Monday, June 27, 2011

The Art of the Scam

I just finished visiting my mother. Physically she seems pretty good but the Alzheimer's is taking its toll on her. Sometimes she seems pretty good and decent and other days it is very confusing.

On the way home we stopped at the Quik Trip for gas. We were in Darlene's car and she was empty so I thought it better to fill her up tonight rather than her stopping on the way to work early tomorrow morning. I pulled into the pump and got out and was about to slide in my card and a Ranger pickup, kind of trashed, pulled in beside me and before I could finish sliding my car he didn't even get out of his truck he began his spiel. I don't know if he targeted me or not, we were in mom's Lexus so it probably didn't hurt.

His line was he was from Joplin, MO. In case you don't remember Joplin was the Missouri town almost destroyed by a tornado about a month ago. He told me that his alternator was out on his truck and he needed $7 to have enough money to get a new one and get home. I looked close for a minute at his truck then all of a sudden a guy at the pump right behind me that had heard the story ran up and handed this guy $30, a 20 and 10. Of course the thank you and bless you came pouring out of that truck. I looked closer he had said the alternator was out and his truck was about to die. Funny when I looked he had his foot on the brake and his brake lights were shining very bright. As soon as the guy that gave him the money turned his back to go bad to his truck the scammer turned the key and the starter spun like new. I'm not a mechanic but I have repaired my share of cars before and built my share of hot rods when I was a teenager. If the alternator was out and the truck was about to die then the battery would be the sole source of electrical power and at night when driving would kill that battery quick. No lights would burn brightly and no starter would spin like a top with a battery being drained from no alternator to recharge the battery. THIS GUY WAS SCAMMING!

I got back in the car when I finished filling up with gas and mom ask, "What did that guy want?" I relayed the story and her first response was, "Obviously that other guy had no experience dealing with an addict." She then wondered, "Why $7." We just figured that was probably pretty close to what a hit costs.

Our feeling then was how that guy was using the tragedy of all those poor people in Joplin that had lost everything they had and this guy was using their tragedy to soil their name and plight. But we know the story of what a scammer or addict will do to the generosity and kind heart of others.


BMelonsLemonade said...

7 may have been the remainder of what he needed to get high...say he needed a $20 bag to stay well, and he already had thirteen bucks...

But, have scammers all over that are not addicts. When I lived in VA after Katrina, someone at a bar bragged about applying for FEMA money after the storm, and getting it! I was outraged because some people I knew who lost everything did not get any money...and this ass from VA did?!?!?! Some people see a disaster, and they just try to scam...

Anonymous said...

Not every addict is a scammer , not every scammer is a addict . And really whats 7 bucks to you .

Anonymous said...

Throwing stones?? Glass Houses??? Please don't start being too righteous now that your son is clean...he may have done his share of scamming too when he was using.

Dad and Mom said...


I'm not trowing stones. My son may very well have pulled his share of scams, I know he stole to supply his habit too. Doesn't matter both are wrong. Scamming people out of their money that they have worked to earn is nothing but wrong,

You are right, $7 really isn't squat to me but if I know better I wouldn't give an addict a nickel if I know it's going for drugs. That applied to my son too. In fact if you read back in my blog you will find times when my son scammed me for much more than $7 you'll see my anger show through in my unknowing support of the drug trade.

If you had any idea how much money I have given to my son to support his recovery and to organizations that support recovery and not using drugs you may have a different attitude over my disgust with scammers.

Brother Frankie said...

there is nothing new under the sun..

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 (NLT)
9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.
10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.

Briar said...

Interesting. I got scammed the other day by a guy at a gas station. He definitely targeted me because he practically fell over himself to catch me as I was coming out of the store.

His story was that he needed money for the bus, just $1.50. I was caught off guard and starting reaching for my wallet before I could think about it.

I gave him the $1.50 and then he proceeded to take an awfully long time adjusting and tucking his pant legs, all while glancing over at me out of the corner of his eye to see if I was leaving or not -- I suspect because I would see he wasn't heading to the bus stop.

It gave me a lot to think about. The mechanics of the scam. How we default to helping others because it's what is natural for us. Not codependents, just people in general. We respond to fellow human beings in distress, we're wired to help. But the scam artist KNOWS this and uses it. And honestly, if I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I wouldn't still give him the money. What if he really did need bus money? What if it were me in his shoes?

These are tough situations. We can't see inside their head and know if it's real need, or addict need.

Cathy | Treatment Talk said...

My mom has Alzheimer's as well and it is a heartbreaking disease.

I was on BART yesterday going into San Francisco and a young girl came walking down the aisle on the train asking for money. My heart went out to her, but there was no money coming from me or my husband, I cannot fund an addiction. It is hard to watch the young kids fall apart like that. This girl had such a nice looking face, but hair and clothes were not so good, and she looked like she was probably high. Similar to your story the guy in the seat behind us reached in and gave her money.

This is particularly annoying that the man you encountered was using Joplin, but as you say people will say anything to get us to help them out. It is hard to know when the need is authentic. Thanks.

Lou said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again. My son is alive today because of the kindness of strangers. If I told you of all the people who saw a broken human being instead of a scamming junkie, and helped-with money, food, clothes, a ride, letting him use a phone-it humbles me beyond measure.

I made a vow after those dark days to try not to judge..and to pay it forward.

Momma said...

