I fell for a scam, how can I get over it?
March 12, 2017 8:39 PM   Subscribe

I just fell for a scam and feel like an idiot. I am normally super skeptical and logical in general and have no problem telling people "no". For some reason I bought it and now I'm out $200 and a little bit of dignity. How can I frame my thinking around this so I feel like less of a moron?

A couple of guys pulled up outside my house in a truck. One of them knocked on the door and said they could fix the dents and scrapes on my car that was parked in the driveway. I initially and repeatedly turned him down, but he kept lowering the price and arguing that it was a fantastic deal compared with auto body shops and he would totally fix all those scrapes (that have been bugging me for years, but I've never cared enough to spend the money it would take to get them fixed). He also kept repeating how he really needs the work, I mean he seemed desperate to earn some money, and that tomorrow is his daughter's birthday and that I would really be helping him out. There were plenty of warning signs, like that these guys looked pretty sketchy (bad tats and some missing teeth, etc.), the fact that they didn't have a card or an actual body shop, said they were from out of town and had been called out by a neighbor to do some work. But for some reason I went for it and they went ahead with the work, and five minutes later they said they were done and left some putty-like gunk on the car and said to wash it off in 24 hours. It kind of looked like the scratches were gone but I couldn't really tell, and I gave them the money for the price they quoted. He did then write down their names and a phone number, I'm guessing to make me feel like I could trust them?

I regretted it almost immediately, even before examining the car and realizing that it might look slightly better but that it's not going to look perfect after I wash the stuff off, or even better at all. I don't know how I could have even thought they'd be able to fix some of the deeper scratches so quickly, and even match the paint color for touch-ups. It doesn't make any sense. I generally assume anyone who knocks on my door asking for money is trying to pull something (and I try to avoid answering the door for strangers in the first place). I don't know why I thought this seemed like a good idea, or even plausible, or why I trusted these guys who seemed kind of shady. I did call the police to let them know what happened and they said they had gotten another call from a neighbor about these guys. I'm really embarrassed I fell for this and feel like I should have been smarter and not so trusting, and I feel vulnerable knowing that I fell for something that is so obviously a scam.

Can anyone offer some insight into why I fell for this, and how I can let myself off the hook for being so stupid? I don't understand what just happened!
posted by Dilemma to Human Relations (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Listen, a significant part of my job for several years has been untangling people from situations like these, and I am absolutely convinced that anybody can fall for a scam. Anybody. I am including myself.

The human brain works in certain ways that create opportunities for scammers. For instance: affinity fraudsters play on people's trust of people perceived to be "like them." Another instance: the brain overvalues things perceived to be "scarce," so by creating a false sense of urgency ("we can only do this work tonight!"), scammers can stampede the brain into making the wrong choice. Another instance: people like to feel that they are helping other people, so "daughter's birthdays" again can override other considerations.

Scammers are also very good at mimicking language or gestures of trustworthiness. Giving you a name and phone number means nothing but you'd have a name and phone number in a legitimate situation, so it's an easy way to gain fake legitimacy.

There are ways you can train yourself to preempt in advance some of these tactics. Many people will refuse to make any decision involving $x> "on the spot." In the old days, when door-to-door sales and thus scams were more common, many people refused to purchase items at home. These are stops you put in place in your brain in advance, rules you teach your brain to adhere to in spite of their apparent "irrationality" in the moment. Both of those might have helped you here.

But you still can't expect to avoid every trick. Humankind has had all of human history to study itself and try to figure out how to rip itself off. Don't blame yourself for being kind and trusting.

Or, as Henry James once said, "One should never regret a generous error."
posted by praemunire at 8:51 PM on March 12, 2017 [88 favorites]

If it helps I've fallen for dumber scams than that. It sucks but just be thankful your life will never be such shit that you make a living off of others' weakness. You'll be smarter about it next time.
posted by otio at 8:52 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

He also kept repeating how he really needs the work, I mean he seemed desperate to earn some money, and that tomorrow is his daughter's birthday and that I would really be helping him out.

