Hostile Scammer at Archives Metro

by Prince Of Petworth June 12, 2014 at 11:10 am 62 Comments

“Dear PoPville,

I witnessed a sad scene this morning in the Archives platform. Only made worse by the metro worker I reported this to. I got off one of the last cars on my train at about 9:00am. As I am walking on the platform toward the escalator, I see a man talking to a very elderly couple – easily in their 80s. The man is very agitated and yelling, “two tens for a $20!” And the poor couple is very upset with each other and the woman said to her husband “I gave him money already!” They were clearly confused about what was happening. So I stopped and to make sure the guy knew I was watching the whole thing. I immediately recognized the man as the same person who approached me at Archives a month or two ago asking me for a $20 for two $10s (of course I said no then). He started yelling about people minding their own business. So I go up the escalators to and tell the station manager what is happening on the platform. The station manager was clearly only half listening and looked at me and said: “well, when people ask to make change you shouldn’t give it to them.” Baffled, I said that I am aware of that but there is an elderly couple downstairs that is very upset right now. As I am saying this, the thief approaches from behind to walk through the gate – the metro worker reached out and put his hand on the mans shoulder and said hi! I, of course, said “that’s the guy scamming the older couple!” The metro worker nonchalantly walked away and said, ok I’ll call metro police. Yeah right. I watched the thief begin approaching people at the fare station while metro continued to do nothing. I was so angry I stormed into my office and called metro police and metro customer service. But now I feel bad that during this whole thing, I don’t think anyone went back to check on the elderly couple.

So PoPville, if you are in the Archives metro station, look out for this man. He was rather aggressive today, which is frightening. Description: black male, in his thirties, bald. He was wearing a red shirt and navy pants. He was also carrying a washcloth or hand towel – if that helps.”

  • Anonymous

    I hope you gave that old couple $20.

    • Anonymous

      Why? She didn’t scam them.

      • power of flight

        She gets to pick and choose how much she wants to get involved and how much unrelated people should get involved. I’m pretty sure “comfort the elderly” isn’t on the Metro station managers list of responsibilities.

  • anon


  • Anonymous

    “He was also carrying a washcloth or hand towel – if that helps.”
    Scammers break a sweat, too. He’s gotta keep his shit dry, ya know?

  • Alex

    The metro employees are worse than the scammers—they actually get paid to be useless leeches.

  • anonymous

    Ugh, why am I not surprised that the Metro attendant is actually friends with the scammer. You were right to contact Metro customer service and the police. It’s a shame that the elderly people were likely scammed today- only a pathetic human being would try to confuse and scam old people, who are typically more trusting than younger, hardened folks (the elderly are great bait for phone scammers). What a depressing scene all around. Criminals working at Metro, protecting criminals who are harassing customers. That’s Metro for ya.

  • A DumB Person

    I totally fell for this scam. I didn’t even realize I got scammed until I read this article. I feel like such an idiot.

    • plotkin

      How did you not realize it? Didn’t you lose money? I’m curious as to how the rest of the scam played out

    • mcd

      What exactly is the scam? Are the 10s not actual 10s? Does he take your 20 and run? I had a guy hit me up about this same exact thing on the street one day- I think while I was walking down Rhode Island. Coming from the gym I didn’t have my wallet, but I am inherently untrusting of random people on the street anyway.

      • Beau

        As I recall, he doesn’t actually hand over a $20, he hands over a $10 for $10, and then claims he gave a $20 and wants another $10.

      • AMDCer

        I believe the scam is he offers you two tens for a twenty, and after you give him the twenty he claims you only gave him a ten. He then gets worked up and agitated saying you own him another ten. Some people get flustered and rather than argue will hand back a ten. I think it works best on folks who are distracted or elderly, who don’t think to ask the question, why would anyone need a twenty for two tens?

        • A DumB Person

          He gives you 2 tens, you give him a 20, he palms the twenty and shows you a $1 “What is this?” he says, as though you tried to scam him! I honestly thought I had given him a $1 and gave him another $20, so he got $40 in exchange for $21. I really feel like an idiot.

