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“Wanted to let you know about a scammer who goes by the name Gene”

by Prince Of Petworth February 18, 2016 at 2:25 pm 27 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Thundercheese

Thanks to all who’ve sent emails warning others:

“Wanted to let you know about a scammer who goes by the name Gene who came to my home on Saturday, February 13 with a tale of woe. Turns out he’s been working my whole neighborhood (U Street area, around 10th, 9th, Westminster and French Sts) for a couple of weeks now. Not sure if the police have caught him yet. I have attached a full description of the story from my neighbor below. It’s exactly what happened to me. Please warn readers in case he’s still out there.

“On Feb 5th, a man named Gene knocked and asked to use our phone as he accidentally got locked out while changing his cat litter box. Said he lived at 9xx S St NW. Caught off guard we let him in. He attempted to call several numbers. No one answered. Said he needed to get to Bethesda where he had an extra set of keys at the catering company he worked for. Asked for a metro card. We said we wouldn’t give him our card but we were getting uncomfortable having him in the house so loaned him $20 to get him to leave. He left. I checked the last number he called and it’s for Purple Tie by Ridgewells which is an events company so we thought he may be legit. We were leaving the country on 2/6 for vacation so I sent a note to my neighbor who was in Italy at the time. While we were on vacation my neighbor responded that the person house sitting for him said the same guy came by but while asking to use the phone, his (Gene) cell phone was in his pocket went off so he left. We just returned last night 2/14 and while walking the dog today, another neighbor warned me about him. Said the same guy named Gene tried the same thing to another neighbor two days ago so he’s still working this neighborhood. He’s white, thin, late 50’s. Looks like Jim Cramer on Mad Money, the financial show. This guy scammed us out of $20 and don’t want it to happen to anyone else. I don’t think he’s violent but we felt best to give him cash to get him out of the house.”


“My apologies for not sending this earlier, but we had the same guy come to our house over the weekend. Luckily, I’d already read about his scam on the ShawNeighborhood listserve, so I took a picture of him and told him I knew his scam and was calling the cops. (I didn’t actually do so, as he hadn’t done anything illegal to that point, but I wanted to scare him away.) His picture, although he seems to use the same name every time, which makes it pretty easy to identify him.

  • also anon

    I’m glad the person only lost $20. I can’t believe someone would ever let a random stranger into their home. Who knows what could happen??
    In the future if this seems like a legit story ask for the number they need to call and let them wait outside while you call from the other side of a locked door.

    • V

      This. .

      not to mention, some folks don’t have land lines anymore and there is no way i’m handing over my cell phone to a stranger.

      • Amber

        Back in 2004 a sketchy looking guy asked to borrow my phone in a starbucks, with a story about how he’d just gotten off a bus, and his wallet was stolen and he needed to make a call. I watched him pretty intently as he made his call, to make sure he wasn’t going to run (not that my 2004 phone was worth all that much since I’m usually way behind the curve with my phone, as evidenced by my current 2012 droid razr). Anyway, he kept his hand over the mouthpiece mumbling into it, so I couldn’t hear; and then snapped at me “I’m not going to steal your phone.” I suggested he go use a pay phone and call collect.

        • prgkmr

          fuck that guy. you’re asking to use my cellphone, dude. I’m going to watch you like a hawk if I just happen to be nice enough that day to lend you, a complete stranger, my $500 phone…

          Actually had a guy ask for my phone on the street in georgetown. He showed me his iphone was dead but I made him let me hold his iphone while he used mine and still watched him like a hawk.

          if they don’t like it, they go fuck themselves and find another phone.

  • Garrett

    This asshole did the same thing to me at Ted’s. I had already had to deal with two crazy drunks that were angry (over being refused those delicious Ted’s Bulletin pancakes?), and the night was dragging on, so I just wanted to get him out of the bar. I didn’t give him $20, but I did give him a metro card with $5, and an extra $5 if that wasn’t enough. It was the same exact story. Of course, he never showed back up to repay me.

  • Sarah

    Happened to us at 10th and N on Feb 6th. Seemed legit at first but the we got uncomfortable. Ended up calling him an Uber to get him to leave.

  • Anon547

    A thought for you to consider, he could be “casing” your house.

  • Anon

    This happened to me and my partner on 13th and R Street NW the weekend after the blizzard. Our car got stuck in a snowy parking spot, and Gene came along and asked if we needed help pushing the car out. As he was helping us kick snow from under the tires and pushing the car, he told us he had gotten locked out of his house at 13– R Street (an address I realized later is under construction and unoccupied) because he was taking out the cat litter. He needed to get out to Maryland where his truck and an extra set of keys were- could we give him a metro card? We didn’t have an extra one, but we gave him $20 because we were grateful for his attempts to help us with our stuck car. His whole story had so many details that it struck us as a little odd, but we wanted to return the help we received from him. Now it all makes sense- so crazy.

  • wdc

    I cannot BELIEVE that the writer let a stranger into the house. Get to know your neighbors, everyone, so that if you need this kind of help someday, the person whose door you’re knocking on will recognize you. There is really no excuse not to have 3 or 4 people on your block you can turn to for help. If you’re new here, snowstorms are great for this. Go out during peak shoveling time, help a neighbor, introduce yourself while pointing to your place, mention your kid, your dog, your favorite local business. Ask about their kid/ dog/ favorite local business. It’s a basic life skill.

  • You Street

    All I can say is that you are extremely lucky that letting this criminal into your home only cost you $20.

    • anon4

      To be fair, he isn’t really doing anything criminal when people willingly give him money.

      • LongtimeResident


        • prgkmr

          I wonder if this would actually be considered legally enforceable fraud though…

      • TJ

        This is absurd. He is defrauding people, in a classic sort of way. And creating false pretense for property entry that could be related to attempt burglary.

        • Bw

          What makes this any different from a guy on the street asking for spare change for a meal and he is going to buy booze or drugs? His name is Gene Nance btw. They could have said no.

      • cass

        Theft by trick is criminal and illegal! Call the police!

  • IDontGetIt

    Never had him try to scam me but definitely have seen him around. I feel sorry for his cat!

  • d

    I don’t understand why people are opening the door for someone they don’t know.

    • smh

      he’s white and well dressed.

      • prgkmr

        I mean it’s true. People know better than to let a homeless-looking guy inside, but an old white guy wearing a tie and well spoken claiming to be locked out in the cold, that’s enough to trick a few people for sure.

      • TJ

        So? It is good to have a an unequivocal rule for handling unknown people at the front door, or who approach you on the street with random requests/pleas. Makes it much easier to insulate yourself from scams, robbery etc.

  • Aglets

    It’s like the “my name is stephanie and I’m pregnant” scam on the hill 18 years ago

  • Christine

    Omg he hit me too. During the blizzard. I felt sorry for him because I’ve locked myself out before and it sucks and it was snowing and freezing out. Bastard. Has anyone reported to the police yet?

  • Christine

    He got me too. Has anyone notified the police?

  • Shawshanked

    I feel like this scam would work better if he had a dog with him.

  • MademoisElleJ

    He was pulling this down by H St NE a few months back.

  • A Nonymous

    He swung by my house by Barracks Row on Saturday 2/27. Didn’t ask for any money, though. Wish I had seen this earlier!


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