It happened on the parking lot of grocery supermarket (Highland Farms near Dufferin & Finch intersection in North York – Toronto, Ontario, Canada). I and my wife came from the store to our car with full shopping cart through the dark parking lot (time was ~10 p.m.) One tall man of about 40 years old appeared from nowhere and asked for help starting with the phrase:
- Can you help me please? I’m not a beggar!
I was ready to help, but the last two words made me very suspicious. He spoke pretty loud and with confidence. It looked like he was telling that for hundreds of time before. The man told approximately the following:
- My car got stuck out of fuel on the road at Duffering and Finch.
- I left my wife and children there.
- I need some gas to put in the car…
Then I have interrupted him by telling: “I know that story”.
The man became very angry and disappointed at the same time and shouted loudly “WHAT???!”
I just repeated “I know that story. Sorry, I can’t help” and went away towards to our car. The man said “WHAT??!” again and continued bothering other people. He got another turnabout from the potential victim.
It was the scam or fraud with 100%. It is hard to believe that someone would drive the car with his family without any money or cell phone (to call for roadside assistance) and almost empty fuel tank. Leaving the family in the car on the road in dark time and going ~1km away to ask for some money does not look like conscious behavior. If it was really the case, so that man most likely would meet a police officer behind his vehicle issuing a ticket for “out of gas on the road”.
Our story completed successfully for us. But how does it usually works? I made investigation after an incident. There are several possible scenarios. If the victim is in rush and really wants to help and did not recognize scam, then he will just give $20 to buy fuel can and some gas at the station. Story is over.
Sometimes potential victims asking questions about family left in the car, and the fraud person lies about his daughter having fever or something and it is better to stay in the car. Usually there is another accomplice who is so pleased to provide a fuel can to bring gas to the car, or scammer just getting the can from his own trunk when victim does not see. When some money goes into his hands he disappears quickly. This is how it works.
Some people who aware of this kind of fraud are trying to expose the fraud, or understand if the person really needs help. For example, if the victim takes the cell phone from the pocket and tells “I’m calling for police”, it takes away the scammer very rapidly. If you offer to take that fuel can and fill it up at gas station by yourself, fraud man does not allow you to do so, which definitely reveals the scam. Some people are asking to show that stuck car with the family, scammers just got angry. There are other ways to protect yourself and make sure that it is a fraud. The best way to avoid it is just saying “Sorry, I can’t help” and see the reaction – it will tell everything to you.
If you experienced similar fraud attempt to yourself, please share the location and approximate date to alert other people from the area. Usually this type of scammers keep their place for days or even weeks. Police is aware of this, but can’t really do anything. Let’s protect ourselves!