Banner Exchange

Google Search



Panhandling Scams break down Part 1

Panhandling Scams breakdown Part 1

Most of us have heard the story of the dingily dressed guy/gal who panhandles on the street and at the end of the day hops into a brand new BMW and drives to their high-rise apartment, laughing at the masses who foolishly gave money thinking they were homeless. Some may even claim to know of a person who does this or at least suspect someone of being the secretly rich homeless person. Of course questions come about like, "How can they make that much from people giving spare change?" or "How can you tell if they truly are homeless and in need of help?" In reality, it can be very difficult to distinguish who is truly trying to survive on the street and who is there trying to live off the backs of others.

There isn't any surefire way to tell if someone asking you for money is presenting themselves in a truthful way, but there are a few tips to help distinguish if a panhandling scammer is trying to get money from you.

A Panhandling scammer will usually ask you for a specific amount of money

For instance, this gem is a personal account of encountering a panhandler scammer. My friends and I had come out of an eating establishment with our take-out order. We all had gotten into the car when this guy came walking up behind me and stopped for a moment next to my closed door, then walked in front of the car and proceeded to try and get my male friend's attention on the driver's side. At first we all thought he was waiting for someone else, but then he started staring at us. After some confusion my friend rolled down his window to ask if there was something wrong.

Right away, this man went into a story about how his truck broke down in the parking lot. He, his wife, and three daughters were stranded and needed to get to the Amtrak station to catch an 8:40 PM train if they wanted to get back home. Oh, and he was already being assisted by a policeman who called a tow truck for him and agreed to drive him and his family to the train station... but he had lost his wallet and needed $16.00 to get them all train tickets. Needless to say, we did not help him.

I know most people reading this will become emotional and call this a heartless decision, but hear me out. On paper, this does sound like some guy down on his luck until the quick-thinking process is explained. There are signs of a scam here, and I will outline them for you:

1. The guy sees three people walking to a car, two look like guys. Automatically, he assumed the guys have the money. I have a short hair cut and was wearing a hat. Once he stopped at my door and took a look, he realized I was not a guy. He proceeded over to my friend's side of the car and stopped, then he moved his arm like he was about to wave but instead put it down and began to look confused or lost. Out of concern, my friend asked if something was wrong.

Scammers' reasoning: Let's face it - if someone offers their assistance they are less likely to turn away since they are the ones who asked if anything was wrong to begin with. Plus a guy is more likely to come forward and ask a stranger a question than a woman.

Scam Notice: Scammer puts themself in your line of sight. They are not in a crowd, they are not standing or sitting to the side; they stop in front of you, to the side of you, make a gesture to get your attention then act confused or distressed. Before the gesture no sign of distress they want to make sure you see them before they start their act.

2. The guy did not hesitate in his story once he was asked if something was wrong. He went right into his spill like a salesman. He said his story fast, said it without stumbling over his words, said it like a speech - as if it was rehearsed. You would think someone who was in such a situation - broken down truck, his wallet lost, a wife and three daughters to protect, and needing money for a train that was leaving soon - would show some sign of distress but he had none.

Scammers' reasoning: Gotta have a good, quick story that gets an emotional reaction. Catch their victim(s) off guard so the victims don't stop and really think about the details of the story.

Scam Notice: It was like he had been in this situation many times before, so he either has a crappy truck or he practiced his lines so much he had a rhythm.

Scam Sign: If the story sounds like it has rhythm, or if the person is telling a drawn out story in a quick fashion chances are they aren't telling the truth, giving a lot of details in a short time span leaves the listener swimming through the words and they only catch the emotional parts of the story.

3. The guy claims his wallet was lost.

Scammers' reason: Of course this is the reason he is in distress. He has no money and his family will be left stranded if you, his target, doesn't help.

Scam Notice: But this leads to an observation question: He has his wife with him - does she not have a purse? Maybe with money in it or a debit card to get money from a bank (which happens to be one of the businesses surrounding the parking lot)?

