Scammer Alert Vol. 764

scam
Photo by PoPville flickr user Wayan Vota

“Dear PoPville,

A woman stopped me as I was walking toward Farragut after work and said she’d been in a car crash and her car was totaled and that she didn’t have enough cash for the cab ride home, which she said was 1.5 hours outside of DC. She said she worked for a law firm in the area but that no one was in the office and that she had just recently moved to DC from Georgia and didn’t know anyone. She was using a cane and was crying while telling me this story.

Did I think this was a scam, of course. But the sliver of me of me that was hoping it wasn’t a lie felt sympathetic. So I gave her $100 for a cab, and she gave me a phone number and I took a photo of her (attached). She told me she would call me today and give me the full amount back– I didn’t expect to ever see the money back again but was of course, hopeful that I was wrong.
Anyhow, haven’t heard from her since, and none of her story really checks out (the law firm she told me the name of doesn’t come up on google).

My take away is that I’d rather be naive and kind than jaded and cruel — the possibility she was telling the truth was more important to me than the money. But it’s clear it was a scam and so I wanted to let others know, in case they come upon her as well.”

47 Comment

  • This sounds like the scammer who used to claim that she had recently started working at [nearby government agency] and needed cab fare to get home to Stafford, VA. I wonder if she’s changed her shtick.
    .
    The OP’s photo isn’t attached. OP, what did this woman look like?

  • Your very first indication that this was a scam must have been when she said there was no one in the office at a DC law firm.

  • Description of the woman matches a similar encounter I had right outside the Federal Triangle metro stop. She claimed an uber driver t-boned her car and the last commuter bus had already left (at 5:30pm? fishy…). Sounds like she’s bouncing around catching the after-work crowd.

    This woman was late 30’s/early 40’s, African American, slightly overweight, and carried a cane.

    • The scammer who claimed she was from Stafford looked like this when I encountered her in late 2012:
      .
      “She’s about 35-45, quite tall (maybe 5’10” or 5’11”), big/plus-sized, and African-American (light/medium-skinned). She had somewhat “artistically” done eyeliner, extending horizontally beyond each eye. Her hair was mostly gold-colored — maybe gold and auburn/reddish.”

  • “A woman stopped me …. and said she’d been in a car crash and her car was totaled and that she didn’t have enough cash for the cab ride home.” – Scam!

  • Maybe I’m cold, but I’d have told her to pound sand (in less polite terms)

    • seriously. me too.
      I guess I would be upset to know that the 1 in a 100 was a real victim, and I didn’t help them when I could have. However the 99 other scammers have convinced me to not ever help anyone on the street (with $$).

    • I saw the “20 for two 10s” guy trying to scam some tourists outside my office this week, and told him to split with a series of George Carlin’s favorite words. Scammers deserve zero sympathy and as much vitriol as it takes to get them to move on.

  • Of course, it still works and of course people will continue scamming as long as there are people too afraid of appearing “unkind” and give out money. Don’t give people money just because of a story and it will go away. If they are in real trouble, they can go to a police station for help.

  • Bless your heart (translation: you’re a sucker). but don’t let it turn you cynical – So you got ripped off. Next time you’ll be more careful, and listen to that hunch telling you that it’s a scam.

  • jburka

    Next time, just offer to call the police to report the car crash.

  • I have a simple rule – don’t ever, under any circumstance, give out money on the street. It works really really well. If you want to be nice and give money to a charitable cause, by all means, go ahead. Just not on the street.

    • I do the same exact thing – too many scams. I assume (correctly or incorrectly) that a charity or group in need will indeed contact someone who seems to be a willing donor. So, I politely tell people (even those who seem 100% legit) that I won’t give them money or credit card info on the street but they are welcome to contact me via phone or email (I offer/provide this info) to provide me with some details. I’ve been doing this for years and not one person or group, not a single one, has ever contacted me.

      • Cannot underscore this enough. If people stopped giving out money on the streets, the people in vests working the sidewalks every day downtown would disappear.

