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Friday, September 30, 2011

'Tis the Season to Get Scammed?

Over the weekend, I took our boys grocery shopping and pushed them around the store in their favorite race car cart. Right before we left the produce area we were abruptly interrupted by a mysterious woman standing near the apples. "Do you have a moment," she said. I said that I did as I examined her from head to toe. She continued, "I was wondering if you could sponsor my groceries today." I listened a bit closer as her voice turned into a whisper, "I don't have any money and need someone to pay for my groceries. You just tell me how much I can spend."

I entertained the idea for about a minute and even checked my purse for some cash, but had no luck finding any dollar bills. She interrupted me from scrounging through my purse, "I don't want any money. I just need you to give me a limit on what I can buy, then pay for my groceries." My motherly instinct kicked in and I regrettably told her that I was unable to assist her at that time. I walked away perplexed to what would of happened had I "sponsored" her grocery run.

What was her motive? Was it simply to get me to pay for her groceries? Or did she have an alternative motive in mind? My gut told me that after I paid for her groceries, then she would have asked me to walk her to her car. I daydreamed for a split second of me trying to protect myself and our children from her and possibly her accomplice. Was I being too over the top with this assumption? I didn't know, but I thought it was better to be "safe than sorry."

As someone who volunteers in the community and gives to panhandlers on the side of the road regularly, it's difficult for me to turn people away who appear to be in need of help. However, I rationalized with myself and thought that if something seems a bit off during a conversation, then it's probably best to turn away. Before leaving the store I alerted the cashier about the woman's behavior, and she confirmed that I did the right thing and indicated that, "I needed to be aware of scam artists during the holidays."

I've been scammed before.

Nearly 3 years ago I had my purse stolen out of my car. It was my fault for leaving it in the floor, while dropping our oldest son off at daycare. I was glued to the daycare surveillance video motionless, as I watched the unidentified man open my car door and snatch my purse. “He got you!” a woman yelled, while watching the video over my shoulder. My mouth fell to the floor, along with my tears. Speechless, I looked to the daycare director for help, but her words were no comfort. I sighed and my body slouched in disbelief. I learned from that lesson to always lock my car doors, even when dropping off our kids at daycare.

Holiday scam artists are prevalent, and I would argue are attracted to moms with their children. Are you aware of any recent scams? What advice can you give to moms about scammers?

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