This seems key. I'll bet you felt sorry for him and wanted to believe you took the opportunity to help someone in need. It's hard to turn down someone to their face when they appear sympathetic — but it's sometimes necessary,

In the future, when you hear a sob story along with a dubious request for money, just think to yourself: "I have no idea if this is true. All I know is that this is exactly the kind of sob story one would make up if one were trying to scam people out of money."
posted by John Cohen at 8:58 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Being scammed, robbed etc is the best way to develop/improve street smarts. I can think of a dozen ways that I'm a smarter traveler and car owner because of having been the victim of crime in the past. On the flip side, I'm probably a bit too lax with home security, because I haven't had a wake-up call. Be gentle with yourself and consider it a very expensive vaccine against some future worse scam.

This is a good opportunity to become a bit less polite to strangers. In this day and age, I can think of no good reason to open my door to talk to a stranger, so I just don't, ever. Same way that I hang up any phone call that isn't meant for me. Some may call it cold and unfeeling. Oh well. Also, an active donation or volunteering habit might make you a bit less inclined to activate your guilty conscience in the future.
posted by acidic at 8:59 PM on March 12, 2017 [12 favorites]

Consider it a donation to some people who obviously needed the money.
posted by ilovewinter at 8:59 PM on March 12, 2017 [16 favorites]

I fell for "I am out of gas and have my kids in the car and just need 20 dollars to get enough gas to get home. We can swap phone numbers and addresses."
posted by xammerboy at 9:03 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Think of it this way: those guys seemed sketchy and unstable and they went away without harming you. You can't be sure this would have happened otherwise. So let yourself be glad about that! I once paid a man who showed up at a place I was staying and did yard work. That was not his job, and he didn't do it well, but I was scared to be alone and argue with him.

(Also, the desperation trick works on everybody at least once. It's probably as old as Mohenjo-daro.)
posted by Countess Elena at 9:13 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

If scams didn't dependably work on people, nobody would scam.

I once fell for something so idiotic, that resulted in sexual humiliation, but seriously the set-up was so stupidly obvious in hindsight, I'm embarrassed to talk about it even anonymously here. The reason it worked on me was this happened in person, people were interacting with me in a way that was designed to make them seem normal and sympathetic, and I'm a nice person and my first instinct is not that people are out to get me.

Anyway, don't feel stupid--it's not your default to assume that people behave poorly, because you don't behave poorly.

Also, if you refused they may not have gone away peacefully. Sometimes we have to pay a price to get out of situations (like giving a mugger your wallet.) This could have been your survival instinct overriding your bullshit detector.

Sorry this happened to you.
posted by kapers at 9:31 PM on March 12, 2017 [18 favorites]

Nobody likes feeling like a fool. I'm sorry you had to deal with this.

Think of it as getting a vaccine - it's a small dose of something nasty that will protect you against a bigger nastier thing later. We all get these booster vaccines occasionally, whether we ask for them or not.

It can help to develop a few guidelines - e.g. never give cash, and never give to someone who makes a cold approach. This allows you to still help someone in need (e.g. stranded motorist), and to help in kind (e.g. food).
posted by metaseeker at 9:47 PM on March 12, 2017

I prefer to think of it as a sign that you're not a cold cynic who believes that people are untrustworthy at heart. If someone seems to be approaching you in good faith, you take it at face value.

I got ripped off once by a simple scam and ended up losing a large amount of money (my entire savings account) just because I believed a polite person on the street was merely trying to help me instead of trying to steal my ATM card. I certainly felt terrible about it for quite a long time, but the bottom line is that I don't have the expectation that strangers I encounter are out to harm me. It's important to have a certain amount of mistrust for strangers, but I think there is a fine line between being street smart and being hardened against humanity.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:57 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

$200 for a life lesson you'll never forget isn't too bad.
posted by MrVisible at 9:57 PM on March 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Once I got robbed by a kid, who gained my trust chatting with me and then snatch & run with my iPod. The cop who responded stopped me the second I started with the "Can't believe I am an idiot" and said "No, the guy had a plan to rob you , he carried it out, you made a judgement call about him and you were wrong. It happens to everyone but you have to keep making judgements about people, most of who aren't trying to rob you". He really made me feel better about the crime.
posted by thelonius at 10:03 PM on March 12, 2017 [19 favorites]

I would have paid them too. I would have known it was a scam but it's scary to think that there are shady people who know where I live and bear me ill will. I'd rather they think I was an easy mark than a cheap bitch.

