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S/O Beggars, Moochers and Scammers

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The begging thread had me thinking about how often we encounter people whose sole purpose in life seems to be trying to relieve you of your hard earned money. What methods have people tried to use on you or people you know in the past and how did you handle the situation? The 419 email scammers seem to get a fair bit of exposure but there are so many that aren't as blatant that manage to suck people in.

An elderly person I know answered a flyer in the newspaper pro porting to be able to alleviate arthritis pain. The next day a salesman arrived on their doorstep and did a 5 hour hard sell on this special massage chair. They basically had to give him a cheque to get him to leave (Which was immediately cancelled) The cost of this chair? $17,000. It was in the news and on a consumer affairs show warning people not to deal with them but what they were doing was perfectly legal as by responding to the flyer they had technically been invited rather than cold calling people. $17,000 for a vibrating chair. Outrageous.

My credit union has large signs warning the elderly of checking and banking scams. 
I wish I knew a cure, but as long as people are willing to give even a bit of money, scammers will be there to take as much as they can. 
 >:( >:(

I've actually got a weird version of this going on now.  I'm going to a science fiction convention next week to sell some jewelry - it will be my first overnight convention (that I'll be a vendor for), and I'll have Bittybartfast with me, so it's going to be interesting.  My sister is driving down to help me, and the two of us will split the cost of the hotel room.  Since I'm a vendor, I get my convention badge for free and I can get my "assistant" a free badge too.  Not that badges are hugely expensive - $30 or so - but it's a nice perk.

My sister has a friend in HerCity who is one of those perpetually broke people.  She's very nice, kind, etc. but she's always moaning about how broke she is and if anyone suggests doing something that costs money, she complains about not having any.  Sometimes someone else will cover for her, sometimes the group changes their plans, and sometimes she just doesn't get to go.  (I should mention that she never has money for going out with friends, but frequently has money for things related to her hobbies.)

Anyway, since we'll have the hotel room anyway and it really would be nice to have an extra pair of hands (since I will be dealing with a four-month-old while trying to sell stuff!), my sister and I talked and we decided to invite her friend to come with us.  She wouldn't have to pay toward the hotel room, since we'd be splitting that cost anyway, and all I'd ask is an hour or two during the convention for her to help me at my booth because a friend of mine is giving a presentation and I'd like to see it.

Here's the  ::) ::) ::) part - she's still not willing to make up her mind whether she's going to go or not.  We're offering her a completely free (other than food) trip to a convention she's gone to the last few years, and has been lamenting about not being able to afford this year, and all I want is a "yes" or a "no" so I can start planning the logistics of doing this with a baby.  From what my sister says, it's not a money thing (we can bring our own food and keep a cooler in the room if we want to) - it's a "friend is a flake" thing.  I was thinking this would be a nice thing we could offer her friend to come along with which didn't involve anyone having to chip in for her or cover her or loan her money, but my sister is getting pretty frustrated with this particular friend always being on the receiving end of things and never even attempting to reciprocate with a plate of cookies or an offer to help do stuff.  My sister may be moving sometime soonish (her boyfriend lives five hours away from where she is now), and I'm guessing when she does, this friend will gradually become an ex-friend.

Years and years and YEARS ago, I went to a science fiction/fantasy convention with friends.  Bibbie and I both had jobs.  Her friend Mooch did not.  I was told " Instead of trying to divide or split the bill, we just take turns buying meals.  It evens out in the end."  Happily I knew I would only be in this situation for a day and a half as I was meeting up with other friends on Sunday and would be leaving with them for dinner and a play which had already been paid for.

Yeah, not so much, especially since Bibbie abandoned me to the tender mercies of Mooch so Bibbie could spend all her time with her boyfriend, Arrogant. 

Mooch would do stuff like turn on the television as loud as humanly possible and then fall asleep...but yu couldn't turn it off because it would wake her up.  However, if you woke up in the middle of the night and tried to get to the bathroom, Mooch would wait until you were halfway there then she would leap from bed and run into the bathroom and leave you dancing from foot to foot while SHE suddenly decided she needed to take a shower at 4 a.m.  (Yeah, Mooch had issues.)

And then there was fun with food.

The "I want to look cool in front of my girl friend" Scam: Arrogant insisted we all go to "the best restaurant in town" and that money was no object and we should buy anything on the menu and not be intimidated by price.  Bibbie said "He's taking us out tonight."

Because Bibbie had the worst taste in men (and still does) I did not believe it and ordered the least expensive thing on the menu.  Thank heaven's I listened to my gut as Arrogant said "Oh, I should have said that you guys are on your own."

