“95% sure scam, wondering if other folks have encountered him.”

by Prince Of Petworth June 9, 2016 at 12:55 pm 53 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user DCbmyers

“Dear PoPville,

After getting gas yesterday at about 6:45pm at the Sunoco at Harvard and Sherman, I was approached by a middle-aged black man wearing dark blue scrubs. He asked me if I knew where he could find a church that was open nearby, and said he wasn’t very familiar with the area but lived close by on Fairmont, having moved here from Texas in April. He began telling me he has a sick mother, he retired to be her caregiver, and she had been in the hospital yesterday. He said he needed $17.12 to pick up her prescription at CVS, but he didn’t get paid until this Friday, and asked if I could help.

95% sure scam, wondering if other folks have encountered him.”

  • Petworth Pal


  • NoMa NE Resident

    Definitely a scam. I heard the exact same story a few months ago outside of the Harris Teeter in NoMa, including the whole moved from Texas and sick mother bit.

  • Kd

    Definitely a scam

  • wdc

    Hallmarks of a scam include: too many details (exact amount needed and why, life’s story), attire that indicates employment (uniform shirt, apron, scrubs), and some kind of helplessness (just moved here, just got mugged).
    Of course, these are also the hallmarks of a person who’s truly in a bad spot and needs your help.

    • Hill Denizen

      If someone is really in need, they’d be willing to find a police officer or some other authority figure (in this case the hospital that discharged her) rather than begging strangers on the street. And there isn’t a single person this guy knows who is familiar with his predicament that can’t spot him the money? If his situation is really so dire, there are also social services organizations that can help.

    • cghfcghqd

      Not to mention the whole name dropping of a church – always guilts people

  • Joe

    There has been a guy on Fairmont and surrounding blocks who aggressively asks for money for his sick elderly mother. He is a fake. For days he was trying to say he lived in an apartment that burned on the block and needed help finding a new home. The building management told me he didn’t live there. He also tells different stories about his mother. He waves down passing cars and steps in front of people walking down the street. I don’t mind if someone politely asks for money. I find it offensive when this man aggressively gets in front of people trying to startle them and harasses them as the walk down the block.

  • textdoc

    Asking for money to pick up a prescription at a certain drugstore is almost certainly a scam.
    Woman asking for money to pick up a prescription at a specific CVS:

  • Egad

    I saw the same guy approaching people near Vermont Ave. and U St earlier this week. Same scrubs. Scam.

  • Hill Denizen

    There is so much going on in that story, it has to be a scam.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Haven’t encountered this specific person, but when presented with a similar story, I always say that I don’t have any cash but would be happy to go to the pharmacy with them and pay for the prescription with my credit card. One guy actually took me up on it, but appeared to be getting more and more nervous until we got up to the pharmacy (in this case, CVS at 14th & Irving, which he insisted was closed…), and then he finally went up to the window and asked for his prescription (which was real – he was in the system and had a valid prescription), but it ended up being free. He pretended to be shocked and happy and exclaimed “Praise the Lord!,” thanked me, and I left.

    • LittleBluePenguin

      that’s just nuts!

    • Hill Denizen

      That’s a good one. Worst case, you helped a guy get medicine (assuming it isn’t something with street value). I usually get asked for transportation type stuff, adding money to a metro card or last year in Philly a couple was discharged from the hospital after a car accident and didn’t have a way to get back to New Jersey. Bus and train tickets have resale value, so couldn’t really call them out on it in those cases.

      • LittleBluePenguin

        yeah, when I lived in Philly, I got asked for “money to buy a train ticket” a LOT! One day a guy who looked kind of shady but also kind of distraught asked and I told him, I don’t have cash, but I’ll buy him a ticket to where he needed to go….he took me up on the offer and I figured, the worst, I was out $4 and best, he got home. But yes, most of the time it’s a scam.

    • Near Northeast

      I accumulate more Smartrip cards than I know what to do with (out of town guests leaving them behind, etc.), so the other day when a woman said she needed metro fare, I dug one out of my pocket that still had a couple bucks on it and handed it to her.

      “But what if it doesn’t have enough money to get me home?” was her immediate response. “I don’t want this, I want cash.”

