Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Tis the Season for Scammers: An Incident in NW DC

It's Christmastime and the scammers are out in full force. Or not...and that's part of the problem. How can you tell if the nice person who approaches you on the street or in a restaurant is actually who they say they are? Here's an incident that was reported today on the Chevy Chase Listserv. What would you have done?

Here's the story:

We walked over to Booeymonger from our home in Friendship Heights just before 9am on Saturday morning. We were eating, minding our own business, when a woman walked by and struck up a conversation. She was about 5 foot 4 or so, dark hair, blue eyes, very fair complexion, and had a strong accent (when I asked where she was from, she said Ireland, and that's what struck me given the recent emails). She started chatting -- she was a very fast talker. Starting talking about being a mom in America and how hard it is not to have maternity leave. That was a quick segue into various questions and assumptions about whether I worked full time, what my daily schedule was like, whether my daughter was a good sleeper/napper, whether we lived nearby, what our plans were for the rest of the day, the holidays, etc. etc. I immediately felt like she was up to no good and scoping us out. I started to worry that maybe she had followed us there -- we had been hanging out in our front yard a few blocks away right before we went to the restaurant.

She left after a few minutes, but then got up to get something and came back over, and started talking some more. I wasn't really answering her, and was trying to get my husband to cut off the conversation. I think at this point, he was suspicious too. We did not give her detailed answers to anything she asked. We left Booeymonger shortly thereafter, and called 911. By the time the police came, she was gone too.

Maybe she was just friendly -- she claimed to work for the Embassy, but who knows? Her questions were too pointed, and she was too fast-talking for my comfort. What struck my husband was that there was a man sitting at the table behind us, alone, reading a book. There were plenty of empty tables in the restaurant, and he chose to sit right behind us, amidst our stroller which we had left in the middle of the aisle, etc. It just seemed strange, and perhaps that he was with her, listening to our conversation to see what info she was eliciting.

The police say that I should have called 911 as I was in conversation with her. Maybe I should have. I told them about the email on this listserve about the Travelers and roofing scams. They urged that if anyone comes to the door, do not let them in unless you know them and/or are expecting them. And, certainly, call 911 if anything seems not right.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I can relate to the chatty Irish woman! I frequently chat with strangers, I have never thought that folks find me scary, but perhaps I should be more sensitive to the fears that folks might hold for the unknown. As a single middle-aged woman who has worked and traveled in diverse settings, I am pretty comfortable striking up and maintaining conversation with others. I've noticed that couples and teenagers in groups are less comfortable engaging in conversation with others than single people, and that young folks are less comfortable than older folks. I can't tell, but maybe the Irish woman failed to read the non-verbal signals that the author was sending to indicate that she did not want to continue chatting (since apparently she did not ask that she and her husband resume their private conversation).