Dear PoPville – Scammer Alert

Photo by PoPville flickr user Barflydc

Dear PoPville,

I’m writing because my coworker and I noticed a scammer that has been changing his story and moving around town. We were walking to work today (on K Street NW) and a short middle aged black man in a suit and tie stopped us. The man went into a long story about how he has a prescription he needs to pick up at CVS, but that it was $257 and he was $3 dollars short. Luckily, I noticed the man and got a hint there wasn’t something quite right.

This is similar to two different occasions I encountered with the same man. The first time he was on H and 11th NW by the construction site in a legit-looking maintenance outfit and tool belt asking for money to open the locker that stored his street clothes. My friends and I threw him a few bucks and kept moving. A few months later he was by Howard University at a bus stop on a cell phone trying to find bus fare. By this time I recognized the guy and told him to go scam someone else and he became extremely upset and started yelling at us as we walked away.

I’m not quite sure what we can do about this but I wanted to make sure readers were aware of this and to be careful. All three situations were most definitely the same person.

We’ve encountered other scams here, here, a big one here, here, here, and here.

38 Comment

  • “So my friends and I threw money at the guy” : )

    City people are so funny. I make mine, you gotta make yours. There is a “help me” place on every corner in DC, nobody needs to stand around with their hand out.

    • One of things I hear the most about people new to this area. Is that they say that people aren’t friendly around here. I think the biggest reason is this situation people abusing people good nature to scam them. People begging not because they are down on their luck per say but looking to score some quick easy cash. I for one will not reach in my pocket for vary reasons. One I just assume they are crackheads or scammers. Two. I don’t want people knowing I have money on me as it makes me an easy target for robbery. A lot of you might think yes will if you assume everyone is a scammer than of course this unfriendly attitude you have will continue. However, I do recoginize this and have often stopped to see what this person I have never met wants to say. And its always just a lame excuse to bum some cash. Answer. Always wear headphones pretend you don’t hear them.

      • What you’ve written here is so poorly worded and has so many spelling and punctuation errors that I’m still not sure what you mean to say. I literally have no clue what this sentence means:
        “I think the biggest reason is this situation people abusing people good nature to scam them.”
        To top it off, your advice of “just always wear headphones” is what makes us all the more closed off from one another — not to mention a ripe target for getting conked over the head.
        And before you write me off as just some stickler for grammar and punctuation (which I proudly am), I truly mean that attempting to read your comment was tiresome, and I come away without even understanding your point.
        I’m not perfect, but I always make myself understood.
        Please try harder.

        • I understood him. Get a grip. TSM must be working the corner hand out scam and want’s to keep his game up. : )

          Don’t beat a man down because he has sense enough to ignore the dc scammers. Headphones may not be the best idea but to each his own.

          • To each his own, indeed.

          • To be fair, I didn’t “beat him down” about his headphone advice, I just thought it was bad advice and said so. I’m free to disagree, no?
            How many times have we talked about people who get their iPhones/iPods/purses/whatever snatched from them because they were wearing ear buds and had no idea someone was creeping up behind them?

  • Simple solution: Anytime anyone asks for money on the street, especially if it’s after them telling you an overly-detailed story, say no.

    • Defintely. This was not exactly the most critical alert. The guy was trying to get $3. Real scam artists wrk for a lot more than that.

    • It’s pretty easily to tell off the bat if someone has a legitimate question about directions or the time, or they’re leading up to a scam/money request. I often get the frequent-scam/money request opener: “Excuse me, sir, can I ask you a question?”, to which I respond “You just did, and you only get one a day”.

  • You’ve run into the same scammer running 3 completely different scams? On 3 separate occasions? You must attract scams.

  • In general I will say always no to scammers. However, I will always give money to Blelvis when I see him, because he actually provides some service with his incredible knowledge of Elvis, Elvis songs, and performances. Plus I’ve seen him do some absolutely insane hip gyrations and dance moves that I’m sure I’d tear some tendon attempting to do. Haven’t seen him around columbia heights lately though.

    • saf

      Also, I just like him.

    • I too am a fan of Black Elvis. His scam wasn’t so scam-ish though when I saw him. He basically did a whole lot of singing and dancing and then asked for money at the end. I’d say the experience was more street art with a very slightly aggressive plea for money at the end.

      • After the performance, watch out for the question – do you know what the greatest nation in the world is? Do-nation (as he puts his hand out).

      • Blelvis is a community guy down on his luck. He’s had a pretty rough life and knows he can count on the people living in his neighborhood to help him out. He has made some good friends in the area just doing his thing and by being an all around good dude. It’s a bummer he has to sing and dance for people to get by, but Elvis is what he knows and loves it’s pulled him through. Much love to him!

  • This is exactly why I don’t give anyone money on the street unless I see them getting out of the cardboard box they live in to ask me.

    Give money to anyone of the dozen DC charities that houses/feeds/clothes/provides medicine to poor folk. You will do far more good.