Of course these are the calculations you make when you weigh 110 lbs soaking wet and you're alone in the house. Ymmv.
posted by potrzebie at 10:03 PM on March 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Thanks for these answers so far! You've helped me realize the other component of all this which was that I was home alone, they saw me through the sliding glass door so I couldn't avoid them, they were at the front door which can't be seen from the street, and I was scared. Part of me went along with it because I just wanted them to go away. I remember talking to him and thinking, huh that's funny, why is my voice shaking? I guess I didn't realize at the time that I was going into a kind of survival mode.
posted by Dilemma at 10:13 PM on March 12, 2017 [36 favorites]

And remember: this is their job. They do this, and think about how to do this, all day long. It's not your job to evaluate sketchy offers, it's something you'll be called upon to do just a few times in your life. So it's no surprise, and should cause you no embarrassment, that you as an amateur were outfoxed by professionals.
posted by nicwolff at 11:03 PM on March 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

I know this time you did the right thing!

It will never happen again, but next time call 911 instead of answering the door for shady looking strangers. Don't be too polite to call 911.

ManyThing is an app you can put on any unused device with a camera to go back into service as surveillance cam at your front door area.
posted by jbenben at 11:34 PM on March 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

If it makes you feel any better I almost fell for the same scam - while changing my then 20 month old's diaper in the back of my car in a Target car park. Three guys in a clapped out car came up behind and starting pitching me on it as I was literally wiping my son's bum. I was so distracted (wiggly child, sales pitch, trying to not get the contents of a very dirty diaper on me or the car) that I think I actually said "errr, sure whatever" to them. At that point I was saved by my own flesh and blood kicking me squarely in my downstairs operation. As a I keeled over in agony trying to keep my son from rolling off the seat I must have told them "maybe next time guys"....and they left to find another victim (presumably in tears of laughter).
posted by inflatablekiwi at 11:50 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I recently (just 2 books ago) read the book "Predictably Irrational," by Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely, currently of Duke U., formerly of MIT. He studies the ways in which people don't behave as rational economic actors.

Here comes the framework: Chapter four is about what he terms "social norms" and "market norms." They are two different sets of behaviors for evaluating the value of things. Prof. Ariely explains some of it in this short video, but I recommend reading the book. Social norms are how you exchange valuable things with people are engaging with socially: gifts, favors, free labor. Market norms are things for which you exchange money, where social favor doesn't matter. You don't offer to pay equal value for dinner at your in-laws, but you can bring a gift. That's a social norm. You don't go to your mechanic, a stranger, and offer to be his best friend if he'll fix your car-- that's something he does for money, and won't do for friendship. Market norm.

These guys took something that should stay in the realm of market norms (auto repair) and persuaded you to view the transaction from a social norm: They're doing you a favor and you're doing them one. That $200 is to help a young girl have a happy birthday.

Also from the book; by starting at a high price and then dropping the price, they kept increasing, in your mind, the idea that you were saving more and more money. Did you have any idea what the cost of the repair was in a body shop? I bet not. By saying it was going to cost, say, $400, and then dropping the price to $200, in increments, the monkey brain in your head began to salivate at all the money you were saving. It's a normal human self-delusion, but overall we have no idea, really, whether $400 is a reasonable price or not; it just sounded good enough because it fit with your fears of loss (a strong driving principle of human behavior) of $400 on that hypothetical day when you take it in to get fixed. By naming that high number, $400 (or whever he started), he "anchored" that price, and thus your perception of every subsequent price-- you didn't see $300, then $250, then $200 going out the door, you just saw the relative savings increasing.

The way to avoid this in the future is to keep friendship/favors and business separate, and to do your own anchoring. Don't negotiate a price without doing independent research.

Ariely has a bunch of TED talks that're interesting, he has 3 books in the series beginning with "Predictably Irrational," and he treads the same territory as things like Freakonomics and "You Are Not So Smart." The upshot of all three: Humans are irrational and self-deluding, and that's normal, and probably are that way for good reasons, but you can educate yourself to try to recognize it when it's happening to you
posted by Sunburnt at 11:59 PM on March 12, 2017 [15 favorites]

One way you can feel better about the whole affair is because you have talked about it here. The effectiveness of a scam depends on it being unknown to the victim. I had never heard of this one before - and now I have (there is plenty of online corroboration) - I'm sure that will apply to others here too - both right now and in the future for people using search. Every extra person who knows the score will may the job of those pulling the scam a little less lucrative and a little more risky. Good!
posted by rongorongo at 12:02 AM on March 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

Sorry this happened to you. Anyone can fall for scams, it’s true - it’s not just something people are saying for consolation or to be nice. Take a quick look through the results for "pscyhology of scams", you’ll come across references to studies on this. A couple of interesting quotes on why you shouldn’t beat yourself up for this or feel stupid:
"Intelligence and experience offers no protection against scammers, says Modic [who researches the psychology of internet fraud at the University of Cambridge]. “If it did, then better educated people and older people would be less likely to fall for scams. And that is not supported by my research.”

