seems sketchy, say “no.” Better yet, if you see someone you don’t know at the door, don’t answer the door. I would never follow these people—you don’t know where they’ll try to take you.

  • Get bars on your windows! I know, I know, you don’t want the bars because of the prison-like feeling, that you want to believe that in this day and age you should be able to live without iron enclosing your life. Maybe you have an alarm. Well not having bars on your windows is inviting a break-in–it’s like leaving an iPod on the seat of your parked, locked car. You are tempting potential thieves, and there’s a good chance that the guy that was at your door was casing your house.

    This is very common– someone rings your doorbell and looks in the house. If no one answers, they know the house is empty. If someone does answer, they have a chance to check out the interior of the place and ask if you need “gutter cleaning” or any “roof repairs”.

    I speak from experience, as this was the standard routine of a guy on our block last summer– a guy that had been incarcerated for breaking into dozens of houses using the same routine. Whether or not he was the one that broke into our house–making off with five laptops, three iPods, two cameras and much more– I don’t know. But we didn’t have bars on our windows. As it turns out, we were one of only three houses on our block that didn’t have bars. A big mistake. We DO have an alarm, but it didn’t help. It was tripped successfully by our burglar, but although the alarm company notified the police immediately, and the dispatch called three cars, the first officer arrived an hour and a half later. By that time the guy was long gone.

    Point is, you can’t rely on the police, and you can’t rely on an alarm system b/c these guys know they have at least five minutes head start anyhow. Get bars on your windows. While they’re not absolute in protecting the house, they’re the best you can get.

  • We don’t have drop in visitors so we don’t answer knocks at the door. We might look out the window to see if there’s a car we recognize. I’m not getting into a conversation about loaning money with a random stranger at my door.

  • He would have gotten the cold shoulder treatment from me.

  • I think that what you did was great – it is more of a deterrant overall if the guy knows that you are on to him, not that you just won’t give him the money. And, if he is looking in windows, etc, call the police and report suspicious activity.

  • When anyone knocks on our door, our dogs bark loudly and ferociously. It scares away just about everyone, minus the jehovahs. But I tell them my dogs will eat them if they don’t f*ck off and then they go.

  • Instead of bars, get shatter proof glass.

  • Didn’t we see this exact same scam back in November?

  • I was raised not to lie, but this is a time where I have to. If someone asks me for money, I apologize and say I don’t have any, that my husband just got laid off or something. I don’t give money to strangers. Call me cold or mean, but they are usually addicts looking for a fix or alchoholics trying to get a drink. I have my own bills and kids to support. Giving to riff-raff isn’t part of my budget.

  • I think the e-mailer handled it correctly, because s/he handled it in the way s/he felt most comfortable. If s/he had said “no, sorry” and closed the door, then that would have been “correct,” too.

    I get a little weary sometimes of these “how would you handle this/how much crime is too much for you” topics. Haven’t we already established that everyone has a different standard for these issues, and that people have to do what feels comfortable for them?

  • Instead of bars, get shatter proof glass.

    Agreed. Bars can be bent to gain entry (this happened to me… and they were thick bars!).

  • I had a guy knock at my door the other night at 12:30AM. He said he had bought the house down the street and just closed on it. He and his wife were on their way from Chicago and their truck broke down on Georgia Ave. If he didn’t come up with $130 to have it towed the police would impound the truck with all their possessions and he was short $18. I asked him what house and he told me the house number. I told him he was a liar because that house is still for sale, my partner and I looked at it two days prior.

  • This one’s similar to drewlove’s story — A few weeks ago, I was walking the dog in the morning and ran into a very friendly, well-dressed man who introduced himself as my “new neighbor,” saying he had bought the house we were standing in front of. He was Rev. George something, and his wife was a pediatrician. They were moving from Oklahoma. He then went into great detail about their trip up here and how the moving van was coming later that afternoon but they had to rent a truck themselves to bring up a few items, including two grandfather clocks from Kenyan that they just couldn’t entrust to the movers. Finally he gets to the part where the truck was broken down on Georgia Ave., the tow truck guy wouldn’t take credit cards and he needed $18 more to pay up. I didn’t have a dime on me — not that I would have given him anything anyway — and I directed him to the ATMs in Columbia Heights. He said his bank card was a “corporate card” and didn’t have a PIN. That was the only part of his story that wasn’t plausible — he included so many rich details it was quite credible. Turns out a friend of mine who is a real estate agent has clients who are buying that house. And they’re not from Oklahoma.

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