Heads Up, Scammers in Full Effect

Photo by PoPville flickr user Randall Myers

Readers reports:

“$20 for two $10s scam guy is back…or maybe he never went away. Spotted harassing folks at 15th and M this morning.”


“I’ve heard from several of my neighbors in the H Street area that “Neighbor Bruce” is back and coming to folks houses with a scam story about needing metro money and being locked out of his house. He is a white male, mid 50s, around 6′ tall, dressed in a full suit and tie.”

Ed. Note: He also goes by Gene


“Just want to give people a heads-up on this guy scamming people in the NoMa/Eckington neighborhood. It happened to me a few weeks ago, and this weekend I learned something similar by the same guy happened to one of my close friends. Considering the odds of that, I assume it has happened before and will happen to others.

Based on NC/VA/MD records, the guy in question is a convicted felon with priors in NC for felony B&E, robbery, assault on a police officer, plus numerous other petty larceny/obtaining money under false pretenses/drug possession charges, so that (combined with some things he said) gives me some reason to worry that he just might be involved in something beyond scamming gullible young professionals in the NoMa area.

On a Tuesday night a few weeks ago, a guy who looked to be anywhere from his late 20’s to mid-30’s stopped me outside of the NoMa metro station asking for a tank of gas to drive to North Carolina. He told me that his dad had just suffered a heart attack and his 14-year old brother was alone with him at a hospital in Durham. He said he didn’t have any money in his bank account to cover the gas, and it was right before the end of the month, so I thought that was plausible. I told him to meet me at a gas station on the corner of New York Ave and P St. NE. When I got there, he was standing outside his car waiting for me.

He told me that he was driving his roommate’s car, who was out of town, and was waiting on a text back from his roommate for permission to drive his car to NC, since his truck got bad gas mileage. He suggested cash would be easier. I didn’t feel comfortable giving him cash, so I told him to wait a few minutes to see if his roommate gave him permission to use his car so that I could just give him gasoline directly. After 5 or so minutes, I finally relented and got some money out of an ATM against my better judgment. He asked for my phone number and called/texted me his name telling me that he would meet me back there at the same location to pay me back when he returned. I was able to find him on Facebook based on the information he gave me (his first name, Eastern Carolina graduate, etc.) so I felt a little better about it.

Of course, he never responded to my text sent a week later. OK, fine, whatever, someone pulled one over on me.

Fast forward to this weekend, and my friend is describing a guy that stopped him one night in the same area in a moving truck asking for help. The guy said he had a moving company and had just unloaded some furniture at an apartment nearby and in the process had his wallet stolen out of his car and needed gas money to get back to NC. Long story short, he used a lot of the same personal details and charmed my friend into believing him and giving him some cash. Perhaps strangely (maybe this is my bias), he asked my friend for his address so that he could send him a check for the money and pay him back. My friend declined. He also offered to drop my friend off at his house. My friend also declined, and gave him his work address to send the money to. This obviously never happened.

We didn’t take this to the police – not sure if we should, given that we gave him less than $200 total and of course there are bigger things that deserve MPD resources than gullible 20-somethings giving cash to strangers. Maybe you guys have a different take on it.

Anyway, to save someone else the trouble, the guy goes by “Joey”. He’s white, 39 years old, and roughly 6′ 02″, maybe 230 lbs.”

34 Comment

  • Ugh. in 2010 when i lived near H St., i unwisely answered the door when I was home alone and got a ‘collecting for charity’ story. it was after work, but before dark. I started to feel pretty menaced by the people at my door like they would rob me if I didn’t give them money so i gave them $20 to go away. I didn’t answer the door after that, because I no longer lived in the suburbs.

  • That NC guy scammed me like 8 years ago in Arlington at like 2AM (same story, same description minus the age of 8 years ago). But, since I was heading home from a night of hanging out with some soccer moms who had picked me up waiting for a bus to go home early I felt that I didn’t really lose anything and it was a good story. Obviously I knew I was just scammed, but since I didn’t have to pay for drinks that evening, it wasn’t a big deal at the time.

  • The my-daughter-is-sick-and-I-need-cab-fare-to-Sibly-hospital guy was stopping cars at a 4 way stop in Petworth and Kansas and Randolph on Sunday. He’d make like he was crossing the street in the cross walk so you wouldn’t go, and then stop to ask you for the $$.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I’ve gotten that one a couple of times. I offer to hail a cab for the guy and pay the driver directly in advance to bring the person to the agreed-upon location. Astonishingly, he’s never taken me up on that.

    • His daughter is sick now? She used to be pregnant. He used to frequent U Street a lot until I blew up on him one day. “You’re daughter is still in labor at Sibley?!?! DUDE! It’s been like six months! She needs to find a new doctor!” When he played innocent, I asked to see his call log, since he is always just getting off a call when he happens to see you. He declined.

  • It disturbs me how many people seem to have no “spidey sense” whatsoever when it comes to scams. If anyone gives you a really detailed sob story and then asks you for money – newsflash! – there’s a 99% chance it’s total BS. Walk away and report them to the cops.

  • Dude pulled that $20 for two $10s on me one time (6th and F, 6 years back) and I called him on it. He said, no I wouldn’t do that, well, okay, what can you give me then? So I gave him a few bucks for the entertainment value and the lesson. The lesson I guess is not to help people out.

  • Does the scammer for the $20 for two 10s use a walker? This happened to me last year downtown but I caught him in the act and he gave up and gave me my money back. I have seen him on the metro a few times too.

