It’s really getting difficult to interact with people on the street.
You can’t ask someone directions, the time or when the next bus is coming without people assuming you’re going to ask them for money.
Increasingly, it seems like the only time anyone attempts to interact with strangers anymore is to ask for money.
The obvious ones are easy to avoid – the ones with the sign up front plainly asking, standing with their hand out or extending a coffee cup.
Some employ a strategy of sobbing loudly, waiting for a helpful person to ask them what’s the matter to put the well intentioned person in the position of approaching the panhandler.
In recent years, more elaborate techniques have been employed – usually pretending to be a tourist and involves a story of having been mugged or had their wallet stolen and needing help to get back to their hotel.
The more dramatic ones include the police or some other authority figures not helping them or even laughing at them.
If you actually listen, their stories never quiet make sense – and they tend to get angry when you point out the flaws – which you should do with caution.
I wasn’t that smart point out to the guy in the alley side of a parking lot with no other people around that he couldn’t have been mugged and struck on the head when he clearly didn’t have an injury – nor would police laugh at a mugging victim and leave him and his wife & kid stranded in a strange city with no money to get back home to the burbs. There is a victim services function – and, if he had been a “regular person” just in for the day – then he could also have gone to any branch of his bank since, according to his story – only he and not his wife was mugged – she still presumably had her ID and bank card.
Anyway, best to pay attention to your surroundings, carefully assess talking to people and cut conversations short if you need to be.
As I explained to the homeless guy who demanded that I respect him – that respect is earned and not bestowed – and if he wanted my respect, then treating me like an ATM on demand, isn’t the way to get it.
Here’s the hallmarks of a scam artist:
- if they are offering you help, and you refuse – people who are just trying to help leave – people who are trying to harm or get something from you, continue to insist to force their “help” on you
- they make promises you didn’t ask them for – ie: “promise to return money to you later
- they use language to make it sound like you are a team – we’ve got to get to this place, we’ve got to get the groceries home (and they don[t live with you)
the best book to read to street proof, scam proof and to a high degree, home and workplace violence proof yourself is
Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear
The most important thing we can do for ourselves is not worry about being polite or kind to people who are not willing to extend that back to us.
Anyone who wants you to give them money or to harm you – is not deserving of your kindness or politeness. They are in fact counting on those qualities in you to take advantage.