    • textdoc


  • Truxton Thomas

    Protip: it’s always a scam.

    • Accountering


    • Shawz

      Indeed. I don’t even stop walking when asked for money anymore. Almost invariably I end up spotting the same person in the same area a few days later peddling the same story. Please stop humoring them and maybe they’ll go away.

      • FridayGirl

        Agreed. I was on U St. one time when I saw some people give a “homeless” guy some money, and then he pulled out his iPhone and said “Haha, suckers!” And walked away. Jerk.

  • Anonymous

    I have not seen this guy (or this scam) but “I’m sorry, I can’t help you” is my immediate reaction to any situation like this. As someone else said on here last time there was a scam discussion, there’s pretty much no legitimate reason for me to open my wallet for a stranger on a sidewalk.

    • LittleBluePenguin

      yup. this.

  • CultOfSherry

    Earlier today, I had a scammer ask me for money to buy diapers for his daughter from the 7-11 (14th st and Rhode island)… someone gave him a cigarette that he started smoking in the meantime so he couldn’t go into the 7-11 with me, screwed up when I asked him what size and he replied “uhh, any size, I guess”. Of course the 7-11 didn’t have diapers anyway…

    • I Dont Get It

      There’s a guy I often see on the Green Line asking for money for diapers and one day someone said “Isn’t she out of diapers yet, I’ve seen you asking for money for 5 years?”

      He quickly walked off.

      • FridayGirl


      • textdoc


    • Brookland mom

      In these situations, similar to above, I offer to purchase the item. I almost never give them the money outright.

  • 18th Street

    Another option is to just waste their time (assuming you have time to waste yourself). The more time they invest on someone who knows it’s a scam, the less time they get to spend on another would-be victim.

  • I Dont Get It

    Scam since the earliest his prescription at CVS would be ready would be Friday anyway.

  • bruno

    If someone asks for food or drugs and you are in doubt, offer to buy them what they want, but that you won’t give them cash. If they are truly hungry or in need, they will take your offer. If they are scamming you, they will giggle or twist, make an excuse, and walk away. I do this all the time with the people who have “run out of gas.” I offer to buy them gas! They walk away.

    • bruno

      If they are lying, it also puts them in a spot of explaining why they don’t really want what they say they want… it’s kind of funny. But do it gently and with a little love…..

      • LCinDC

        Ha, yup I have the same approach. One morning a guy asked for money for food as I was walking into a bagel store, so I doubled my order and tried giving him a pretty solid breakfast bagel when I came out but then he needed money instead because he “really wanted spaghetti”. There’s a special place in hell for those who use young children, say they need money for groceries, but then can’t possibly walk across the street with you to the grocery store for whatever reason…Lastly on my rant, I have had a couple guys approach me nicely outside of a grocery store and when I asked what I could get them, they excitedly asked for stuff to make sandwiches and were beyond grateful when I returned.

        • FridayGirl

          “There’s a special place in hell for those who use young children, say they need money for groceries, but then can’t possibly walk across the street with you to the grocery store for whatever reason…”
          THIS. There was one of these near 14th and W St. about a week ago and it makes me really angry. The mom was doing nothing while the kid was running up and down the block asking for money. (Is it unreasonable to report people doing this to some kind of child protective service?)

        • LoganLogan

          Here’s a play-by-play of an encounter I had with a lady who normally sits on a milk crate in from the the &pizza on U St.

          Me: tries to had half of a pizza to lady
          Lady: what is that? Pizza?
          Me: Yes
          Lady: Oh, I can’t eat that. I eat pizza every damn day.
          Me: Seriously? Beggers can’t be choosers
          Lady: BEGGIN’?!?! B**CH, I AIN”T BEGGIN!… I’M WORKIN!

          • FridayGirl

            Semi-off topic but tbh, the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” really rubs me the wrong way in most situations. It makes the person saying it sound really…. entitled, for lack of a better word.

          • LoganLogan

            Meh, to each their own. I simply said aloud what many others think.

            Also, If i follow your logic on entitlement than turning down perfectly good pizza while begging for something to eat in front of a pizza shop is entitlement.

          • Anonymous

            eh, you should have just walked away when she said she didn’t want it. You don’t need to tell her what her place in the world is.

