Scammer Alert – The old “Oh! I think you gave me a $1 by mistake!”

Photo by PoPville flickr user katecon

“Dear PoPville,

There is a man with a stoop who comes and asks you if you “Have a $20 for two $10’s” He presented himself to me as a taxi driver – but had a wheeled walker he left outside the Starbucks I was in! I told him “No sorry!” but then was told by my acquaintance that this guy dupes unsuspecting people by exchanging the two 10’s for a $20 and then turing back with a $1 in his hand and say’s “Oh! I think you gave me a $1 by mistake!” – unfortunately some people feel embarrassed and cough up another $20 in exchange for the $1… and the man walks away with a nice $19 profit. So be warned!!

Today’s was at the Starbucks at O St market. Apparently reviously he has been to other Starbucks around P St / Dupont Circle and an approached people outside hotels…”

32 Comment

  • ledroittiger

    This is my favorite scam ever. Because everyone needs to consolidate change into larger bills, right? Makes perfect sense…

    • Yeah, it would make more sense if he was the one looking for two tens, then at least there is a small chance you could have mistakenly given him a one instead of one of the tens. Of course that only gets $9 out of the scam.

      • ledroittiger

        This guy just asked me at Shaw and I confronted him. He played it off and then went looking for another victim. I walked down the platform and stood near him while he tried it on someone else. I think he didn’t get to play the $1 because he knew I was watching. Then, we got on the train together. The whole time he was staring daggers and muttering. Then he started telling a young dude that I was a “rat”. I had to get off at Lenfant Plaza and when I did, the kid started throwing change at me. Probably dumb of me to take it to the next level, but liked screwing up his day. Yeah, he’s middle-aged, uses a walker and wears a kangol type lid.

  • This scam has been around since cave men were trading wooley mammoth teeth. I really don’t feel bad for anyone who gets taken by it at this point.

  • I never, ever, ever give change for exactly this reason. In fact, I assume that if someone approaches me for any reason, they’ve got an angle and a way to make me and my money part. I’ve lived in 6 different big cities in my life and it’s always the same thing. Scammers who prey on the unsuspecting. Well, not me anymore.

  • I got hit by this scam a few years back at the old Giant at 7th and O, before it was torn down and rebuilt.

    As soon as it happened I realized I’d been scammed and went to store security to alert them, despite my embarrassment.

    They took me into the security room, we scanned the aisles by camera and immediately saw a guy looking suspicious. Cameras weren’t great but he had similar height and baggy black coat. Right away we caught him putting a package of food (that turned out to be a pound of peel and eat shrimp) down the back of his pants. They brought him in, and I could tell he wasn’t the right guy. Just funny/sad that it took only about 30 seconds to find a shoplifter when they started looking for one.

  • I like to help folks out whenever I can, but there are certain requests that make so little sense to me that I would not even consider it. I can’t think of a good reason why someone would really need a 20 instead of two 10s.

  • There is no reason i can think of that a person would legitimately need a $20 instead of two $10s. The request itself screams “SCAM!” at me.

  • my motto has become “Trust No One” Yeah, it’s sometimes a tough way to go through life, but I’ve lost enough money to scams, that I have to be extra vigilant. I’m a sucker for a sob story. Well, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

  • Are you sure the scam isn’t asking for two 10’s for a 20? That would make a whole lot more sense. Regardless I can’t believe people would stop and pull out their wallets in the middle of the street for a random stranger. I would think the scam is really someone would run by and grab your wallet!

  • Next time this happens, take his two $10s, give him a $1, and walk away.

  • who carries cash anymore?

  • Saw this dude by citycenter on Friday. No oDefense to the commenter above, but you really have to be a chump to get duped on this one. That said, he should be arrested.

  • justinbc

    That would only be a $9 profit.

    • If you assuming the $20 wasn’t fake. That’s where my mind went immediately.

