Neighbors for Neighbors

Do stuff with and for your neighbors

Hi, all:
Wanted to alert everyone to a scam I got hit with last night at The Brewery. My daughter and I were headed to our car, which was parked in the newer/larger parking area. As we approached our car, a woman called to me. I stopped to hear her question, and she walked over and asked me if I lived in the area. I said yes, and she told me that she had dropped her car keys down the sewer drain and when she called the police for assistance they'd told her that she needed a locksmith. She then went on to say that she had two children in her car.

I asked her if she and her children needed a ride, and she said, no, that the police had told her she would have to have a locksmith open her car, and that she would have to pay the locksmith in cash. She then told me that she was $12 short.

Now, at this point, my gut told me that I was being scammed. But, there was also a tiny part of me that said that it would be terrible to be in this situation and not have anyone help. So, I bit my tongue, silenced my inner Scrooge and took out my wallet. I fished out three $5 bills and handed them to the woman. Who then said, "Oh, can I ask you a favor, could you give me $19? They might charge me tax." Again, I bit my tongue.

I suppose to her I looked to be just another privileged white lady getting into her Volvo wagon after a dinner out. Little did she know that I'll be brown-bagging it this week since the $19 I gave her is my "lunch money."

So, how do I know I got scammed? When I started to tell my old housemate about this, she interrupted me just as I began and said, "She lost her keys and needed a locksmith, right?" And then proceeded to tell me that this same woman had come to our house on Amory Street three times in a four month period a few years ago.

I'd like to think that the woman I gave money to truly needed it for a locksmith. But, I doubt it. And certainly I'd never want to get in the way of one human helping another. But, if you find yourself in the Amory Street area and you're approached with this story, don't fall for it.


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Comment by Susan on April 28, 2011 at 5:14pm
yeah... this exact scam has been going on for years around that area (sometimes its a flat tire... sometimes its lost keys).  I reported it both times it came my way- I truly hope that this particular woman can put things back together in her life.
Comment by Nancy Barron on March 23, 2011 at 8:22am

I handed out $5 to a kid on the Orange Line recently (as did a bunch of people in the car--he gave some spiel that obviously worked), and a few weeks later saw him operating again...on the Orange Line again. This time it didn't work.


Recently a guy standing outside City Feed asked for money for "special diabetic foods." I asked him if I could buy him something, but he said he needed the special diabetic foods.

Comment by Brett on March 11, 2011 at 3:35pm
Who says you have to be desperate to con people? Common sense is not rewarding people who are liars and con artists who prey upon people's emotions for financial gain. If you want to do good, give your money to legitimate charities, volunteer, etc.
Comment by keith barton on March 11, 2011 at 11:53am
Yes, common type of petty con. One way to look at it - if they are desparate enough to try such a con, then they probably are really down on their luck anyway. If you can't quickly verify their story, it doesn't hurt to help them out with 1 or 2 dollars. But also use common sense. For example, if you're a woman and you offer a dollar, don't open your purse or wallet and show that you have more than that.
Comment by Brett on March 10, 2011 at 3:59pm

These scams are common; I posted about one a while back done by a guy on centre street who claimed to need money to fix a flat.  Lots of similarities, like kids in the car, and common-sense solutions were somehow not available.

Lastly: EVERY SINGLE PERSON in Boston who claims to need ($___) money to get to _____ (usually via a bus or train) is RUNNING A SCAM!

Comment by Matt on March 10, 2011 at 12:49pm

In the future... pay attention to the details.  Ask where the kids are, where the car is, etc.  If you keep getting sketchy answers, offer to call the locksmith for them and pay them directly.  I don't ever give money to people like that because 99% of the time you're being scammed.


Once a man asked me for money because his car had a flat.  My car was near and I offered to give him the Fix-a-Flat can i always keep in my trunk.  After I mentioned that, he stopped talking to me.   I've also had people ask for money to get food, but if you offer to buy them the food directly, they refuse.

Comment by Dana Ortegon on March 10, 2011 at 7:41am

Update: I called E-13 and spoke to Carlos Lara from Community Policing. He asked me to call Bella Luna and just let them know about it. (haven't done that yet...)


The ironic thing about scams like this--or the no bus fair one-are that the people that carry them out have the skills to a) win an Oscar or b) run the marketing department of a major company. Great sales skills and the ability to improvise or stick to a script, whatever the situation calls for. An amazing ability to read people, their body language, etc. I'm thinking that when The Donald gets tired of the celebrity apprentices, he needs to consider a new concept: Street Sales!  :)

Comment by Angie VM on March 9, 2011 at 9:32pm
So sorry this happened to you.  But most of the time.. when people are really in distress they don't have so many details.  This type of thing happens all the time at the bigger T stations with the guys that claim they have to take the bus to western mass for the shelter because the shelters in the city are full.  And they will tell you the correct amount for the bus fare and how much they "already have" and that they are short like $7.65 or something specific like that so you believe them.  These kinds of stories are typical yet believable which I guess is why they can get away with it when they run into someone that's kind enough and that hasn't already run into them already the previous weekend!
Comment by Dana Ortegon on March 9, 2011 at 12:09pm
Ha, good one Captain Greland, but you'd need keys to start the car.
Comment by Captain John Greland on March 9, 2011 at 11:42am
if the two kids were in the car why would you need a locksmith to open the doors?

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