          • textdoc

            Usually “beggars can’t be choosers” is used in the non-literal sense… rather than with regard to actual beggars.

      • bruno

        It’s a good thing to buy food for people IF they need it….. and sometimes they do. I only suggested this as a healthy means for differentiating between who is really in need, and who’s probably scamming. I like to buy food for people if they are genuinely hungry.

  • nightborn

    Yep, scam. It varies from sick daughters/daughters giving birth, to sick mothers, to the individual themselves being ill and needing a prescription or an urgent taxi or money for gas to get to the hospital.Hope you didn’t actually give him any money.

  • Ashley Glendening

    YES! I have encountered this person TWICE in the Shaw/Logan area. One time his story was that his daughter was having a breach baby and he needed cab fair to get to Sibley. I can’t remember what his story was the other time but I remember it being some what ridiculous and detailed. Definitely a scan.

  • Dana

    I’ve always been skeptical of anyone asking for money on the street, but I also recognize that many of them do in fact need help; it’s just hard to distinguish between the two sometimes. So I’ve started carrying a couple granola bars in my bag and offering those if someone asks me for money. I’ve given out maybe a dozen now and only one person has said no. Usually they’re really happy about it! I offer that as something really easy, practical, and effective that you can do to make a difference. Doesn’t work in all situations, such as this one where they’re asking for money in order to purchase something other than food, but it’s something.

  • OP

    OP here — wow, lots of comments! I did listen until the ask, figuring, like one person said, it was probably fake and I would use up some of his time. Once he gave me his schpiel, I gave him mine — “So sorry, I don’t have any cash!” (also lies) and left.

    • The “I don’t have cash” is often met with “there’s an ATM around the corner!” funny how despite being “new in town” they already know exactly where the nearest ATM is…

      • HaileUnlikely

        Last time somebody informed me that there was an ATM around the corner in this context, I told him, truthfully, that I didn’t have my ATM card with me. He argued with me and told me that nobody leaves home without their ATM card, to which I responded, again truthfully, that I stopped carrying my ATM card after I was robbed at gunpoint a couple years ago and had my ATM card stolen and had to cancel it. He gave up on me and walked away at that point.

  • Glen

    Many times, people will approach me while pumping gas. Once the person starts talking, I’m looking around to make sure they don’t have an accomplice trying to sneak up from behind.

  • Phyllis

    This guy came to my front door this past Sunday, 6/5/16. He wasn’t happy with me at all when I told him it’s my personal policy to never give anything via my front door. He was sort of dressed like a minister that day & told me he was a retired Unitarian pastor. Same sick mother.

  • textdoc

    Other scams to beware of:
    People claiming they’re Verizon techs to gain entry to homes: https://www.popville.com/2016/02/it-is-a-scam/

    List of scams related to Pepco and scams in which third-party energy companies misrepresent themselves: https://www.popville.com/2015/02/heads-up-new-pepco-phone-scam/#comment-913368
    List of scams compiled in August 2014 by yours truly: https://www.popville.com/2014/08/an-impressive-compilation-of-scammers/
    People claiming to need cash to buy deodorant (or laundry detergent or other easily resellable items):

    • bruno

      – People who need to buy diapers. (Diapers will be resold).
      – People who’s “car has run out of gas and they need to get home.”

      • textdoc

        Good additions. Thanks!

  • Anon

    Just encountered him on 11th and Harvard. Gave me the same spiel, only he told me the copay was $7.70. I guess I was looking even more disheveled than I thought!

  • Becky

    Another scam I’ve seen twice downtown (metro center area). A middle aged African American man holding a very beaten up plastic page sleeve holding a paper you can’t read, which he claims is his DD214 from military. He says he came down from Frederick MD (“150 miles”) on a bus, but I heard him say Virginia to one girl. He says he has a doc appt at the VA which he then pretends is located where the administrative Vets Affairs office is on I St NW next to The Renaissance. Complex story and he asks you to call an admin building in SW DC on speakerphone, because his flip phone battery is dead. It goes on and on, he mentioned Agent Orange once. Once i knew his scheme, I warned a girl he was scamming (in front of him) and she walked away. He didn’t protest. I imagine he has found a new scheme by now (it’s been about 2-4 weeks).


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