          • Anonymous

            This. I did the exact same thing outside union station a few years ago. I realized right after I did it what had happened. And then he tried to get me to walk somewhere with him by “offering me a ride home in his car.” Lucky I’m not that dumb — but I did let him walk off with the money to get away from him.

          • annonny

            Something similar happened to me at Union Station metro, and my reaction was to be more belligerent than the scammer and demand MY money back. Making a scene works both ways…as more people started paying attention to my yelling and cursing, the guy gave me back my money and walked away. These people are scumbags.

          • plotkin

            ooof. thanks for explaining. i’m sure i would have done the same thing if flustered/confused, anything to be mercifully left alone!

      • textdoc
  • textdoc

    Ugh. OP, good on you for reporting this to transit police and Metro customer service. And shame on the Metro station manager for aiding and abetting the scammer.
    Sometimes I wonder why they even bother having station managers. They don’t stop people from jumping the faregates (or just walking through the “emergency exit” gate), they don’t make change… what exactly are they there for?

    • tmj

      Chances are the scammer and station manager are working together and split the profits after a shift.

      • This seems a rather baseless accusation…

        • tmj

          Why? Considering he clearly did not care about the scammer and let him walk right by, that would make me thing they had something worked out. Despite stereotypes of metro employees, in general people don’t just NOT do their job. OP said “the metro worker reached out and put his hand on the mans shoulder and said hi!” before OP pointed out that person as the scammer. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but that seems to me to imply they know each other.

  • Anonymous

    Is Metro considered an employer of last resort in DC? I’ve heard that many DC government positions are, and that that may be one of the reasons service is so poor in some departments.

  • Patrick

    Metro station managers are, as a whole, the most incompetent group of individuals I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve never seen them solve a single problem or do anything except be angrily dismissive and lazy.

    Oh and while we’re at it (complaining about Metro) I wonder when the huge blue construction obstructions around the escalators at Columbia Heights (that have been there since January) that were supposed to be finished in March…and then April…and then June, will be finished. You never see actual work going on there. Seems like they were added just to make the station a little more congested and dangerous.

    • Anonymous

      I was wondering the same thing. Unless the parts required had to be custom made or are on back order, I can’t figure out why it should take so long to get these done. If Metro had hired a private contractor to get this done in two weeks I bet that it would have been done on time.

      • Anon

        You’ve hit upon the problem. The company that originally made Metro’s escalators is out of business and no one makes parts for them. Apparently they have to be machined each time something breaks.

        • Patrick

          It’s not that they need to be repaired, I’m used to that by now. It’s that they put the barriers up, and did NOTHING, literally no work, for 5 months. The crush of people that the barriers cause around rush hour is congesting and annoying at worst, and very dangerous at best.
          Does nobody think these things through? Even after they happen time and time and time again?
          I’m kidding of course. Obviously they don’t.

    • textdoc

      I actually saw one at the Georgia Ave.-Petworth one sleeping once. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
      Unfortunately, by the time I walked back and got my phone ready to take a picture, he’d woken up.

      • I tweeted a photo of one asleep to WMATA once, zero response.

    • Bitter Elitist

      I heard voices coming from the box this morning. This is the first time I’ve heard any sound.

  • Anonymous

    The funniest bit of irony is that the metro station managers have to EARN that prized position by being a driver for years lol. The managers are considered metro’s best people lol. God help us.

    It is a union with no accountability. It ain’t like we could do without the metro here, and nobody wants to fight it enough to clean it up, it will be that way for ever. If ridership falls they simply get their money from the states and feds, its a racket.

  • nightborn

    How frustrating, OP. You did all you could on your end, and you did the right thing by calling the metro police and customer service.

    Nowadays I would never even consider giving anyone on the metro a single red cent because I see the same scammers at the same stations over and over again getting money from tourists and the naive. I wish Metro would take more of an effort to put a stop to the repeat offenders – they don’t allow panhandlers to set up shop inside stations, so why these scumbags?

  • Anonymous

    Anyone asks you for anything = Scam

    • 17th Street

      It makes me sad to admit that that is true, or at least true often enough that I never stop to listen to the whole request.