        • I have no problem giving to the Street Sense folks, because they are actually doing something and attempting to be productive. Otherwise, yes, I have a blanket no giving policy. I smile and kindly say I’m sorry but don’t have any cash.

    • Or pay directly for the thing they’re asking for — food, a cab ride. You’ll find out quick enough if they really want what they’re asking for or not.

  • I really cannot believe people continue to fall for these types of scams.

  • You’re a kind person. I’m sorry we live in a world where experience turns most of us into cynics.

    Be more wary but stay kind. That positive energy will come back to you in spades.

  • I wish I had $100 cash on any given day to just give out to some random person. #lifegoals

  • I definitely encountered the same woman a year or two ago a little later after work right behind the National Gallery of Art. I was at a stoplight and she flagged me down in my car. At the time we still had the paper Metro farecards and I have her one of those that had enough to get her to the end of whichever line she needed to take. She was a pretty incredible actress, but her reaction to that just confirmed any doubts I had.

  • If you’re going to be kind and naive, then pay for an Uber for the lady, don’t hand her $100. But seriously, did you ask her what happened to her car? The tow company couldn’t give her a lift somewhere? And if you’re in such a serious accident that your car is totaled, you’d bet the paramedics or at least the police are going to be called.

    • Totaled just means the cost to repair the car exceeds the car’s value. On some cars, that’s a broken tail light. If she meant it was too damaged to be driven, that’s also pretty easy to accomplish if you hit it just right.

      • She would still have to get a tow in that case. They probably could have helped her in a way that didn’t result in her begging strangers. Also, what about a credit/debit card? The lady could have used a card for the cab.

        • Oh, I agree that it was in no way a believable story! Just sayin that I’ve been in a couple of accidents that left the car either totaled or undriveable, and there were no paramedics involved.

  • thats sweet you don;t want to be jaded but you had to know you were being scammed, trust your gut. And if you really want to be a good person, that $100 would have been far better off as a donation to a shelter or food bank in DC.

  • Obviously a scam because no law firm is ever empty.

  • $100 for a cab ride?! You should have given her $3 and told her to Uber POOL!

  • nightborn

    Of course it was a scam. Never ever give cash. If you truly want to keep your mind open and try to help, offer to get them an Uber, to pay for the medication their “daughter” needs, to go with them to buy them food, etc. I’ve lived in this city for almost 9 years, have been approached by people with hard luck stories more times than I can count, and never once had anyone take me up on the offer of anything except cold hard cash – and yes, I would absolutely have followed through if they had accepted. No way would someone truly stranded or hungry or sick turn down that kind of offer.

  • Perhaps I’m jaded, but people who commit these scams do so because they work. So OP, you have a nice heart and that’s commendable, but you didn’t help the larger situation. This woman will just prey on someone else next time.

  • As someone who was just in a car crash, I can assure you that paramedics, police, and towing companies come, and probably make you go to the hospital if your car was totaled, and then arrange transportation for you. No one involved is a jerk and leaves you stranded. I think the OP was being a little naive.

  • This woman tried nearly the same story on me close to Metro Center a while back: had a cane (recovering from cancer), moved from Georgia, just started working at the Smithsonian, car hit by an Uber driver, needs money to get home to distant Virginia. Description matches that below: well-put-together, tall, plus-size African-American woman.

  • Yeah, um…no! Why wouldn’t you offer to call the police if she had been in a car accident?

    It’s not being ‘jaded and cruel’, it’s called dealing with a real life situation. You don’t just give someone $100 just because the lie might be true.

  • northeazy

    Dude–any one with a job, much less with a law firm, has a credit card. Or hey, a cell phone with the Uber app. It really angers me that so many generous people give quite a bit of money to these scammers. You can alleviate your guilt by donating to reputable charities so you won’t feel so bad when you turn down scammers.

  • I usually offer to bring them to a nearby police station for assistance. But they never take me up on it.

Comments are closed.