...many of the vulnerabilities that scammers exploit are actually human strengths rather than weaknesses. [...] He [Frank Stajano, a security and privacy researcher at the University of Cambridge] points to the work of psychologist Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University, who is famous for his work on the psychology of persuasion. “He’s explained that the authority principle, for example, is actually very helpful for surviving peacefully in human society,” says Stajano. “We shouldn’t see scam victims as stupid – they’re acting in a way that’s beneficial for our survival most of the time.”
And this is also interesting in light of how these guys scammed you - "some scammers gain a victim’s trust by pretending to share a mutual friend" and "they can use the kindness of some well-meaning victims against them" - these guys mentioned they were called by a neighbour of yours, so that established a kind of automatic indirect trust in your mind, and then mentioning the daughter’s birthday and being desperate for money appealed to your kindness.

Also, from the MindHacks post, this is interesting too because you did have some gut feeling that this was sketchy but thought about it a bit more and went with it - here’s why you shouldn’t feel stupid for that:
Scam victims report that they put more cognitive effort into analysing scam content than non-victims. This contradicts the intuitive suggestion that people fall victim to scams because they invest too little cognitive energy in investigating their content, and thus overlook potential information that might betray the scam.

Interesting, people who fall for scams often have a feeling that it’s dodgy. The report suggests we trust our gut instincts. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

We like to think that only other people fall for scams, but as I’m working my way through the report it’s becoming clear that those things that we think make us resistant to scams (a keen analytical mind) are not what help us avoid being a victim.
In case you want to delve deeper, the studies referenced are:
The psychology of scams: Provoking and committing errors of judgement [full PDF archived here] - Prepared for the Office of Fair Trading by the University of Exeter School of Psychology
Understanding scam victims: seven principles for systems security - Frank Stajano, Paul Wilson - University of Cambridge
posted by bitteschoen at 2:02 AM on March 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have done something very similar, for what it's worth. My husband and I both have higher degrees and consider ourselves wise to this sort of thing, but we were home with our toddler, husband was ill, we were all stressed, and some men knocked on our door and offered to paint our outside windowsills. It needed doing, the price was low and we just said yes. They did a terrible job which washed off the next day in the rain.

We beat ourselves up for days, but some time later it became apparent that £180 for a valuable life lesson isn't a bad price.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:12 AM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

My incredibly savvy daughter just last month gave $20 to a man outside Duane Reed in NYC who needed money to get a cough medicine prescription for his sick daughter because he left his ATM card at home.

She said she did it because she appreciated his hustle, but I think she knew she had been played and was trying to save face.

Currently, a LOT of Americans are feeling especially fragile and anxious and nervous. It makes them prime targets for scam runners. Don't beat yourself up because you learned a relatively inexpensive lesson.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:32 AM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I read something on here a while back about thinking of costly mistakes as a "life tax" and that has helped me a lot whenever I do something stupid. I now no longer beat myself up and instead just think of it as a life tax.
posted by newsomz at 4:01 AM on March 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

they saw me through the sliding glass door so I couldn't avoid them, they were at the front door

You don't have to answer the door. I've ignored people knocking on my door who have seen me thru the windows. They get the hint and go away after awhile.
posted by LoveHam at 4:31 AM on March 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

You erred in the direction of kindness. There's no shame in that.

I'm sorry you experienced this situation, and I'm glad you are safe.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:27 AM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

You won't put the blame of a crime on the victim. So please don't blame the victim that is you.

I've fallen for bad stuff and in the end the only thing that helped is forgiveness. I tried to forgive those guys who did wrong to me, but to a greater extent it was about forgiving myself. I'm grateful that I wasn't on the wrong end of it, I wasn't the wrong party. I tried to process it as a lesson re-aligning my sense of reality and ethics. Reality: there's a non-zero chance that some people do bad things, and let's be strong, smart and kind, and take care of ourselves. Ethics: I felt hurt not only because of property loss but also because my sense of justice was hurt, and it sucked but was kinda reassuring to feel that way, for feeling otherwise would mean my ethics were impaired. Knowing this helped somewhat. It still haunts me a little bit, but only a little bit.
My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive
Such are words of wisdom from a hero. When he was saying this he meant the tragic suffering induced by laboring against the grand dark forces of injustice. But it applies to big things as well as to small ones.

