Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Old "My Car Broke Down And I Need To Get My Sick Child Home" Scam

A Scamalamadingdong walked into the store today. He walked in innocently enough, approaching a member of our staff with two request. One, he asked if he could refill three small empty water bottles he had, as he had kids outside in his car that needed water, and two, he asked if he could use a phone as his cell phone did not have any bars and he needed to call a taxi, as the car the kids were sitting in was broken down.

So the kind woman who he approached showed him where our bottled water dispenser was, and he dutifully filled up the three water bottles. When he was done, he brought the bottles up to the reception desk and set them down, and asked our receptionist about using a phone (our receptionist being a completely different woman than the one he initially approached).

He was taken to a phone over by the design center, where the first woman he approached walked up to him with a printout of 10 different Denver area taxi companies and their phone numbers that she had retrieved from the Internet.

He took the list from her, and just as she was explaining the dial 9 to get an outside line procedure, he suddenly looked at his phone and exclaimed that he had bars now, and he could just use his cell phone. He proceeded to sit on a stool at one of the design center work stations and go through the motions of placing a call.

Where he was sitting was in the proximity of four other women - two of our designers and the two clients they were working with. When he apparently got an answer from the first number he called, he spoke loudly into his phone with the following dialogue (It's not verbatim, as I don't have that sharp a memory, and I only heard him say it on his fourth call, but it's close):

"Hi, My car broke down near the Park Meadows mall and I had just picked up my young son from SkyRidge Hospital and I need a cab to come pick us up and take us to Brighton. Can you tell me how much that would cost?" Short pause as he appears to be waiting for an answer, then he replies (again, loudly), "$74.00? I had to pay for my sons medication at the Pharmacy with cash, and I am about $40.00 short of that. Can you call my Mother and accept a credit card payment from her for the rest of it?" Another short pause while he appears once again to be waiting for an answer, then "No? Okay, thank you I am going to try another cab company." 

Which he proceeded to do, or at least he appeared to proceed to do just that. He went through the motions of reading down the list of cab companies that he was provided with, and calling them - well, the first four - and repeating loudly the exact same dialogue to all four of them, each time emphasizing that he was about $40.00 short of the fare and needed his Mother to be called to make up the shortfall with a credit card.

To be clear, most of what you've just read was told to me secondhand, as again, I only witnessed the fourth of the four calls he appeared to be making. It was only after one of the staff came over to me and explained what was going on and asked if I would walk over to the design center and just make my presence known that I got a look at the guy and heard his spiel.

I waited not to far from him as he went through his whole routine with the phone call, then walked up to him and said, "You need a ride to Brighton with your son? I'll take you."

I was told later that his facial expression had changed dramatically when he first caught sight of me walking into the design center (Up until then he had not seen any men in the store, only the women and their clients, who were all women as well) - apparently he went from a doe-eyed wounded and forlorn look to an agitated/irritated look the second he saw me. 

His reaction when I offered to give him and his son a ride was classic. He stammered a bit at first, saying it was a long way, all the way up to Brighton (which I heard him say into his phone, and was what first turned my suspicions he was trying to scam some cash from a few of what I'm sure he considered soft marks into a conviction that he was indeed a scammer - Brighton is at least a $100.00 cab fare from Park Meadows, if not considerably more).

After I assured him it was no big deal as we had a store near there that I could spend the rest of the day at, he then asked me if I would have room for him, his son in a car seat, two other small children who were also in car seats, and two other adults - along with a large medical device that would have to be next to his son for the drive.

I told him I had a large SUV, and that everyone would be able to fit comfortably, as would the unspecified medical device. I even drew him a picture of how we would all fit comfortably in the  SUV.

He was obviously confounded by the offer, and didn't know quite what to say. I again assured him it wasn't an inconvenience for me at all, and that it would be my good deed for the week, joking that it might be the one good deed that allows me to weasel my way into heaven.

He stared at me and said that he really appreciated the offer, but it would take him at least an hour to get everybody together. He would be back if I was really serious about giving them all a ride. I told him I was, and he then walked out of the store. 

When he was gone I walked over to the reception area where everyone proceeded to tell me about what they had observed, and also that he apparently had walked into the store fifteen minutes earlier and had quickly walked through and then out.

So, apparently he had scouted out the mark beforehand - this guy was no amateur.

He had also left the three bottles of water on the reception counter, and one of the staff commented that had to mean he was going to be back. To which I said that if he did come back, I would gladly fulfill my promise to drive him up to Brighton, but that I was nearly 100% sure we would never see him again as I was also nearly 100% sure he knew I was on to him.

He left the store at 1:00 in the afternoon saying he would be back in an hour. I closed the store at 8:00 in the evening. His three bottles of water were still on the reception counter waiting for his return. 

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