    • +1

      And Google/research the organizations so you know how much of what you are donating is paying for overhead, and how much is for actual help.

  • Here’s what I do:
    1. Headphones on, but not plugged in to anything. Cord just trails into my bag. I can still hear everything, and I can legitimately ignore people.
    2. If I am stopped, I immediately say “I can give you the time, advice, or directions. I cannot give you money or a cigarette. Now, what did you need?”
    3. I have learned as an attorney that the more people say, and the longer/more complicated the story is, the bigger the pile of BS.

    • I like you. Now that is a posting fit for POP.

      There is a lady who is at the Shaw Metro quite frequently with her hand out saying “Can some body help me with some change so I can get something to eat please”. Each and every time I stop and point her 2 blocks west to the Catholic Charities and two blocks south to Bread for the City. She never moves, just starts her rap with the next pigeon coming up the escalator.

    • Exactly, when ppl start out w/ some scenario/story i have already decided im not giving them any money…I take it as a personal insult when they even come to me w/ that crap.

    • You must be a real hit at parties.

  • “Luckily, I noticed the man and got a hint there wasn’t something quite right.”

    You mean you remembered him. And it wasn’t a hint, it was smacking you in the face. How does this differ from ordinary begging? Just because you create a story doesn’t make it a scam. A little respect for the true scam artists, please.

    • It’s a scam because he’s actively creating characters for himself and making enough money to continue doing it. Common bums don’t have the wherewithal to run multiple scams at the same time.

  • Dear PoPville,

    I’m not sure why so many of your readers are naive and/or dumb enough to (a.) get duped by a homeless scammer, or (b.) give money to random strangers on sidewalks. In any case, if you feel the need to give money away (more than what you already provide to Uncle Sam and Kwame Brown & Co. to fund homeless shelters) here’s some unsolicited advice:

    1. Don’t give money to strangers. Period.

    2. When donating, give money to licensed charities and religious institutions that provide food, shelter and clothing. Really, there’s nothing else that homeless people need, certainly not cigarettes, booze, and Five Guys.

    3. If you see a gentlemen in a Lincoln Navigator asking for money, run fast. It’s for another Lincoln Navigator with a slightly different interior color.

    • I agree. The only reason why people beg/scam on the street is b/c they make money doing it, at least more than they would make any way that requires actual effort. If people didn’t give them money, they would stop this behavior and maybe seek assistance from a reputable, licensed charity that can provide actual assistance (i.e. food, shelter, help in kicking a drug habit, etc.). In reality, they would likely move on to a different part of the city/town/country because there are suckers out there somewhere who will give them money.

      It’s as simple as an undesirable behavior being repeated over and over again b/c it is being rewarded. Guess what? If you give your dog a treat immediately after every time it shits in the house, it will continue to do that too.

      Discussion on me being an insensitive prick begins in 3…2….1…..

  • How about the lady who begs sitting on the ground outside of Columbia Heights Target/DCUSA, uses her kids (or someone’s kids) as props, and has a written-out story so that she can pretend to be just off the boat? Have seen her doing the same at Gallery Place metro too. Scamming is one thing but using kids as props really gets to me.

  • I very very rarely give cash.

    I will go out of my way, however, to give food to a homeless person. Not just some leftovers I have, but I have many times walked back into Starbucks, bought a sandwich or something and brought it to the homeless person.

    • This would be commendable, if it weren’t so short-sighted.

      If you’re going to go out of your way to go into a Starbucks, where you’ll spend $6 on a sandwich, you’d be wiser to go into a Giant and spend the same amount on pre-cooked/canned food that’ll last 3x longer.

      I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…

      • Your point is taken (and agreed), but then again in DC it is far more likely at pretty much any given moment that you are near a Starbuck’s than near a Giant (or any grocery store.)

  • I don’t think this really qualifies as a “scam” or necessitates a “scammer alert.” This isn’t someone posing as a PEPCO employee or a Nigerian prince. Heck, it’s not even kids selling candy bars to allegedly pay for a school trip. It’s someone asking for money on the street. Happens all the time.

  • I never give cash. I always offer to buy food. Only one person has ever taken me up on the offer. Everyone else has turned me down. I was once at McPherson eating a lunch I brought from home and offered up my food and was turned down because that person was “more of a burger person than a grape person.” Guess they couldn’t have been too hungry.

  • this is not a scam. this is a dude asking you for three dollars. if you don’t want to give it to him, say no. problem solved. this is a non-issue. hardly worth warning others to “look out”.

  • ALERT ALERT!!!! Some guy is asking for a few bucks and making up a story to seem sympathetic. CALL THE NATIONAL GUARD!!!

    • I understand your perspective, but isn’t “making up a story” the very definition of a scam? The whole point of a scam to get the person to hand over money willingly under false pretenses.

      Certainly not worth of an all points bulletin, but worthy of discussion as one of those common things that we all deal with here.

  • so many soft touches around here. A fool and his money…

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