I'm with you on this one, Ron. I really don't feel right about it. Son1 would give a stranger on the street cash without hesitation, without really looking. Son2 calls him a babe in the woods. Son2 can see an addict a mile away. He would give a guy a cigarette in a wink, but no cash. Son2 has been the scammer, he knows, and he won't be a party to it. I love them both for who they are.

Momma said...

btw, my mother in law died from Alzheimers and it was hard to watch her slip away slowly. But every once in a while there was a little light in her eye, a flash of what she once was.... and that gave us comfort. She was able to spend some time with all her kids and grand kids before the end, and I think in some manner, she knew them somehow and appreciated their visit. And then, she slipped away...

Anonymous said...

Would you walk away from a car accident when asked for help ? or walk away because they may have been drunk ?

John said...

I love trolls.

It's good to see little Norwegians with ridiculous hair can use the internet.

Hey, anonymous; no name? no pic? no ID? no balls? Ever thought about growing up?

The only people I know that want anonymity and are afraid to be counted are sex offenders. Do you fit that bill?

Brother Frankie said...

i have been known to buy a bear or few to keep some of my friends who live outside from going into alcohol withdrawals..

Anonymous Mom said...

I'm so sorry about your mother, I think of all the ways to lose someone Alzheimer's is the hardest because you lose the person before they are gone.

I can spot a scam a mile away and the gas station is the most popular spot. I have actually asked a few people what they REALLY need the money for and most stick to their story but a young couple once told me it was for drugs and I started crying and said "your mothers love you" (I think that scared them to death). I gave them some money and they almost ran away from the crazy lady. I am not sure why I did it, it just sort of happened.

annapolly said...

Gee, what a great topic!

For decades, I would never give a dime to a stranger. Then I personally fell on hard times not related to substance abuse.

I found out how it feels to scrape around for coins to put a mere $2.00 of gas in the car. I never got to the point of asking a stranger for help, but it humbled me to the point that I vowed when things were better for me, I would help others in need as often as possible, whether they ask or not.

I now love helping others out - the person ahead of me in the line at the grocery store and short a few dollars, the kid who is grieving over not having enough for a candy bar, the guy that asks for money for food outside the fast food joint now gets a burger, that person in the convenience store who is putting a mere $2.00 of gas in the car gets another $2.00...

And, it does come back. Not long ago, a person ahead of me in a drive-thru anonymously picked up the tab for me and my children and I will never know who it was or why they did it.

I have walked a mile in those shoes, I will never forget it and it has softened me.

Dad and Mom said...

Dear Annapolly,

I don't think a single person on here wouldn't do the same under those circumstances and in fact many do much more with money and with service to the needy.

However, handing money to an addict to buy drugs due to my experiences I just cannot do. Or giving money to someone that is obviously scamming people, addict or not deserves nothing but disgust and contempt. I have a hard time in helping those that will not try to help themselves.

However, as I have said many times to my son or any other person that needs help, I'd move a mountain to support you in your recovery but don't ask for a single nickel for using.

Difficult times can strike almost anyone. There is no way I begrudge or look down on anyone needing help, I'm not heartless and have done many things for many people but as some say an addict on the street that is scamming people needs to have his "bottom" raised up to meet them.

Anonymous said...

I agree...this is a great topic.

I have been the target of 2 B&E's in my home in the last 5 years, and I can tell you that I would rather have a scammer approach me than any B&E !!! (for the record, I have been approached by a scammer.)

Stealing for drugs or scamming for drugs? What is the difference??? Either way I too worked hard for my money regardless of which way it "disappeared". At least you can see the scammer face to face and have a choice - B&E's you don't!

Dad, I think your sentence "I have a hard time in helping those that will not try to help themselves." is troubling. ALL drug addicts are at that point at sometime in their using. You'll never know if your one act of kindness is the one that turns the addict around just when he/she needs it.

I sleep better (with the help of an alarm system now installed)and knowing that I may have helped someone in need. I try not to give cash but I will fill a gas tank, buy a meal etc.

And yes,I have walked in your shoes. My son was a drug addict for many years-clean for 6 years now. He remembers those radom acts of kindness from strangers and he is paying it forward is many walks of life.

Where is your bitterness coming. from?

For Lou and Annapolly: Bless you!

Anonymous said...

JON its very easy to call anon a sex offender on the internet ,you should know better than that .my post was , really $7 ,Most people want some sort of story ,give me 7 bucks doesn't cut it .The amount of people in need has doubled tripled quadrupled pentupled .I'll never forget the hot chicken a roll and few buck somebody gave me nor will I forget the stroke victim every body walk past because covered in sick they though another junkie .

John said...

Anon, you're not terribly clear in either your thinking or meaning.

People who are genuinely in need don't tend to try and scam people out of change; they go to places and people that can help.

I refuse point blank to give money to anyone trying to pull a fast one. Why should my hard work go to somebody else?

Also, lying to get money from someone is despicable. Someone gave you a hot roll? No-one says that isn't a good thing to do, and I agree walking past someone in need isn't great behaviour. Neither thing has anything to do with your OP, though.

Nikki Knaup said...

I'm with you on this one, Dad. There are plenty of legitimate resources out there for victims of the tornado. The way you describe it, they had no intention of using the money for an alternator. When I look back over the years at all of the times I've given my addict son money for "rent" or "food" I realize I was as much as putting the drugs in his hands. Giving an addict money, is not helping.