Dear PoPville – Another Locksmith Scammer

Photo by PoPville flickr user Beau Finley

“Dear PoPville,

For some reason I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two attempted scams in the past month (I also wrote in about the hostile scammer at archives). I live at the corner of W Street NW and 11 Street NW and at about 9:00 pm a man knocked on my door claiming he was just at CVS and he left his keys there and needs a money to pay the locksmith. He claimed he was my neighbor and was even caring around a reusable shopping bag with stuff he said he bought from CVS. He kept saying “I’m your neighbor, I wouldn’t lie to you.” I didn’t recognize him from the neighborhood. After I said I’m sorry I don’t have money he promptly left. He was nicely dressed and polite, but I just couldn’t believe this. Especially since I’ve needed to call a locksmith and they do not demand cash before they open your door. Also, he was talking really fast, his eyes were rather large, and he kept chewing his bottom lip, so yeah. I’ll feel really bad if this was my neighbor but something tells me my intuition was correct here. We called the police and gave a description: black man, upper 40s, about 5’7″, short sleeve yellow plaid shirt, green dress pants.”

35 Comment

  • When talking with friends over the weekend, I learned that one friend encountered this same scam years ago. It’s an oldie, but goodie, I guess. Her story was very funny, because she had just bought a house that needed some significant TLC, and she wasn’t very familiar with her neighbors yet. The man asking for money (same story, locked out and needed to pay cash to a locksmith) requested $75. She refused, but wondered if he was really a neighbor. She subsequently learned the same man had approached other neighbors, but asked them for $100 instead. She was a little embarrassed that he gave her a “discount,” which she assumed was based on the somewhat shabby way her house looked at the time!

  • Asking for money by telling a possible lie is now a “scam?” Really?

  • He knocked on my door last night, too! I must have driven him up your way after his scam failed on me. Same “left my keys at CVS” story, needed $31 (exactly). Had a wad of cash in his hand, was sweating profusely. He acted sincere, but lost me as soon as he said he was my neighbor and was locked out and needed money. He also gave a house number where I know the people who actually live there. I probably should not have done this, but I stepped outside offering to walk down to his house and meet the locksmith, but he said he had already left. Then when I asked where he lived again, he changed his house number to another house where I know the people. When I said that locksmiths don’t require money upfront, that they let you in and then you pay them, he said, “Naw, this guy’s licensed and bonded. They don’t do that!” Anyway as I started in the direction of his so-called house, the guy hightailed it the other way, saying “I’m your neighbor, I wouldn’t do you like that!” Apparently, he would…

    • So what costs $31 that everybody’s fiending for? I had a guy showing similar behavior ask me for $31 near Metro Center the other night, claiming he needed $31 to get into some church ambassador program.

      • if i had to guess, i’d bet they think people who don’t have exactly $31 cash on them might just give 2 twenties, saying the “neighbor” can pay them back later

  • Anyone ever get approached by a middle aged black guy outside of Nellie’s asking for money to get to the hospital? It happened to me 2 weeks ago, and I swear the same guy had asked me the same question with the same story at the same location some 6 months prior to that.

    • I’ve gotten the request for cab money to get to the hospital up on 11th and fairmont…he seemed pretty convincing, but I was still really wary of it… and i had no cash on me anyway…

    • That is the story I got, probably over a year ago. It really stuck in my mind. The guy puts a lot of emotion into his plea for money.

    • Yep, 13th and Irving. Stupidly I gave him like $5. Walked halfway down the block and overheard him behind me ask some other person for month, same reason. That’s the last time…

    • We’ve been approached with that story at Florida Ave. and Third NW near our home. A lone gentleman made a beeline for my wife and me across the street and was jabbering at his phone like he was engaged in an intense and emotional discussion about the fate of his hospitalized child. It was a pretty good act; he must have seen us coming two blocks away. But I’ve heard this story before back home, so I didn’t go for it. (In the Midwest it involves money for a trip to a completely different town, I guess because we are so prone to driving long distances.)

    • I have in Shaw and fell for it. Same intense pretend talking on the cell phone. Lesson learned.

    • I live on W and 10th and this man has approached me three times in the last two years. Once on the Metro and the other two times while I was walking on 10th St. he always uses the same story that his daughter just got into an accident and he needed to get to the hospital. The last time in April he did this again and when I replied that I couldn’t help him he started getting irate. I shouldn’t have engaged but I called him out on his scam and said that his daughter must have really bad luck since this is the third time she is in the hospital and should learn to be better prepared since she is so accident prone. He yelled at me and then walked away. I have not seen him since.

  • The CVS is an odd detail for the scammer to include in the story. If he’d supposedly left his keys at a CVS, he should’ve been scam-requesting money to get a taxi there, unless it would’ve been closed by that hour. Unless the CVS was outside the Beltway or something, the taxi fare would be less than the locksmith fee.

  • Whenever someone says “I wouldn’t lie to you,” they have just lied to you and soon will again.

  • I have seen him out many times in the CH and MtP vaccinates. Well dressed, shorter, in his 40s. He was wearing a suit and tie. Of the two times I have been given his spiel.

    1st: Mother in hospital, left his job / lost his job to be at her bedside

    2nd: I honestly don’t remember the story, I think about needed bus fair to leave go out of town? It was not the same.

  • binpetworth

    I wonder what would happen if you responded with, “Oh, I’m a locksmith, let me go get my tools and I’ll help you out…”

    • awesome!! I am going to try to remember this if I get the locksmith scam. Most recently I got the request for Greyhound fare because of a family issue.

  • Aglets

    This smacks of the “stephanie” scam going around the hill in ’98 or ’99. I wonder if there’s anyone out there still trying that rig.

  • Unfortunately in DC, the rule of thumb has to be never give out money to anybody. I heard a similar locksmith story, about being locked out of a car, near the Silver Spring metro station a couple of weeks ago. 30s woman, caucasian, seemed sincere– but the fact is people just don’t go around asking people for cash like that when they get into trouble. Especially in the city where there are plenty of police officers to lend a helping hand.

  • This is why I don’t answer the door if a stranger is there and I don’t care if they see me not answering.

    • For this reason, I have begun to regret having a doorbell installed after moving into my house. Ninety percent of the time, if I’d known who it was, I wouldn’t have opened the door.

      • Meant “answered the door,” not “opened the door.” Usually I just pull the little curtain aside and talk through the glass.

  • I’ve been scammed a few times out of say, 20 or 30 dollars… Not because I didn’t realize the story was likely a crock, but because the people looked desperate. If you are broke, I guess I admire the effort they put in to get some cash. Sure, they were probably addicts. But I feel for them … I hope I am never that desperate.

  • I live on W St next to Blind Dog Cafe and he knocked on our door at about 9:20pm with the same story. I have never seen him in the neighborhood before and I told him I had no cash and suggested he use a credit card. He replied that he didn’t have one. He did walk away after words about my lack of sympathy and my dogs barking at him.

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