Just Another Scam

I had an interesting unsettling experience when sitting in the car in the supermarket carpark the other day.  My friend had gone in to do the shopping for both of us.  Aside – supermarket shopping is not my favourite activity so another good thing came out of this accident.

I was quietly sitting and contemplating the people coming and going into the supermarket when a young woman knocked on the car window.  She had seen Lotte and wanted to know if she bit and whether she could hold her.  Well, I am very used to this reaction to my little dog  and so I said “No” she didn’t bite and “Yes” she could hold her.  So I was about to bring Lotte into the front seat ready to put her out of the car (on her lead of course) for this woman to pat her.

At that moment the back door of the car was opened and the young woman climbed into the car.  I was amazed but not particularly worried at that time.

She fussed Lotte and then regaled me with her tale of woe.  Apparently she had come to Wellington from Auckland for New Year celebrations and had her purse/backpack/whatever stolen.  This bag had held her plane tickets and according to her $4,000 in cash.  The latter was a trifle hard to believe but…

She then told me that she had slept on the street for two nights and hadn’t eaten.  Did I have any food?

She told me she had been to the Police to make a report but they couldn’t give her a bed because she hadn’t committed a crime.  Flags sprung up – NZ police would not have put this woman (who later told me she was 6 months pregnant) out onto the street.  They would have found her a bed or at least put her in touch with the Salvation Army or the City Mission.Wellington City MissionShe followed up this gem with the fact that neither the SA nor the CM were open because of the holidays.  That of course is rubbish as there is an emergency number for each of these services in the phone book.

She sat in the car for a while, expanding on her tale of woe.  She had the name of the ex City Missioner, asked if I knew him and whether I thought he would help.

She asked whether I could give her $5 or $10 for a phone card.  She told me, following my enquiry, that her parents were not answering the phone and calls were going to voicemail and the same answer came when I asked about the grandparents whom she had  talked about earlier.  Note – she didn’t tell me how she had called these numbers having no money.

She wondered if I could let her have the money for the plane fare and assured me that her parents would reimburse me – Oh Yeah!

After more of the same I convinced her to go to the service desk of the supermarket and ask to use their phone and to call the ex City Missioner.  I do know this man well (he had officiated at my daughter’s wedding and my husband’s funeral) and he has been a friend for 40 plus years.  I knew if she managed to contact him he would certainly point her in the right direction

As soon as she left I locked all the car doors.  I was feeling quite vulnerable with only one good leg.  Had it been any other time I would have got out of the car immediately she got in and would have insisted that she did so too.

So my question is – Was this another scam or should I have done more to assist this young woman?  What do you think?

“Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.”
Elizabeth, Princess Bibesco
(née Asquith)
1897 – 1945
English writer.

31 responses to “Just Another Scam

  1. I agree with you, Judith, it was a scam. You did the right thing when you told her whom she should call. Lock those car doors!

    • I did wonder later whether it was genuine cry for help – but then we saw her again late last night near the supermarket when she asked my friend was he going to a suburb of Wellington. Yup – definitely a scam artist.

  2. I think it was a scam. She had quite an elaborate story cooked up….too elaborate. I’m glad she didn’t harm you or Lottie – it’s a bold move to just climb in someone’s car.

    • Well I was feeling a bit vulnerable – leg in plaster and both crutches in the back where she was sitting. But I don’t think she wished me harm; she just wanted some money.

  3. Hi Judith,
    This is a tough one… you just never know and it’s obviously important to ensure that your safety is priority #1. If she was legit, you made all the right suggestions and there would be help for her and you lent her a sympathetic ear (sometimes that’s all people need). If she wasn’t, you stood your ground and refused to be taken advantage of. In our society today there are so few people who are willing to take a risk and help others. I think that’s sad. Your story reminds me of the time I pulled into a gas station in South Florida and a guy approached me with a sob story about his wife leaving him, he was going through re-hab and for the first time he felt he was making progress just to have her kick him out, etc. etc. He even opened his trunk and showed me all his clothes that she had supposedly tossed onto the front lawn. He had driven all the way to South Florida from Georgia to stay with a friend only to find that his friend was away. He had no money for gas to go back home where he would finally give in and ask his family for help. Well, I didn’t want to give him money (he might just spend it on booze, I thought) so I filled his tank for him. Was I taken advantage of? Maybe, but I tell myself that I wasn’t and that this man did get himself back home and straighten his life out. Am I too trusting? Probably, but I was only out 50 bucks and that was worth the risk. I agree with Pat to lock your doors though. You really don’t want a stranger getting in your car no matter how kind and helpful you are.