      • brookland_rez

        +1. Anytime anybody want anything, it’s always the same answer from me: “Sorry, can’t help you”.

  • Anon

    This guy came up to my sister and I in the Starbucks in Chinatown at H and 7th also asked for a 20 for two tens so my sister gave him a twenty. Then he tried to say she still owed him another ten trying to confuse us and my sister goes “Oh sorry. Wait, I gave you a twenty. Where are the two tens?” and he said “No I asked you for two tens.” and she goes “Sorry I don’t have two tens” and he actually gave the twenty back. She thought she was being nice. I knew she was being scammed and he didn’t have a clear escape route out so perhaps he thought it better to find other poor people to mess with. The scam artist hangs outside and inside the metro. Keep an eye out.

  • Beau

    FWIW, while lots of Metro employees may be worthless, I have nothing but good things to say about WMATA cops. They are a lot nicer to deal with than MPD.

  • Anonymous

    I know multiple people who got taken by this scam at Metro Center station years ago. The guy (assuming it’s the same guy but may be a common among scammers) preys upon confusion and the fact that most people try to be helpful. He asks for change for a 20 and then claims that you tried to rip him off by giving him denominations that add up to less than 20. Meanwhile when he returns your change you are shorted!

    This stuff has been going on in metro for years. Of course, Metro does ZERO to alert people or prevent this. This whole post makes me very angry. While I’m sure there are people in the world who generally need help with money or making change, I think the best rule of thumb is just to say no to everyone. People coming to your door, asking you for money at metro, etc. Just tell them no and walk away (or close your door).

  • Anonymous

    I called metro police once on a guy (older, black man) pulling this s#it in the Chinatown metro station. I even took a picture of him (“That’s illegal! You can’t take no picture of me!”) and texted it to metro police (MyMTPD or 696873). I was told by metro police to call ANYTIME I see something like this.

    • anon

      I didn’t know that Metro Transit Police had a number for receiving texts — thanks for sharing this.

    • Patrick Division

      I guess you didn’t hear the conclusion of the officer’s directive: “Call ANYTIME you see something like this… so that we can laugh at you while we ignore your report.”

  • Anonymous

    New advertising by WMATA:
    Woman 1: “Don’t fall for a scam in the metro station. If someone asks you for change, walk away.”
    Woman 2: “Can’t we just talk about shoes?”

    • Beau


  • Matt

    This is a flim-flam, as old as the hills.

  • Anon

    The cops are probably friends with the guy, too. Not sure if it’s the same guy, but I saw this same routine downtown near Madame Tussaud’s. The guy was super aggressive with the tourists. He seemed to know to leave the regular office workers alone.

  • Anon

    I always feel like there’s a special place in hell (if it exists) for people who take advantage of the weak and elderly.

    That being said, I had a friend that was at a ticket kiosk on the green line, south of L’Enfant with a young lady trying to take her credit card (in the guise of “helping” her). The Metro police showed up before my friend even realized
    what was going on. Kudos to them.

  • Anonymous

    There is another scammer that hangs around U street claiming his daughter is giving labor at Sibley Hospital and he needs cash to take a cab to the other side of town. He claims he left his wallet at home and is pretty convincing. I was just out walking my dog so I didn’t have my wallet on me and felt bad about it until I saw him a few weeks later doing the same thing.

    • textdoc

      Yeah — the “I need cab fare because my daughter is giving birth at Sibley Hospital/Providence Hospital” is a scam that I hadn’t heard of until reading the thread on the locksmith-related scam the other week (https://www.popville.com/2014/06/scam-or-not-vol-17-locked-out-and-needed-to-pay-the-locksmith/ ), but apparently that’s a popular one.

    • annonny

      alternate version – my kid is at children’s hospital and about to die and I don’t have any money. here are my house keys for cab fare. I’ll come back later to pay you back and get my keys.

  • baji

    You should never take your wallet out in a busy area anyway. The rule is just as true when you travel as when you are near home.

  • rejamaphone

    haha my roommate fell for this scam. he was driving out of our parking garage and the dude came up to his car window. this was near U st.

