Especially with the holiday season coming, kind-hearted people beware!
It’s hard to find a street corner without a panhandler these days, and the more needy the beggars look, the more people usually stop to help. Who could look more needy than a pregnant woman, with a child at her side, begging for help?
Kudos to Melissa Smith, a California woman, who exposed one beggar’s con that serves as a warning to others.
Smith told an ABC affiliate in San Diego that she had seen a pregnant beggar and child at Eastlake Village Center every weekend for two months. The woman held up a cardboard sign that said “please help.” She stood by a young boy who may have been her son, and was sometimes joined by a man who may have been her husband or boyfriend. Smith estimated that a good Samaritan would stop and donate to the woman on the average once a minute.
Fate put Smith in a position to see the couple take off with the child at the end of their “shift” and — to her surprise — she saw them drive off in a new Mercedes Benz ! Smith followed the couple. She said:
“Here they are counting money, laughing and their little boy is not in a car seat or seat belt. He’s all the way in the front seat with them. What kind of parent uses their child for monetary gain?” Smith said.
Outraged by the apparent swindle, Smith captured pictures of the car and license plate and followed it to another shopping plaza on Bonita Road where the couple set up “shop.”
“She sits there with the sign. He goes and parks the Mercedes,” Smith said. “Not less than five minutes, here she is getting money from all these people.”
The pregnant beggar noticed Smith taking pictures of herself and the little boy asking for money at the new location and started yelling at her.
“Next thing I know, she picked up this big boulder,” Smith said. “I don’t know if pregnant people can do that. She puts it over her head and starts coming at me with this rock.”
A bystander called the cops, prompting the woman to grab the little boy and take off through the parking lot.
Smith contacted a local TV station and Team 10 ran the license plate number. It came back registered to a woman with an apartment complex address where residents say monthly rent is $2,400 per month. It appeared the beggar and her accomplices had already moved out, probably moving on to their next scam.
Homeless advocates stress that there are better ways to help the needy than by handing them money. Lesson learned.