Scam sign: The man looked to be about in his early 30's. He was not old and there was no reason to believe he would be so old-fashioned that he would be the only money holder in the family. Lost wallet to explain not having money - hard to believe when the wife is supposedly with him.

4. The guy claimed that he was already being assisted by a police officer and that a tow truck has been called.

Scammers' reasoning: By saying he was already being helped by a cop and a tow truck was on the way, he was trying to avoid the "Well, let us call you a tow truck or a cop to help you out", or the situation where the good samaritan would call the cops to help this distraught man whose families lives hang on the balance of him getting $16.00 so they all can ride the rails home.

Scam sign: No cop cars in the parking lot. Call me crazy, but a car that says "POLICE" on the side does have a tendency to be noticed, even in a crowded parking lot. His truck was supposedly in the parking lot, which means the cop would be waiting by his truck - yet, no cop.

Scam Notice: Scammer is quick to rule out any other sort of help other than money. Nope, don't need police assistance, got that! Nope, don't need a tow truck got that! Just need money.

Quick Observations

1. What about a cell phone? The man doesn't have a cell phone nor does his wife? They can't call a relative or friend to help them out? Or ask the many businesses surrounding the parking lot his broken down truck is in to use their phone to call someone for help? Why attempt to get money from a complete stranger when you can call someone YOU KNOW will help you?

2. In the state where I live, if the cops call a tow truck for you because your vehicle is broken down, the tow truck driver expects a form of payment right there, be it cash or credit card. Sure, the cop could impound it, but the cops don't impound a vehicle for it being broken down. They impound it because it's not suppose to be parked somewhere, it's been abandoned or you aren't suppose to be driving it. Remember he claimed his wallet was lost - so how was he going to pay the tow truck driver to tow his truck to the nearest mechanic?

This is not the only example of a panhandling scam, but I must admit on the surface it is a well thought out one until it is broken down. Once it's broken down, the holes in the scammer's story are apparent. The downfall to this is that the scammer expects their target to react out of emotion and the target without question offers the scammer the money they so desperately need.

There are two tips I can think of that may help you avoid getting stung:

1. Don't give the money.

2. Use this article as an example of what to look for.


  1. Dallas, Texas

    Sorry to say I guess that we got scammed.

    We were approached by a young man maybe 23 or younger with a young wife that he said was pregnant.
    His story was that he had been pulled over and his car had been impounded don't know the reason he quickly went on to say that they lived in Ft. Worth and we were in Dallas. So they were trying to get on the city bus to get to the TRE train that goes to Ft. Worth and without any money the Bus would not let them on even with their story because of policy. So they were short $9 to which we ended up giving to them since it was an above 100 degrees day and they both were sweating. I wish that I would have read up on scams earlier but - live and learn. We are struggling financially and we really needed those $9. But I have a habbit of saying there other people out there worse off than us.

  2. I gave a man $5 one night when we were leaving some bars downtown, he said his wife & kid were in the hospital down the street (you can see it from where we were) and that he wanted to run home to get a blanket or toy or something for the kid but he was short on cab fare... so I gave him what was left in my wallet after a night out (literally like 5 $1 bills). I figure if it was a scam he earned the money for his performance, and if it was the truth then I'm glad I was able to help him.

  3. To anonymous who gave the $5- How do you think you helped him? In all honesty you did not help him at all you let him take advantage of you by giving him money to lie. The only thing it did was prove to him there are people out there for him to scam, that doesn't help anybody in the end.

    If his child were in the hospital the hospital staff would have provided a blanket for the child, if it was really important to get home and get a toy for the kid then he could have called a family member to get give him a ride or ask them to get the child's toy for him. Also, if he didn't have cab fare to get home in the first place how was he going to have enough cab fare to get back? I find it hard to believe this guy didn't have anyone from his family or wife's family who would help them out. Unless of course he they were the first people he lied to, to get money.

    When you input logic into a story like that it becomes full of holes.

  4. Los Angeles, CA

    This blog is very interesting. It was sent to me after I called my mom feeling very bad about not helping someone, who now seems to have been a scammer.