We're all glad you're safe, and please stay safe and be kind to yourself.
posted by runcifex at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I always think of it as paying for personal theater.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:16 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I understand how you are feeling. The shame you are experiencing is completely out of proportion to the severity of the situation.

Back in 2011, I was scammed for about $15 online by someone purporting to sell a gift code for Minecraft to me for cheap on Steam. I was a member of a gift-giving group on Steam at the time, and the scammer dropped in the group chat to announce that he had a copy of Minecraft that he was looking to sell for cheaper. That sounded reasonable, since Minecraft had just had its Valentine's day sale that I missed, and of course I wanted to believe that I could get it for a good price. I imagined how it would feel, buying the code and then giving it to someone who really wanted the game and getting that dopamine hit from their thanks. Naturally, I PM'd him to ask his price. He requested that I buy him a $15 game on Steam and gift it to him in exchange for the Minecraft gift code. Now, I had never actually bought or sold anything on Steam at this point. However, not even a week before, I had read a guide on how to avoid scams on Steam, and one of the points was "Always use escrow." But since I hadn't actually gone through the process myself, I wondered if maybe the way the scammer wanted to do it was typical and if I refused or asked if we could use an escrow service he would think I was some out-of-touch weirdo.

There were multiple red flags all happily waving at me. The scammer had poor grammar. He was in a hurry. He was selling the game for a price that was too good. He wanted me to gift him a different game through Steam where there would be no way of reversing the transaction. It was 2 am in the morning and I ignored every single warning.

As soon as I purchased the game he wanted and sent it to him, he blocked me. I even thought it was a glitch at first on Steam. When the realization sunk in that he had lied to me and there was nothing I could do about it, I went through a medley of shame, self-disgust, and directionless anger. I was so ashamed that I did not want to tell anybody about what happened.

The next day, the scammer dropped in the group chat again and started mocking and belittling everybody in the group. He announced that he had scammed me and that I was a fool and therefore everyone in the group was also fools and losers. Then he was kicked from the chat. I was mortified and felt as though I had let the whole group down by being so gullible and serving as evidence of our apparent foolish natures.

It took a year for me to be comfortable relating the scam to someone else. A year! Over $15 being stolen from me! It feels terrible to be victimized by a scam because you have to face that you made the decisions leading to the loss of your money or time. But the thing is, for the vast majority of scam experiences, your actions are perfectly sensible in the "correct" social setting that the scammers aim to reproduce. My scammer joined the group chat of a gift-giving group. We were a bunch of guys and girls who would give videogames as presents to people on holidays or special occasions. And plenty of transactions between friends would be done casually and without escrow. If I could reformulate my emotional state knowing what I know now, I would have accepted the sense of embarrassment and reminded myself to look out for red flags in the future.

These people are thieves. Do not justify their crime for them. You did not deserve this. There is no need to beat yourself up over it mentally beyond what is useful to protecting you in the future. You are going to be fine.
posted by Iron Carbide at 7:34 AM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

One way you can feel better about the whole affair is because you have talked about it here. The effectiveness of a scam depends on it being unknown to the victim.
posted by rongorongo at 3:02 AM on March 13

Absolutely this.

Several years ago, my dad fell for a somewhat similar scam. The thing I fretted over is that if I'd arrived at his home half an hour earlier, I would've been able to call the bank and stop the check in time. As it was, the scammers went straight to the bank and cashed the check about twenty minutes after he wrote it.

We notified both the bank and the local PD immediately. And later that morning, at our realtor's office to arrange for the sale of some of Daddy's land, we told the head of the real estate agency (he's a distant relative) what had happened. He then instructed all of his agents to (a) keep their eyes out for anyone fitting that description, and (b) spread the word to everyone they talked to. We also had it announced in our church the next day.

The men were never caught, and I could tell my dad was embarrassed by what happened. But as we repeated the story to people, I could sense him coming around and realizing that the best chance to at least neutralize these guys was to share what happened as far and wide as possible.

