Dear PoP – Possible Metro Panhandling Scams

Photo by PoPville flickr user ianseanlivingston

“Dear PoP,

Have you heard about the guy or guys on the metro asking for money with a real novel approach? I’ve heard this several times now and it just hit me this weekend. Can’t remember if it’s one guy or several. The story goes that a guy is up in DC on leave from the military and he’s had his wallet stolen and needs to get back to the marine corps base in lejeune. The guy I saw this weekend had the hair cut and a military bag. He looked the part. After a friend and I got this story we talked and figured out we had both heard this.

Anyways, novel approach to panhandling. It kind of irks me that this guy tugs on the support the troops sentiment. Lots of people fall for it because the kids is so sincere and I hate to see him get away with it. I much rather see the guys with the sign “Ninjas killed my family. Need money for karate lessons.”

Sounds very similar to the door to door scams we hear about from time to time.

68 Comment

  • Yup, I’ve seen one of these guys at Union Station. He mostly looked the part but not quite. I didn’t fall for it.

  • Encountered a guy running this scam on Scott Circle Saturday a week ago… He didn’t carry himself like a Marine, so I didn’t bite.

  • this happened to me on E street near the landmark theater about 6 months ago.

    • Yup ditto. Happened to me when I was watching Restrepo.

      I heard his whole speech, he asked for 60 dollars for the train.

      A guy gave him 40 dollars and left. Not even a minute later, he comes back to the corner and says the same story to two women and asks them for 60 dollars.

      What a fucking bastard— I was going to give him money based on the Marine sentiment story; I have friends in the Marines and am always willing to help them out. My roommate was right about this guy— he said he’s seen him before scamming people; I wrongly gave the scammer the benefit of the doubt.

      White guy, about 5’11”, crew cut, wearing a navy tshirt and jeans, and carrying around a military canvas bag. I’ve seen him multiple times doing his gig now.

  • it’s possible he’s not lying.

    that said, i got that pitch outside the Willard a few months ago from a dude with a military hair cut.

  • I have frequently gotten the “my car ran out of gas a couple blocks back and I need to get to North Carolina to my sick wife + kids” … got it twice in one day from the same guy around the Columbia Heights metro. Never gotten the military thing.

  • I have encountered this particular panhandler in Dupont Circle, and I agree that he plays the part of a stranded Marine quite convincingly. He is well-spoken, mannerly, and has the haircut and neat appearance of a Marine. I did not give money to him when he asked me for help(because I never hand out money, and I rarely carry cash anyway), but I have seen him try to stop other people on a couple of other occasions. I am also disgusted that the guy takes advantage of the “support the troops” sentiment. I have felt like I should do something or say something to about him, but I am overwhelmed by the number of panhandlers and scammers on the streets here in D.C.

  • Ever run into the guy that lives in his white painters van and asks for gas money to get back to Virginia?

  • I heard the same pitch last week in Farragut Square.

  • there is a guy i’ve seen up and down 7th , once at m st, once at mass ave and once at h st. with a few weeks in between.

    same story, i’m a marine and my wallet was stolen. the third time i started to call him out on it and he walked away.

  • bfinpetworth

    Friday evening: Sitting on my front porch, a guy walks by on the sidewalk and asks for money for gas – his wife and kids are several blocks away and they need to get home to College Park. I offered him my gas can to put gas in his car. He said ok, then I bring out a 3 gallon can that is quite heavy. He takes it and promises to drop it off once he’s done, and walks away. Two houses up the block, he stops, turns around, and brings it back, saying someone took his wife to a station and she got gas. Didn’t need the gas anymore. Hmmm.

  • Take pictures of these panhandlers and post them here at PoP so we can identify them and have them arrested.

    Or have none of you read about UC Davis’s “Crying Girl”?

  • I have seen the SAME person do this twice – once near the convention center metro and just last week near mcpherson square. It was several weeks apart so this is definitely one guy running a scam.

  • There’s a woman who runs a similar scam…says her son has been released from the military and she needs to go to him at Norfolk (I think?) but her wallet has been stolen. She has a long explanation about how much it costs to get there, including a bus from the Metro, and she carries suitcases with her. I gave her money the first time although I wasn’t totally convinced. When I saw her the second time I called her out on it and she got angry.

  • The worst Metro scam is the one where they raise the fares and parking rates and lower their service. 🙂

  • Take his picture and ask PoP to send it to me.
    I work in the Pentagon and want to get this info the Marine Corps here.
    My fiance is a Marine and there is NO WAY a legit ‘stranded’ Marine would ask for money. He would ask for access to a phone. If he would even get robbed given that they all have basic knowledge of hand to hand combat including against those with weapons.

    God this pisses me off. Someone snap his picture, write up what his normal schtick is and I’ll get it to the Commandant’s office. PoP has my email address (from me asking him to post looking for a home for Swannson)

    • Or he would go to one of the many recruiting stations around or call up the USO. No reason to believe guys like this! And I bet if he ran into a couple of real Marines, they would not take too kindly to his scam.

  • I’ve seen this. I saw the same guy TWICE at the Mt. Vernon/ 7th Street Metro. Scam!!

