(KMOV.com) -- Police are warning area residents about scammers who approach people and ask for money after telling a story that plays on emotions.
You are in the parking lot of a busy shopping center or gas station and a crying person approaches, asking for cash to get through an emergency. What do you do?
A Town & Country resident told police on Thursday that she gave money to a woman who claimed her abusive boyfriend was after her. She said she needed a few bucks to buy gas and drive to her mother’s house in Cape Girardeau. She said it was an emergency and needed to get away quickly.
Later, the shopper had second thoughts and emailed Town & Country Police Captain Gary Hoelzer.
“My assumption is that they’re feeding a heroin addiction or some other illicit drug,” said Hoelzer. Any compassion would be misplaced, he added.
Hoelzer emailed a crime alert to other Town & Country residents. Nearby Manchester Police sent the same warning saying, “This is a scam that occurs periodically and we recommend that you politely refuse any further conversation”.
This reporter has heard the same sob story in neighborhoods all over the metro. Most recently, on October 9th, a woman approached a News 4 vehicle at a gas station near downtown St. Louis. She was with a young child and gave our crew an elaborate story and pleaded for cash.
We wrote it off as simple panhandling, but Captain Hoelzer said he’d recommend calling police.
What’s the crime?
“At most, it’s stealing by deceit and that’s what they’re trying to do,” said Hoelzer.
Hoelzer says back away, call police, and provide a description of the person. If it’s a real emergency, Hoelzer says let police handle it.
“Police would have contact with more social services than an individual does.”