I'm sorry that this happened to you. But as others have posted, anyone can fall for a scam. You're not at fault; the scammers are.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Think of this as a test of your current operational systems. You need to put reflective film or curtains on your sliding glass doors, a No Soliciting sign and/or "You are being filmed" (and optional "you wake my baby, you face my wrath" whether you have a baby or not) sign, fake or real camera (whichever your budget allows).

If you have a friend or family member willing to roleplay with you, just practice closing the door on each other. I have TWO no soliciting signs (I need to replace the sub-sign on one of them that says for security reasons I do not buy anything at the door and to leave a card without knocking or ringing, the old one got rained on) and still get jackholes who have some great deal they didn't want me to pass up on and I still stupidly open the door sometimes, and I just start shaking my head as soon as they start talking. I say, "No, I have a sign for a reason, I'm working, please leave," as I'm closing the door. You don't need to get the conversation to a good spot to stop, you don't need to care whether the people on your doorstep think you're nice or not. It gets easier with practice.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:12 AM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

they saw me through the sliding glass door so I couldn't avoid them

I understand this feeling, but you should never feel obligated to act polite or normal to people intruding on you at home. You have permission to act rude, weird, like you can't speak English-- whatever works. Don't worry about what these people think of you-- because they're criminals, and also because you're one of hundreds of targets and will be forgotten immediately. Next time, just get up and walk into another room. If that makes you feel weird, then pretend to answer a phone call, or make a real call. Or turn on the sink/shower. And then just stay put and do not respond to anything that they say. Don't be scared that they're going to break into your house or escalate the confrontation-- that's not the MO of a typical door-to-door scammer, and besides, how would answering the door have helped you in that scenario?
posted by acidic at 8:14 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

You don't need to be so self-recriminating because you didn't commit a crime. Nor did your error in judgement cause harm to anyone else. There is literally nothing you are guilty of here other than making a mistake.

Furthermore, there are indications that you subconsciously detected threat and were maybe just paying them to go away. Responses to scammers do often make more sense than they appear. And it's your perfect right to handle any given situation as you see fit, even if it seems irrational. You don't owe it to the world to act 300% rationally at all times. You have a right to wear your underpants on your head, and you have a right to pay people who turn out not to deserve the money.

You also, once you realized what had happened, made a report to the cops. Very good that you weren't too proud to do that, because that's what stops people from reporting scams, yet now they have two reports from your neighbourhood which will go a long way to protecting others from the scam.

One of the reasons you felt vulnerable was because you'd been seen through a sliding glass door and therefore the scammers knew you were home alone. A way of handling that is to fix the glass door so that you can't see into the house from outside.
posted by tel3path at 9:14 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a little version of this at Target a few years ago. Guy needs gas to get home, "just ten bucks", etc.

I figured fifty-fifty it was a scam. So I told him, sure, I'm headed to the gas station next, but I'm in a hurry. I'll leave ten bucks in gas. What are you driving?

I did go to the gas station and fill up. And I did have them run ten bucks with a description of his car. The gas station attendant said, "You know that's a scam, right?" and I replied something like "Yeah, probably, but on the off chance it's not...If no one claims it in a half hour, credit someone who needs it."

So, yeah, it's a scam, but 1) they evidently really need the money; 2)pretty cheap for the lesson learned; 3) you erred on the side of kindness, so you're good.
posted by notsnot at 9:34 AM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sigh. Back when I lived in the UK, I was occasional approached by people who claimed needed money to get home. I always fell for the "I'm pregnant, please help me" line. Several times.

I'd like to think I'm slightly wiser and more cynical now. Take it as a learning experience.
posted by TrinsicWS at 3:20 PM on March 13, 2017

Many women are socialized to be polite. So felt like you had to answer the door, and then a practiced scammer got an opportunity to deliver their pitch.

In the future, if you find yourself in a situation like this I find it best to say I don't have any money. No need to turn them down in one of these other ways that implies you might have $200 in cash on you.

Even before someone brings up money -- if they ask if you are bothered by how your car or yard looks, or how much you spend on meat a week, or how long it's been since you cleaned your carpets -- you can say you don't care how it looks, you don't eat meat, or you don't have any carpets. None of these things actually have to be true. And of course you don't have to answer the door in the first place -- but sometimes they come up to you when you are outside.

I guess I live in a place with a lot of scams.
posted by yohko at 5:39 PM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

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