Friday, August 22, 2008

Hope I was right...

On my way home today, I saw a man standing by the side of the road with a begging sign.

He needed money to get home, a job fell through. His kids were in the van.

I didn't stop. I couldn't keep myself from thinking that he was most likely a scammer. It disgusted me that he'd be using his kids in that way.

I stopped for gas, and a young man asked me for money, he was stranded, needed money to get home. He pointed to his girlfriend, who had tears in her eyes. He commented on how his credit cards were maxed out, so they were no use.

I told him that I wouldn't be giving him any money, because I couldn't tell who was a scammer. He said that he would rather give someone the benefit of the doubt than take the risk of refusing help to someone who really needed it.

On my way home, I was thinking about the anatomy of the scam. Both were fundamentally the same...

1. The person tried to make themselves look as something other than a common beggar, by giving the impression this is a "one-time" request, something borne out of desperation.

2. The person tried to make you feel sympathy for someone in their care. A girlfriend, or three young children.

I could have why there was no-one at home, no friends, no relatives, who could send them money to get home. The answers would have just been a lie.

I really hate not being able to help someone who appears to be in genuine need. But there's just no damn way to tell.

It's also damn curious how on a sunny friday afternoon, prime party weather the day before a major concert at green river gorge, people are in need of money to "get home"

it's a gas..

1 comment:

The Mushroom said...

I am guilty of giving folks who approach me at the gas pumps a little assistance if I have any, and I don't feel guilty about it. I might have made a difference. Or someone might be half the way toward another beer, or one step closer to whatever brand of euphoria they engage in. I do not know and prefer not to find out. But as for the folks with the signs... Nope. They're seldom "one-time".

There used to be a couple beggars in my neighborhood, a husband (in a leg brace) and wife couple who would divide and conquer. They had the look down. And the signs would mention their two kids. But any sort of concern I had was dashed when I was sitting on a bus a couple rows away from the woman, and she was telling a friend how much they hauled in and brought home. Scam, scam, scam.

I did see a couple on an intersection the other day, and the sign he was holding boiled down to: She's making me do this.