    • I think there’s more than one scammer doing the “can you give me a $20 for two $10s” scam.

    • Mine didn’t, but there may be more than one. Young end of middle-aged, respectable seeming. I seem to remember thinking he was a cabby–maybe he said so, I can’t remember. I hadn’t had my coffee yet or wanting a twenty for two tens might have been a clue.

    • Have encountered this gentleman downtown

  • I prefer to say “Sorry to hear that.” if the try to engage with me and I continue to walk.

    But I have had my share of run in’s back in the early 00’s when I was still fresh to the area and was hit up twice by this woman and her story about locking her keys and purse in the trunk of her BMW and she needed cab fare to get back to Silver Spring to fetch a second set of keys….

  • Guy was asking drivers stopped at traffic light in Mt P for $50 cab fare to get to PG hospital because his mother was dying. He started out by saying “I’m not homeless but…” as if that would make drivers more inclined to give him money

    • I got this one at the Columbia Heights metro last week!

    • I saw this guy one day in Mt P and politely declined to help him get out to PG hospital to see his dying sister. Three days later on Irving St by Petco, he comes at me with the same story, and I wasn’t as polite.

  • MPD representatives at our Civic Assoc mtgs always say that you should report these individuals to the police. Granted, it may not warrant a 911 call, but they definitely want to hear about these types of things.

  • For more scams to beware of, see the following:
    Also, remember to warn visiting houseguests/relatives about scammers. It didn’t occur to me to warn my mom when she was staying with me for a week or so, and one day when I was at the office, she was taken in by the locksmith scam.

  • That poor guy! I remember he was stuck in Georgetown for most of the 90s trying to get back to NC. It’s so sad that he’s barely made any progress over the last 20 years. Did he still have the empty gas can with him?

  • My favorite scam was the guy who set up a toll booth operation at the corner of 11th and V Sts NW back around 2001. I don’t think he made much money though, because the cops rolled up about 15 minutes after he started.

  • Has anyone ever tried quickly slipping the 20 for two 10s guy a $1 and insisting you gave him a $20 as you walk away with his two 10s? Can someone?

  • For anyone who is feeling bad about getting taken in by one of these scammers, here is my pathetic story:

    Circa 2009, at 14th & K NW: I ran into the “vet” from Spotsylvania County whose appointment at the VA had been rescheduled to the next day and who just needed money for a hostel for the night. I pegged him as a scammer and told him to buzz off.

    Fast forward to 2014, again at 14th & K NW: I ran into the same guy, with the exact same story. Not only did I not remember that I had previously busted him for trying to scam me with this same story, this time I fell for it and gave him $50.

    Thinking back on it, the second time I encountered him I just learned I was getting a big bonus at work, so I was feeling flush and magnanimous. So, I was more open to sob stories generally, true or false. That has to be the explanation, because otherwise I am just getting stupider with age!

  • The only time I gave anything to one of these obvious scammers, I was on my way to take a college final exam. I figured it would be good karma (or something) to be a little generous under the circumstances. Otherwise, it’s a quick “No, sorry” and away.

  • Can someone explain, please, the $20 for two $10s scam? What’s the scam?

  • +1000 for going with the pigeon pic.

  • I didn’t know the “vet from Spotsylvania County whose appointment at the VA had been rescheduled to the next day” was a scam. I ran into him a few months back near McPherson sq. He wanted help contacting some shelter. I called for him, they were closed and went home. I didn’t give him any money, but I think he asked for some. I don’t carry much, if any, cash so I usually turn people down just because of that.

    I got the “my sister is in a diabetic coma in a hospital in PG county” a few days ago on my way home from work. Didn’t give him money, and not 10 seconds after I turned him down, he catcalled a woman who walked by and asked her if he could take her to dinner. He then got on the same bus I did and talked the driver into not making him pay.

  • $20 for two $10s guy was one of four people who asked me for things on a trip from Rite-Aid to the Dupont Circle Metro, walking down east side of Conn Ave at lunch hour yesterday.

  • Guy with the walker asked me for a $20 for 4 $5’s on Sunday on U street around 9th or 10th. Seemed ridiculous so said no way

    • Hmm, that’s a new variation on the shtick. And a somewhat troubling one, as wanting to consolidate four $5s into a $20 is more plausible than wanting to consolidate two $10s into a $20.

  • Nobody, and I mean NOBODY who is legit will ask people on the street to “change up.” Last time I was asked, it was in front of the BoA by Metro Center. I told the guy, “Why don’t you go into the bank?” He flicked me off and walked away, no doubt to fleece someone else.

  • This happened to us, in Trinidad. This ‘Joe’ guy came up to me aggressively as I was getting out of my car with the dog, in front of our house. He gave a very obvious BS story about just moving in the neighborhood and his dad having a heart attack and his car getting broken into. And when I said I didn’t have any cash he said, oh, there’s a gas station down the street. I felt super uncomfortable and he wouldn’t leave, even when we went inside our house. Not knowing what he was going to do if we didn’t give him money, we just gave him some money for him to go away. He gave us his cell phone number…but obviously he’ll never answer or it’s a burner phone. We’re reporting to the police because we have him on our house camera taking the money. Hopefully this will help. It sucks because, like the previous commenters, it makes me super paranoid to walk around my neighborhood without getting accosted for money. I never open the door for anyone because of this. We’ll be sitting on our porch and people will walk up and ask for money and not leave after we’ve said no. I guess we’re living in a world where I’m going to have to stop being sympathetic and start calling the cops. Sigh.