Two True Tales

An alert “06880” reader writes:

A man at the Westport railroad station told me: “I left my wallet in my son’s apartment in New York. I just got off here to go back to the city to get it. I hope the conductor lets me on.”

He said he was on his way to New Haven, to help his daughter move into a new apartment. He used to work for an ad agency. He looked like an aging hippie — with shoulder-length hair, a backpack and shorts — but he seemed credible.

I gave him $20. We all depend on the kindness of others, I thought. He asked for my name and address, so he could send me the money. He bought a ticket, and boarded the train.

Train station drop shadow

Of course, I never received the money. It made me a little uncomfortable, as I’d given him my name and address. But I soon forgot about it.

Until yesterday. I saw the same man, again at the station.

He also saw me. He headed to the other end of the platform, and quickly put on sunglasses (though he wore the same distinctive clothes).

A young man give him money, as he got on the train. When I asked, the young man said he’d only given him $6, and “it probably means more to him than to me.”

I hope “06880” is a good venue to let naive people like me know they should be careful — and that some local con artists are pretty convincing.

On the other hand, Molly Alger writes:

I’m recovering from significant shoulder surgery. This afternoon, to regain my strength, I went for a walk. My right arm and shoulder were encased in a sling and wide brace.

As I headed down Roseville Road to the Post Road, a bright candy apple-red convertible, top down — driven by a handsome young man — pulled over.

I figured he wanted directions.

Instead, he asked if I needed a ride.

It’s been many years since a good-looking young man has tried to pick me up. How way beyond nice is that?!

16 responses to “Two True Tales

  1. Unfortunately , the “lost my wallet” scam has been going on for as long as I can remember. I fell for it once in Grand Central. Saw the same guy there for years. …. Too bad there are sick predators out there that prey on our good nature.

    • Seth, I’m sorry to hear about your unfortunate incident. As soon as I get my 15,000,000 from the Bank of Nigeria, I’ll send you $500 dollars to ease the pain! ( It’ll be coming any day. I just had to send $125 dollars to get the funds released.) Jack

  2. Robin Weinberg

    I recently got on the train at Westport and realized that I, too, had no wallet: no train ticket, no credit cards, no id, no cash, nothing. That scam popped into my head, “People will think I’m THAT guy!” Believing my distress was real, the very lovely and sympathetic woman sitting next to me offered me money. So nice. But all I needed was a smartphone: bought a train ticket on the Metronorth app, took Via (like Uber, but cheaper) to my destination, and used Apple Pay to get my coffee. Have smartphone, will travel (no cash required). The next day, someone approached me in the city, same story, lost wallet, asking for train fare to get to Westchester. “Download the app!” I suggested. 🙂

  3. A.David Wunsch

    I first fell for this scam in Grand Central Station over half a century ago when I was a grad student. At least I got a story for my 6 bucks.

    Here’s something to do now : tell the person in question that you’d like to take his/her picture. Most of us carry a camera these days. No picture, no money. This way at least you get a free model and a photo to warn others with.
    ADW Staples 1956

  4. I too was approached at the Westport station last year. Similar story about leaving his wallet. I am usually ready to give a hand but this time there was something about his wondering around I did not trust. I would know him if I saw him again.

  5. I know another person who was taken in by this guy.
    How about calling the police..

  6. This scam seem universal. A radio host here in the San Francisco Bay Area fell for the same story except it was a woman and she had 2 small children with her, she was dressed and acted like she was not homeless. I think the radio host gave her $20.00, after she promised him she was not scamming him. Few weeks later he saw her in another parking lot in the area.

    A few years ago at Christmas time I went to Trader Joe’s to buy a few things, it was my lunch hour and I was short of time, I just ran into the store with some cash in my wristlet, left my ATM card in the car. When the clerk rang up my items, I was short of money, so I ask him to remove the pork chops (didn’t really need them right away) all of certain a nice gentleman in the line said I will pay for the pork chops. I protested, saying I just didn’t have time to run out to my car and get my ATM card, he insisted, saying it was the season of sharing. Needless to say he made my day, and when I got back to work (Macy’s) I told the story to all my co workers.

  7. I had a very similar experience outside of the Stop and Shop about ten years ago. A guy in a SUV filled with what he said was his family, no wallet needs a $80 for a tow. I gave him $20, he insists, over my protests to take my name and address so he can send me the money back. It’s almost like they want you to know you’ve been scammed. But I didn’t give him to money to get it back. My guy, and your guy, are both sociopaths. Hostile behavior towards a stranger because he’s angry at the world. I’m angry, but not at the whole world. So I really feel for you. I felt bad to have been taken advantage of in that way. But I learned my lesson and you learned your’s. I don’t think I would give the money again, but I’m not sure. I wouldn’t give my address again, of that I am certain. I would let him know that if he feels a need to scam me, he can AND he can have the money. It’s pathetic that people feel a need to behave in such a way. In my mind there’s no such thing as being too nice. You were nice. That’s the way to be. Period. You should feel good in that your heart was in the right place no matter where his was.

  8. If you want to give someone $6 or $20, do so out of charity toward the person. Expect that you won’t see it back and hope that someone might help you out at some time. But, never give your name and address especially if you are getting on a train because they can call a buddy and rob your house knowing that you are away for a few hours, if they are truly scammers.

  9. Molly Alger’s story is more significant, more common: A random act of kindness.

  10. What goes around, comes around. You give with good intentions, they take with no intention of repaying you…Guess who has the Good Karma 🙂 I have seen Karma in action many times and it just feels good to see somebody with bad Karma get bitten by it

  11. I’ve seen a man who fits this description at the NY bound station several times. When approaching me he hasn’t asked for money directly, but implies he’s in need; has left his wallet and not sure if he has money to get to NYC. Maybe he is in need but I’ve experienced his tale a couple of times so I guess it’s up to each one of us to discern what we want to do. FYI.

  12. I once asked a stranger for money. I was a teenager, in Grand Central Station, had lost my train ticket home and didn’t have any money left to buy another ticket. This was 65 years ago. All I could do was ask someone to lend me some. The first person I asked gave me the money. I said I’d return it to him the minute I got home and asked for his address. He said, “No, just do this for someone else in a similar situation.” Were people better in those days?

  13. I’ve twice helped people jump-start their cars. Once with a woman in the compo shopping plaza, and once with someone in the trader joes parking lot. The second time I had just gotten a new car, with the battery in the trunk. Apparently you still have terminals in the front for jump starts, who knew?! But it’s a nice thing to be able to help others.

  14. This week I received the “hello granddad” call that I could deflect by stating the simple fact that I have no grandson and that the caller was attempting criminal fraud.