      • ledroittiger

        No – this scam involves someone asking for a $20 in exchange for two $10s, which is ridiculous to begin with. But people get flustered and just want to do what the scammer is asking, without thinking it through. As a result, he palms the $20 and gives you back a $1, saying you made a mistake. Then you feel bad and give him another $20. So he ends up paying $1 for a second $20 (hence the $19 profit).

        • justinbc

          Oh, if you’re giving 20s instead of 10s then yeah, $19. I’m not sure how anyone would confuse a $20 for a $1 though, at least a $10 would be feasible (although not probable).

  • This is one of the reasons that a lot of businesses have a “we don’t make change” policy. Counter staff who are told that the “customer is always right” get taken.
    I wonder if we could get hotels to put a “Scams of DC” flier in all the rooms. The marine who got mugged who needs $40 to get back to his base. The guy whose daughter is giving birth/ having a diabetic crisis/ was in a car accident who needs cab fare to the hospital. Etc etc.

  • The variation I saw is this (I think):

    He gives you a $20
    You give him 2 $10’s.
    He turns around then comes back quickly and shows you a $10 and a $1 and says you gave me $11, not $20.
    So if you go along with this:

    A) If you have another $10 you give him another $10 in exchange for the $1 (total $10+$10+$10-$1 = $29) for his $20 (You’re scammed of $29-$20=$9),
    B) If you don’t have another $10, he gives you the $11 back and you give him back the $20, so you gave him $10+$10+$20 = $40, he gave you $20+$11=$31. (You’re scammed of $40-$31=$9)

    • Some guy tried to scam me a couple of years ago with this ploy:

      He asks for a $20 for two $10s. You spend most of your time looking at the $10s to make sure they’re real. You hand him a $20, he says thanks, and starts to walk away. He then turns around and says “wait–you gave me a $1 bill instead of a $20.” He hands you back the $1 and you give him another $20. He’s made $19. This is the more common version because people are more likely to have $20 bills on them than $10s.

      I knew it was a scam because I’d just gotten cash from an ATM and only had $20s on me. There was no way I gave him a dollar.

      • The scam usually goes in both directions. If they ask for a $20 most likely they just lost the 2 $10 and they only have $20s and singles. The less adaptive guys will not give up their $10 because they can’t make the scam work in the other direction. I get hit with this scam every other month because I live near touristy places. Normally I just waste their time asking questions and acting confused.

        Popville scam repository.

  • This guy was inside the Starbucks at 7th and H, NW about an hour ago.

  • There’s a girl who’s always hanging out at the Columbia Heights metro, often sitting on a window ledge rocking and laughing to herself almost every morning, and I watched her pull off this scam at the Starbucks last week. I watched her berate the employee saying she gave her a $1 instead of a $10 in her change, and it got awkward. The barista was so pissed because she knew she didn’t make a mistake but there are probably lots of corporate rules about not calling customers liars to their face, so a manager came over and sorted things. I really hate people sometimes.

  • Sparta

    Saw him working over a couple in the Starbucks on U/13th on Saturday.

  • Yeah, I got dinged by this scam, a few years ago, at the Tivoli Giant. I figured out later that he palmed the 10 and dropped the 1. Felt pretty stupid. Well, once burned, twice cautious. Hate to have to distrust people, but that’s life.

  • We had this scam back home in Saint Louis – but the scam was that when you took your wallet out to make change, the guy would hit you over the head with a tire iron and take your wallet, shoes, etc. Call me old fashioned, but I thought that was more clever.

  • I got suckered by a version of this but realized halfway through that it was a scam. I told the dude that I knew somewhere along the way he has stealing money out of me and that if he’s that desperate he could have it. He subsequently swore up and down he as not scamming, wouldn’t ever do that sort of thing, etc. However, one look at his face and I knew I’d hit the nail on the head and that he was embarrassed he’d been called out on his thievery. Shaming him was worth the $10 I lost.

  • I did fall for it once at Union Station. But someone was stupid enough to do it at a Citibank by the ATMs while the bank was still open. I mean, if you need change, why not just you know… walk in the bank?

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