    I was filling my gas tank when an older women, well dressed, clean, with her purse under her arm and holding cash in her hand, and very upset, was walking quickly through the gas station area towards the sidewalk. She changed direction and came up to me. She introduced herself, she said her car had broken down and the gas station had called a tow truck for her. The tow truck refused to tow her car because she only had $55 instead of the $78 that she needed or something like that. She also included that the police would be more than happy to tow her care for $162 and $80 a day after that. She was well spoken, said that in her "exasperation, she has become inclined to approach strangers". I don't carry cash 99% of the time anyways, so I let her know that I didn't have any cash otherwise I would help her. She then inquired about an ATM card, maybe I could get some money from the gas station ATM. That seemed to be a little too much, and that's when I lied and said I only carry credit cards with me.

    Up to that point, I really felt like she was an honest lady that needed help. In truth, I drove away feeling really horrible that I was too lazy to help her out. That's where the phone call home came to, as I am very close with my mother and call her about little things like this that happen. Being the lady that she is, she did research and sent me the link to this blog. And so, it seems, not giving her the money she "needed" was in fact not such a horrible thing to do afterall.

    As a last thought, it's sad that, until we break down the scam, most people have a really hard time telling the difference between scammers and someone who really needs the help. The fact that scammers feed off of people's emotional lens, only to be a scam, breaks down that viewpoint for humanity even more. My personal conclusion: give when you feel like it, help when you can, but also take care of yourself and don't feel badly when you say no.

  5. Never, ever, give any money to any panhandlers. First, you are enabling them. But much more importantly they are the very first "broken window" and this is what destroys neighbourhoods.

  6. I ran into such a scammer at a local McDonald's this evening. He said that he worked for a cement contractor, and that he needed money because his car broke down. I told him, "sorry, I can't afford to give you money". He huffily left the McDonald's. A nice older woman told me after he left that he pulled this same scam at a nearby Arby's late last week. She said that he was from Perrysburg, OH, which is near Toledo. The McDonald's I was at is in Brooklyn, near Cleveland. She said that he pulls this scam off all the time. I never give money to strangers, regardless of the hard-luck story he/she gives me. 999 times out of 1000 it's a scam.

  7. is there a date when this site looked into pregnancy scams? we have a friend who says she's pregnant and now with TWINS who is asking for funds for late term end pregnancy options. she's a drug addict and far away so we're really not sure what's going on... starting to feel like a scam though.

  8. After reading this I think my husband and I was scammed back in June 2012 in Nashville. We were leaving our hotel for the day and a man approached us stating his truck broke down and needed money for a part. He had a couple that would take him back home but did not want to leave his truck as he had no job if he had no transportation. I was very sceptical because I read and keep up on the news. I am always worried about people robbing others when you are out of state and I just did not like his presents invading my space and vacation. I also was scouting the parking lot to see if their was any other people with him. Because most of the time people that try to rob you #1 have a decoy so the other/s can move in on you without you being aware of it. For some reason my husband felt sorry for this guy and felt he was doing his good deed for the day and gave him $20. I tried to motion with my eyes to ignore this guy but he was drawn in. After we left I was convinced we did the right thing and helped him out. After reading this, not sure we did the right thing now. Sad thing is we may come across someone who truly needs our help and now I will be even more skeptical.
    Lesson Learned!

  9. I think I was just scammed tonight. I was leaving Subway store with my kids when a man approached and said he and his wife and daughter were unable to get home because their car was out of gas. He had an elaborate story, about how they had driven from the San Fracisco Bay area to Folsom in Sacramento area. They had gotten to Folsom prison to pick up his son who was supposed to get out, but then got into trouble so he could not be released. This was a definite problem as they were counting on his release money of $100 to get home, i.e. pay for gas in the car. I was skeptical but eventually I gave in, saying I'll pay for his gas, not give cash. I did see the car and there were 2 women in the car. I put about $40 worth of gas but did not give him cash.

    In retrospect, this was a scam. I should NEVER have given in. The story is unlikely. I should have checked his ID or called police to confirm the identify. Next time, I should set a better example for my kids.

    Lesson learned! Again!

