She was good; you have to give her that.
Her eyes were filling with tears as she walked up to me at a self-service pump at a brand new service station on County Road 37 south of Lakeland.
She told me that someone else was paying for her gas, but she needed money for food.
Her husband, she said, had been rushed to Orlando with a heart attack, and she had left home without her purse.
She asked me to loan her $10 to buy enough food to get her to Orlando. It had a familiar ring, but I attended my son’s church in Gainesville last Sunday. The sermon was on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and it was fresh in my memory, so I was willing to consider helping.
I told her to wait until I had finished filling my mini-van with gas and I would go into the store with her and buy her a meal. I learned that from a clergyman: do not give money for food; buy the needy person a meal.
A couple of minutes later, I looked around and didn’t see her. Her car was gone.
I went into the store, and asked the cashier if a woman had come in looking for someone who promised to buy her a meal. She had not.
I chuckled over the scam.
Several years ago, a young man wearing a clerical collar flagged me down in Lake Wales, told me he had left his wallet at home, and asked to borrow enough money for gas to get him to the hospital where his wife was being rushed to give birth to their first child. He promised to have his church repay me.
It was a plausible story, since the Lake Wales Hospital had closed its OB department a few weeks earlier.
I got out my wallet and started to hand him a $10 bill. He pointed to a $20 and said he would rather have that.
I was so impressed by his performance that I gave him the $20, but I noticed that despite his promise of repayment, he did not get my name or address.
I knew I had been had.
I laughed at my own gullibility, and called Mary at the Bartow office to tell her I had been conned. When I got to our Bartow office, our entire staff was lined up at the door with their hands out, each with a sob story and a request for 20 bucks.
Every week, I pass up emails giving me the opportunity to receive tens of millions of dollars from crooked cabinet ministers, dying widows, or philanthropists who want me to help them distribute their largesse to the charity of my choice.
There is a clear suggestion that I can skim off a few mill for myself, and that they anticipate the same for themselves.
Forgive my skepticism, but the guy with the clerical collar and the woman with tears in her eyes are more convincing.
The latest wrinkle in this scam came this week from what purports to be a legitimate financial service company, but one with which I have no affiliation.
It warned me that unless I immediately disclosed the most intimate details of my financial life, it would close my account.
At the end of the missives (I have two active email accounts, and I get these scams at both of them) was a warning that any emails of this nature that do not come addressed to me by name are fraudulent.
Having read that far, I returned to the salutations to see how they were addressed.
Both missives began, “Dear Customer.”
Uh, yeah, I think I get the idea.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He is not immune to scams, but he’s getting better at dodging them. And losing a few bucks to one con artist does not turn him off to responding to legitimate needs. His father, who got taken by an occasional fraudster, taught him that.)