  • Marine-type tried the scam on me last summer at 10th & Pennsylvania, NW. Had a manila folder with a couple of ‘official’ looking business cards to show he’d been to meetings with people. I didn’t bite. If he’d been to meetings with those people he’d have been in uniform, and/or would have gone back to their offices to correct the situation.

  • I too have encountered this guy. First time it was sketch and clearly targeting tourists who wouldn’t know any better. Second time, same guy in Dupont doing the same deal. As he hassled a group near us we talked quite loudly about how he was a scam and he promptly walked away…

  • Seriously – whenever this happens, offer him a ride to HQMC at Henderson Hall. And take his picture and get it to me. If enough people get me info, I’ll get it to the Marine Corps and they can see whether it’s a crime and get the police involved.

    • If he indeed is a scammer, I wouldn’t recommend that ANY reader invite this guy(s) into their vehicle. That is just asking for trouble.

    • Unfortunately, it isn’t a crime to impersonate a soldier. However, sending him to Henderson Hall is a darn good idea.

  • Saw the exact same scam, two weeks ago at LaFayette Square. Wallet stolen. Needed money to get back to Camp Lejune by train.

  • I’ve encountered this at Archives/Navy memorial a few months ago. He showed me a folder with what looked like legitimate military documents and said he had gotten mugged. When I said I was sorry and had no money to give him (I truly didn’t), he asked me if I could go to an ATM and he would send me a money order the next day to repay me. I felt bad not doing it until I saw him a few days later preying on another young female and giving her the same story.

  • How about the guy outside Foggy Bottom who claims to have found work, but has been sitting there daily for the past four years (or since I’ve been in DC) collecting money for \work boots\?

    • oh, he’s changed that a bit; now he “needs just one more tool”. always reading a new book. damn shame the students keep giving him money. new gullible batch each year.

  • I’ve was approached by this guy twice earlier this summer…once on 14th and NY Ave and another time at Metro Center. He also likes to show you “his” military ID which looks pretty authentic. My husband is a veteran so it seemed a bit off to me but the first time I felt really bad I didn’t point him in the direction of the local USO or something.

  • I’ve seen this guy multiple times around the metro center-gallery place area. He has asked me three separate times. On the second I told him to cut the shit and get out of my face. The third time I told him I was going to kick his ass if he asked me again. I’ve also seen him trying to do this to other people. Now anytime I see him pulling this crap, I yell at him and tell him to stop running his scam. If you confront him, he slithers away like the snake he is. Not conduct becoming a marine.

  • my husband and i were going to grab dinner near gallery place on friday after work and a guy with this same story – military, stranded in dc, needs $78 or something for a train ticket back to his miliary base in VA. we actually didn’t have any cash, but did stop to talk to him for a second. something didn’t seem right–the rest of the walk to the restaurant we were wondering how “the miliary” couldn’t get him back to his base? maybe i’m naive about the subject.

  • Beggars suck!

    People genuinely in need however usually are not that forward. If he really just needed money for metro or bus he could just ask the bus driver to ride for free…

    On another note,
    It’s disgraceful the way we treat our war veterans!

  • I saw the same thing at McPherson Sq a month or two ago. He said he was in the military at a base in N.C. and asked for something like $70 or $80 dollars for a bus ticket because his wallet and ticket had been stolen and he needed to get back to base. When I told him I didn’t have cash, he offered to accompany me to an ATM so that I could get it for him. I didn’t feel comfortable and declined. I agree that something about his story seemed off. Why couldn’t he call someone from base to help him out?

  • Aww shucks… Thanks for making me look like an idiot PoP. I got scammed. Gave the guy $10 outside of Gallery Place. I swear I’m normally not that gullible.

  • There was a guy outside Columbia Heights metro doing this last Thursday, he claimed he was a Marine just back from Iraq and was shirtless with a manila folder that he was trying to show me and needed money for food

    • Wow he’s an idiot because there are no Marines in Iraq anymore (save for a few dozen embassy security guards).

      Is this the same guy all over the city?

      If no one has a picture, can you post a discription?

    • A fake marine without a shirt. Thats hot!

  • He also was scamming people at the Bolt Bus pickup/ drop off in the old convention center parking lot – saw a woman give him $30 when I left on a Friday and he was STILL there “looking for train or bus money” when I got back Sunday. What a douche.

  • I’ve seen this twice around Farragut/McPherson squares. I was suspicious the first time but the second time confirmed my fears.

  • I’ve seen this same guy at L’Enfant plaza metro. Manilla folder and business cards asking for money for the train.

  • This poor guy has been stuck here for months it sounds like, won’t someone help him out?

  • Offer to call the Red Cross for him since this is exactly they type of help they provide…

  • My husband and I met him a few months ago at Gallery Place. Thought he was a bit short and scrawny to be a marine. Also, I’m hardly confident in our Marine Corps if their members are getting mugged (he got mugged with us) in broad daylight.