And then there was "I Am Spending Every Penny I Have on First Edition Everything, Especially Since I'm Gonna Con YOU Into Buying Dinner" Mooch.

I had portioned my money out carefully, but since I was locked into the "We buy each other's meals" with Mooch breathing down my neck--and Bibbie off with Arrogant--I decided that I would get my share over with (especially since I knew I would be in writing seminars all day, didn't have much money to my name  and wasn't going to get stuck paying the bill for Mister "I'm Going to Eat A Lot on Your Dime Even Though I Won't Pay For You On Mine.")

I didn't realize that Mooch had an appetite like Sarloc.  I figured we'd spend about 14 bucks total on breakfast...wrong!  I had planned for a small breakfast for myself...Mooch had a more grandiose plan.  I wound up spending almost twenty five dollars in a time and place that that kind of money would have bought a family of four a nice sit down dinner out.  Seven of it was mine.  I can only imagine what supper would have been like.

Happily, I got to eat lunch by myself at a cute little gourmet burger place and since I ate late, I just wasn't hungry for supper.  Because I still needed to pay my other friends for the theater and dinner tickets, I avoided the dealers room, and hung on to my precioius few dollars.

But the next day, as I was packing up with plans to sneak off quietly Mooch came tearing in to our hotel room.

"Quick!  I need you to give me all your money and write me a check that totals about two hundred dollars."

"I don't even have fifty," I told her "and what I have is ear marked for the play this afternoon."

"But I NEEEEEEEEEEED it.  I've just seen the most beautiful painting in the world and it's five hundred dollars, but the artist will hold it if I give hm two hundred dollars and I have to have it."

I repeated that I did not have but twenty left to my name, that that was already earmarked for the play I was going to see and I could not give it to her.

She continued to whine and cajole and beg and plead and even tried to carry my suitcase downstairs so she could beg from my other friends as well.  These days I wish I had said something like "Maybe if you didn't eat everything in sight,  didn't buy every darn pretty painting you see and didn't buy hundreds of dollars worth of books--have yu ever heard of a library?--you would have two hundred for what you really want."  But even without ehell, I knew then that would be mean and rude.  So I just kept repeating that the money I had was already promised to someone else.

And when I found my other friends and we went off to see Forbidden Broadway, I made them promise that they would never ever let me go to another convention with Bibbie, Mooch and Arrogant ever again.

And I never did.

I used to work in an office where we handled applications for people who needed utility/grocery assistance. And yes, I can tell you without a doubt that while there are people out there in genuine need, there are people who make their "living" this way.  A good part of my job was calling the utility companies and asking how often the applicant was late paying and how often they received assistance from groups like ours.  If they received frequent help, we were far less likely to help them.

A few doozies from my years there:

- The gentleman who frequently came by our office to ask my boss for $20 for "medicine."  He got angry when the boss refused to give it to him.  So he went around the residential neighborhood where our offices were located, telling the homeowners that he was our "handyman" and would be happy to odd jobs for cash.  This was a neighborhood that wasn't used to homeless people going door-to-door soliciting cash.  We got a lot of complaint calls about it and had to put out word through the neighborhood grapevine that residents should NOT let him into their house.

- The same guy came in a few weeks later saying that his mother had died in a city 600 miles away and he needed a bus ticket to go to the funeral.  My boss hoped that if we bused him home to his family that they might take care of him.  So my boss took him to the bus station and bought him a one-way ticket. 

Guess who came in just two weeks later?  He never got on the bus or made it to the funeral.  But he needed "rent" money and figured we might want to buy the bus ticket back for $250.

Ummm, no.

My boss groaned, "I should have put him ON the bus."

-The woman who came into an unsecured backdoor afterhours and demanded grocery assistance from my coworker.  Coworker tried to tell her that the assistance funds had been locked up for the day and she didn't have a key.  So the woman demanded that coworker hand over cash from her purse.  It took threatening to call 911 before the lady would leave.

-The scariest incident was when a woman followed me into the office (I was always the first one to arrive and unlock).  I walked into the breakroom to start the coffee, turned around and there she was, demanding gas money.  I tried to explain I couldn't give it to her and she snatched the freshly brewed coffee from the machine.  I thought she was going to douse me with it.  She was between me and the phone.  I couldn't call for help. I honestly thought, "OK, I'm going to have to wrestle this woman."  Fortunately, my boss came in and defused this situation.  And no, we didn't give her gas money.


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