Consider this a Public Service Announcement.
About a month ago, I pulled into my usual gas station to gas up. Just as I was about to pull away, a big black SUV pulled up next to me, and the driver motioned for me to roll down my window so we could talk. The young woman asked me if I was from around here. I said I was and she asked if I knew of any local agencies that might help her with gas money. Rather than give her money—the obvious next question—I told her to call 211, the county's help line, to be connected with the proper agency that might help her. I pulled out, wondering if I had done the right thing by not offering money. It really bothered me for a few days.
Fast forward to last Saturday. I was in the mall parking lot in the same neighborhood, and who should pull up next to me but the same big black SUV. Did I live in the area? Could I direct her to a local agency that helps people who need gas money? "You've asked me this before." "I have?" "Yes." She took off. Give me a break.
I thought my local friends should know about this scam, so when I came back from Trader Joe's—in a different but nearby lot—I sat down to make a Facebook post about it. Mid-story, a woman approached my open window. She was about 40 and bald. She started a sad story about having driven from Ft. Wayne to get chemo (on a Saturday? In Indy?) and on her way back she got a flat tire. She had WAY too many details, a common tell for lying, but I had to ask something. "You just had chemo?" Sad face. "Yes." "Honey, I've had chemo. There is no way on earth you could be driving right after chemo." She started to argue (!) and asked for "just a couple bucks." "No." Her bald head clearly had hair coming in all over. She actually shaved her head for this charade. How dare she use this terrible disease to scam people.
In the past couple of months I've been approached in a grocery store and Target—"Are you a Christian woman?" from a woman who held her young child still in front of her—in direct pleas for money. Do I have "SUCKER" floating over my head?
Here's how I've been told to handle further "tales of whoa:" if they ask for something besides money like gas or food, offer to have them follow you so you can purchase it for them. No one I know who has done that has ever had the offer accepted. If they ask outright for money, offer to use your phone to call 211 and connect them with the proper agency. (PS: don't offer them your phone! They might run faster than you can.)
I have never had this happen to me before recently. I hope you never get approached. But just in case...