The holiday season brings out all kinds of scams and scammers. Many of these types of folks only want to separate you from your money, and others want to hurt you or the ones you love. Here’s a few of the common scams I’ve come across over the years that you need to be aware of:
The “Tug on the Heartstrings” Scam
This particular scam is most frequently perpetrated by people who have some sort of substance abuse problem, and I generally try to keep those sorts of people at a distance. From this point forward, I’m going to affectionately refer to the people that prepetrate these scams as “crackheads” although many of them have a drug dejour other than crack.
Anyways, this type of scam happens when someone tries to make you take pity on them in order to get money from you. This one can play out a number of ways, but here are a few of the most common:
- Crackhead enters a grocery store and finds some small cans of food, ramen, etc. that will make him look really pitiful. He’ll then walk the grocery department and look specifically for women who are shopping alone in an aisle. When he finds his mark, he’ll quickly approach the lone female, get inside her personal space, and ask for money under the guise of using it to buy the food he previously selected. The strategy here is to make the woman feel uncomfortable, so she is more apt to give the crackhead some money just to make him go away. If the crackhead succeeds in getting the money from the mark, he’ll then walk away, and drop the groceries he had previously used a props, and leave the store.
This same type of situation plays out at gas stations and in parking lots as well. Generally the crackhead will approach someone while pumping gas (captive audience) and tell a fabricated story about a car being broken down, needing money for food, or something else in an attempt to get money from the mark. In this sort of situation I’m also very paranoid about being attacked from behind while being addressed by the first person. I guess I’ve seen too many YouTube videos of someone approaching a mark at a gas pump and bringing their attention in a certain direction while an attacker approaches from behind and makes his move.
How to Avoid this situation:
- First off, don’t go pulling out your wallet to give the person some cash. If you pull it out, and they see you have more cash, cards, or other identifying information the person may make a move for your entire wallet or purse, and before you know it, you’re getting robbed.
Don’t allow the crackhead to get in your personal space. If you’re at the gas pump, put the filler hose between you and them, and in the grocery store, move for a main aisle or toward other people. Don’t be afraid to be assertive, several times I’ve let people at gas stations know that they are close enough to me.
Like it or not, we keep a lot of valuables in our cars these days, especially when holiday shopping and criminals know it.
If you’re heading out for Black Friday, or any of the other big shopping days take extra caution to keep anything of value out of sight. Here’s a short list of things to hide:
- GPS units (and their window mount)
- Text books
- Diaper bags (especially ones that resemble a purse)
- Cash (Seems obvious, but some people will leave small bills sitting out with their change)
- Excessive amounts of change
- Shopping bags (The criminal might not be able to see what exactly is in the bags, but if your back seat is filled with bags from Best Buy a few weeks before Christmas, there’s a good chance there will be a lot of stuff in there that can easily be sold or pawned for quick cash.)
Basically, if it’s worth anything, or if it looks like it could be worth anything, get it out of sight, leave it at home, or take it with you.
The Purse Snatch
When you think of a purse snatching, you probably have images in your head of masked men running up to women, knocking them down, taking their purse and running off. While this does happen, another way that purses get stolen is through a clever ruse that distracts the woman so her purse can be stolen.
This one usually goes down in grocery stores or department stores where women are once again shopping alone. The thieves in this group look for women who have placed their purse in their buggy. Thief #1 will approach from the direction that puts the mark in between themself and the buggy containing the purse. Sometimes Thief #1 will strike up a conversation with the mark, maybe asking about a specific hair color, makeup color, or other type of thing that will give them the marks undivided attention in the opposite direction of the buggy. While keeping the mark distracted Thief #2 will move in behind the mark and remove the purse from the buggy. Thief #1 will keep the mark’s attention until #2 is gone.
Typically they will strip the purse of valuables and then dump it somewhere in the store before leaving.
How to Avoid This:
Ladies, if your purse is so big that it needs to ride in the buggy, consider downsizing to something you can keep on your person. Do you really need that giant bag filled with tissues, snacks, hairties, and old receipts?
It’s really easy for me to say just don’t turn your back on your buggy, but these sorts of things go down really fast, and even if you are aware of this sort of scam, your purse may already be gone before you put together what is happening. Just. Stay. Aware.