  10. I got stuck when I was in an abusive relationship that I HAD to leave. I called all of the shelters in my area and in the neighboring towns and they were all FULL for three weeks. I finally couldn't take it anymore and left with my dog. I had been working but I left quickly away from there becayse I didn't want him to bother me anymore and I didn't want to deal with the police again. They hasn't been helpful before and often made things worse. I really didn't have anywhere else to go so I went out on the street and begged enough to get a sleeping bag. Then I hitch-hiked to a different province and begged on the way until I resettled where I was sure I wouldn't be bothered or suspected of being. I was 26 years old and scared as Hell. But if no one helped me I would have been screwed. It was also really embarassing and lots of people yelled at me too. I got told I "must be doing crack" and some guys offered me money to do things with them I don't want to talk about, but I wouldn't go with any guy like that. I much prefer working. I was happy to find a new job and place with my dog. I'm glad I did it but you never hear those stories because people are too embarrassed to admit they ever had to. Or felt they had to. He was a total jerkface and I'm glad I left.

    1. Browniebuns- Here the difference between you and someone who plays on people's empathy to scam them. YOU did not present yourself to be something you were not, you truly were in need. The people who do this to scam people are ones who make it difficult for everyone. No one knows who to believe anymore thanks to these scam artist.

      It is sad people said those things to you or wanted you to do unmentionable things in order to get their money, but do you honestly think they would have said those things to you, if they had not already been approached by a con artist first trying to fleece them of their money? What is sad is most of those people probably would have helped if they had not been hardened by a scammer attempting to take advantage of them.

      I am glad you were able to get a new job, a new apartment, and a new life. May you never have to go through another situation like that again.

      Seriously thanks to the scam artist who go around acting as if they need help when they need none are the ones ruining it for ones in need and the ones who attempt to help. There are more and more reports coming out all the time about panhandler scams.

  11. don't get scammed by homeless couple jen and jeff on I-95 exit 51 Washington blvd Baltimore. she claims she got kids but the were taken away from her. she is a druggie whore. sign is different ever week. and her new one homeless single mother needs camping gear clothing and food for kids. but she sells the shit to her drug dealer .the girl with the ravens sign is really homeless and doesn't do drugs her name is Diana. or diane.

  12. jen got new sign I have place my kids not allowed my baby need &72 dollars for double room at the beltway motel. an night. plus baby food.

  13. Jen and Jeff have drugs warrant on them yet police won't do shit. She scamming drivers on exit 51 Baltimore on I 95 with new sign I need 7 dollars for each kid to feed and I need baby food money only. No food needed. She lost custody of her kids and is an heroin addict. How to get rid of them. Police won't help.

  14. The scamming single mother on exit 51 i-95 Baltimore is a druggie scammers. Her kids are grown up and are in college. So the bitch sells clothes food to the her drug dealers for their kids. Stop helping her.

  15. I've not seen more than a handful of homeless people in my town ever and its not that small, its just poor so its not like you could tell them apart if I had seen more. They are mostly known to sleep under one specific bridge because it has a more private section and its right there in the middle of downtown but ive never seen anyone hold up a sign or approach anyone for money. A couple well known homeless guys live here that way by choice and never ask for a handout. There is one known scammer here however with the same story every day but he's the only one I know of or heard of. He completely fits the scammer profile. It's not too common here but I have always been able to recognize a lie.
    Well tonight at work ( I clean at a police station) there was a very young couple who came in and walked right past me to speak with an officer. They explained that the only shelter in town was closed for the night and would not let them in because of some misunderstanding. They asked if there was any other place they could go or of they could stay at the station. The officer couldn't let them stay and he didn't know of any other place. She then spoke up and said she was pregnant by a few months but was again turned down. Then they left. They never asked for money or even mentioned it. I felt terrible and I wouldn't have given them any cash but I contemplated purchasing a motel room but I never said a word.
    I'm a skeptical person and I tried to analyze this as a scam which is what led me here but I'm still leaning toward them actually needing help. They were very polite and didnt make a scene. Idk what do you guys think scam or no?


Complaints? Comments? Concerns?