  • yep, I’ve seen him on the metro. blue or orange line going east (we got off at stadium armory). Young guy, khakis, pea coat (it was winter I think), military hair cut. had “papers” in a manila envelope and said he was on leave and needed to get back to base. But since he wasn’t “on duty” the marines’ wouldn’t help him pay his way back to base. I don’t think we even had cash at the time, but wouldn’t have given it to him anyway.

  • Yeah saw this guy on 4th of July down at the mall right after the fireworks. I am a military social worker. I offered to call Bethesda MWR office for him (its in my cell phone) so that they could get him a loan to get home. He high tailed it out of there but when he thought we werent looking he started the schtick again.

  • Yup, just saw him tonight. Got on the train at Metro Center about 7.15. Very persistent.

  • I have seen this guy do it twice. The first time I asked if he had been down to the Marine barracks in Southeast, and when he said they could not help I knew he was not for real. Then last week he came and asked me again. This guy’s turf is downtown.

    If you are down on your luck I think about helping out. If you lie to me then no chance.

  • 1. A video of this guy’s schtick would go viral.

    2. These kind of scammers love to talk. Indulge them: waste their time. Every minute they’re talking to you is a minute they’re not scamming grandma.

    3. Extra points if you can get a cop’s attention so that they can “help” the poor stranded traveler (sure, the scammer’s not doing anything illegal, but this is one of the few times I actually LIKE the fact that cops can and do arrest people on BS charges ).

  • Why is everyone so sure this is legal? Lying about being a policeman or an FBI agent is illegal if you aren’t one, and the Marines are a branch of the Federal Government.

    Even if saying your a marine is not illegal what he’s doing is still fraud. I would be surprised if what he is doing is legal, although it may not be a felony.

    • the debate on whether this is legal is currently playing out.

      Also, he might have BEEN a Marine, in which case he isn’t lying, he’s just scum for exploiting his title vs. getting help.

      I sent the info to the Marine Corps PA office and there is nothing they can really do except encourage no one to give the guy money and also encourage people to notify the police when they see him. If he’s hounded enough by the cops, he’ll stop or move on.

  • This is a scam. Any member of the military can go to any base and get the help he needs. If he was really a Marine he could go to either the Marine Corp Barracks or Henderson Hall and once confirmed the would issue him another ID card. The USAF has the AF Aid Society and the other branches have similar organizations and they would buy him a ticket home.

  • They all have a story! Its simple just don’t give ANYONE a frickin penny! There’s plenty of other ways to be charitable.

  • Sigh. I gave this guy 5 bucks at Foggy Bottom. I didn’t quite buy the story, but he seemed pretty legit and my conscience wouldn’t let me turn my back on him. But now I know and if I see him scamming anyone else I will intervene.

  • Yep–hit us up outside of U St. Lounge a month ago. My friends felt bad, I didn’t. Come from a third generation military family and know that there is *always* someone you can call.

  • I only had a $20 bill on me so I have him all I had… 🙁 I even told him how I was unemployed at the time and really counted on him paying me back. Asshole.

    $20 for a tougher heart and a lesson well learned… cheaper than learning how to make sushi, I guess.

  • Saw this guy at Gallery Place and gave him a few dollars. Called my boyfriend to tell him about my good deed and he said he saw the same guy by Convention Center a few days prior. About a month later we were at Convention Center together to get on the metro and we saw the guy, verified it was the same one we both saw, and wondered how he had not made it home yet. Hmm…

  • He confronted me at L’enfant Plaza a few weeks ago. I almost fell for it…

  • Yep, got the same story at 14 & Rhode Island. Said he was a marine, got his wallet stolen and couldnt pay the remaining $70 for his hotel room while here on leave. We kept walking, no question. Creep.

  • I NEVER give out money to people on the street. Whatever they tell you it’s usually 110% B.S. I’ve heard just about every freakin’ story you can imagine…”I’m a stranded truck driver from Georgia with 4 kids and my wife has cancer and my kids are sick” (even had a license from Georgia) Total BS. NEVER give out your money. Never.
    I even had a guy tell me he used to “fight in submarines underground in Vietnam” HA!

  • I haven’t seen him yet, but I have encountered a women (near Foggy Bottom) who claims to work at GWU Hospital in the ER (she wears scrubs and has a hospital id) and asks for money to get home; she says you can come back the next day to get the money from her at the hospital. Luckily I didn’t fall for it, but it did seem really legit. Just another scam to be aware of!

    Also, there is at least one young man who stands outside Dupont metro frequently (although, I think I have seen the same young man with friends at Union Station metro) asking for money for the Boys and Girls Club. Instances of him harassing women have been posted on Hollaback DC.

  • Boo that sucks…. was on the red line when he hit me up… I gave him 3 bucks.. (all I had in my wallet)… I got off the train after that and thought to myself … why doesnt he just go down to the barracks and get himself a ride…. boo again. Im gonna rat him out next time I see him ask someone

  • has anyone seen the lady on crutches near florida and rhode island ave nw? she walks as though she is exacerbated but if you get smart with her she will walk as though she doesnt need the crutches. i have also seen her around town without them, walking normally with crutches nowhere in sight.

  • Just saw the “Marine” or someone running the same scam at the Dupont Circle Metro north entrance.

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