  • Lamplighter

    I hope you got the station managers name and documented that time of the incident and reported it to Metro Transit Police. If you haven’t, I strongly encourage you to. They are pretty responsive, especially when it involves a WMATA employee.

  • Anonymous

    This has been attempted on me a few times and when it happened last I tried to take action. I’m in the Fishnet on 7th St. When he gave me the one after I gave him my 20, I said “No, you’ve got my 20. I know this scam and now I’m calling the police.” I kept his one. He tries to get out of it by saying he wanted change in singles. And he starts getting very agitated as I take out my phone and say we’ll let the police sort it. But I’m not paying careful attention and he snatches the one back and runs out. Yes, risky. What if he were armed? Over a one dollar bill? But Fishnet gave me another beer for being inconvenienced. The duck stout is really good.

    • Duck Rabbit makes excellent dark beers :)

  • mmm

    OP: you should tweet this at @WMATA

  • Anonymous

    Given the reaction of people on here, may I suggest we bombard Metro’s Twitter handle with possible ways of alerting people? We’ll take the hard work out of this initiative for them haha.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe we should compile a list all the most common scams in DC (my daughter is pregnant, my car broke down and I need to get to Sterling, VA, you hit my car, i can clean your gutters, etc.) so that other media outlets can pick it up. Hopefully, people around DC will be more aware and put these losers “out of business.” PoP…?

    • Anonymous

      I tried to compile some in the last scam-related thread (about someone claiming to need money to pay a locksmith):
      The above-described locksmith scenario: https://www.popville.com/2014/06/scam-or-not-vol-17-locked-out-and-needed-to-pay-the-locksmith/
      – Described in the above thread:
      — elderly man claiming to need money to get to somewhere “Metro doesn’t go”
      — guy with buzzcut and/or camouflage attire claiming to be military and needing money to get back to base
      — woman claiming to need $7 to fill a prescription at an “uptown” CVS
      Gutter-cleaning scam (person claims to be cleaning your neighbor’s gutters, may or may not present tennis ball/bird’s nest, offers to clean your gutters too): https://www.popville.com/2012/10/dear-popville-scam-alert/ and https://www.popville.com/2014/03/from-the-forum-beware-of-scam/
      Making-change scam (most commonly, someone presenting two $10 bills and asking for a $20 bill in exchange): https://www.popville.com/2013/05/heads-up-scammer-around-thomas-and-scott-circles/
      Woman who claims to have been in a car accident, says it’s her first week on the job at ____, and asks for $ for taxi fare to get back to Stafford, VA: https://www.popville.com/2012/10/scam-or-truly-in-distress/

      I think the general rule is that anyone with a lengthy sob story asking for money — for anything — is probably trying to scam you. (However, the scammer supposedly trying to make change doesn’t fall into that category, nor does the person offering services (gutter-cleaning) that are never rendered.)
      Also, anyone who starts by saying, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” (rather than just asking the question) is probably going to proceed to ask for money.

      • Oops, that was me above.

      • Anonymous

        I hate when people say, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” I respond, “No.” and go back to listening to my music.

      • Dognonymous

        The Archives station managers are awful. I’ve reported several scammers to them and they don’t do a thing about it. There are lots of teenagers who hang out at the bottom of the escalator doing the “mister, you dropped something” scam. When you tap your pockets to see if you dropped your wallet or phone, or look where they’re pointing, the other guy pickpockets you. The Archives weekday afternoon manager just lets it happen and refused to call WMATA police the last time I pointed it out to him. I’ve reported him to WMATA and they obviously haven’t done a thing, because come on.

  • PetworthPete

    Man, had not read about the elderly man wanting to get to somewhere the metro does not go. I felt so bad for not being able to help when he came up to me :(

    Cannot believe that is a scam, as so many have pointed out, really sad that this is what we have to live with in our city.

    Have never had this conversation with any of my NYC friends, but I wonder if it same/worse there.

    • anon

      It happened to me when I was working a fast food job back in the 80’s in Minnesota.

      It is a very old scam and it is done everywhere.


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