    • Thanks for the comment Anne. It is hard to turn one’s back on a cry for help and I am sure you did the right thing with the man at the gas station. I now know that mine was a scam – this young woman appraoched us again outside a friend’s apartment block last night looking for a lift to an outer suburb. Buses and trains run there so we think she was looking for a free ride and/or an opportunity to tell her story again. Obviously, she didn’t recognise either me or the car. 🙂

  4. No telling but nonetheless, you should always go with your gut.

    • I think this has now been proven. Last night when getting into the car at friend’s apartment, she approached us again looking for a lift to another suburb, which of course, she didn’t get.

  5. It’s a scam! I’m glad you are safe. How can just someone jump into another one’s car without permission. You told her she can hold the dog and not ride the car and harrass you with her stories. I’ve seen it so many times. Everytime I go to the mall, dudes younger than me begging with a sign out of gas….. Seriously, for the past several months? Its a scam, Close those doors everytime. Last year, a couple got rob outside our local wal-mart for being helpful. People can take advantage of our kindness. Thanks for sharing. Its an eye opener! Happy New Year.

    • It was a bold move on her part but maybe she saw the crutches in the back of thee car. Yes from now on I shall be locking the doors when I am in the car and will not engage in conversation with anybody that I don’t know.

  6. You must have handled yourself really well because she actually took your advice and got out of the car to make the call. Phew! The whole story got me nervous just reading it. I do think it was a scam and you were just lucky and thank goodness she left and you and Lotte were o.k.

    • I hadn’t considered myself vulnerable until that moment but of course, being incapacitated even in a minor degree does leave one vulnerable. So now the doors are locked if I am sitting in the car alone.

  7. You did the right thing. Unfortunately these are the sorts of things that make us turn our backs on people with legitimate problems, but this one had red flags written all over it. Next time if a stranger asks if your dog bites, say yes!

    • It is a shame that I shall now doubt every request for help. And I shall certainly lock the car doors and respond Yes if someone asks does Lotte bite.

  8. I was scared the minute you said she climbed into the car unbidden, Judith. So thankful this ended the way it did. I shall echo the previous comments, keep those doors locked.

    • The scary thing was she was sitting directly behind me and I had trouble turning to see her with this great red Santa boot on my foot. But all turned out well until I saw her again last night. She asked were we going to an outer suburb obviously looking for a lift. Fortunately, she recognised neither me nor the car!

  9. Scary or what !
    I’m so glad you’re ok, scam or not, I would have been terrified !

    • It really was only after I got her out of the car that I realised just how vulnerable I was. The crutches were in the back of the car where she was sitting so she had to weapons readily available if she had wanted to harm me.

  10. Wow. Scam or not – I am glad you are OK. I was floored when you wrote she got in the car. Wow. Wow. Again, I am glad you are OK.
    Yep, my vote is she was trying to scam you.

    • Yes it was a pretty scary thing but only after she got out of the car did I realise that I was vulnerable. We saw this woman again last night when she approached and asked whether we were going to an outer suburb. Obviously, the scam must have worked for her and she was looking for a life home.

  11. Nope, Judith you did right! Played along, gave her advice, but you didn’t give her any money. Your instincts were right! Always trust them! All your reasoning was correct. Good girl! 🙂

    • Thanks Elizabeth, but it is sad to think that she will prey on another person and get a result. I must say that I am saddened that next time the person may really be in need and because of this experience I shall deny them help. 🙂

  12. I am positive it was a scam, and I am so glad you and Lotte were unhurt. I’ll bet she figured you for a “defeseless, gullible old lady”. From now on, lock the car doors!!!

    • Hi friend – car doors locked and nobody will get into the car. I was defenceless as the crutches were both in the back of the car where she was. Luckily she didn’t have any intention to harm me. 🙂

  13. jacquelincangro

    You seemed to handle yourself so well. I would have been scared and I might have panicked a bit. She may have legitimately been down on her luck but that doesn’t make it right for her to use that fact to make you fear for your safety.

    • It has since been proven to me that it was a scam. We saw her last night when leaving a friend’s house. She approached and asked were we going to an outer suburb, obviously looking for a lift.

  14. You would not last long in Miami, Florida USA. I can smell scammers from a mile a way. Good, wholesome Christian minded people are so vulnerable. She’s a pro though. Once you get the “mark”(you), to let you in the car or house the rest is pretty easy. She was sloppy in that her story was too long and detailed. Squeeze fast , look desperate and exit is the pro way.

    • Well because the story was so detailed the red flags were raised. I will certainly be much more aware from now on and shall lock the car doors when I am sitting inside. Don’t know why the car doors are unlocked when the house doors are always locked. Thanks for the comment Carl. 🙂

  15. This sure sounds like a scam to me, Judith. There were too many red flags to ignore. We can’t get them all right,mbut we have to make sure that we stay safe ourselves.i

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