Beware the Phony Panhandler

Phony Sign

A phony sign written by a man with no car to elicit sympathy.
A phony sign written by a man with no car to elicit sympathy. | Source
Another phony sign written by an employed person to elicit sympathy.
Another phony sign written by an employed person to elicit sympathy. | Source

Indigent Panhandler or Con-Artist?

Panhandling or begging of any sort is nothing new and is seen more frequently as people experience economic stress.

However, some people choose to make a living from the panhandling or “flying a sign” than by using available legitimate work opportunities. They prey on the generous support of people at intersections or busy walkways. Who will check up on an individual panhandler like they would a potential charity to donate to?

Clearly, there are many handicapped, who may need the help, But there are also con-artists who like to write a good (fake) story on a sign and blatantly ask for money they could easily earn themselves, if they tried.

Some will clean your windshield and practically demand payment for it (This is particularly prevalent whenever crossing the border from Mexico to the USA.)


Amazon's Suggestions for Panhandlers

From the Horse’s Mouth

Having had an interview from an unidentified panhandler/con-artist, things are often not what they seem (see accompanying sign examples). There are many nuances to the act of panhandling.

It is illegal in some suburbs to panhandle, so these suburbs are avoided by a block or so at least.

Panhandlers often lay “claim” to certain prolific corners of intersections that produce well and become quite territorial about their spot there. My interviewee stated that it was not uncommon for some spots to yield $100 per day or better.

Since panhandlers frequently get to know one another, hot tips are passed on. A fabricated story of bad luck elicits sympathy. Cigarettes are as good as cash often and traded.

The sign stating that money was needed to fix a starter was spent on alcohol or marijuana instead by my interviewee.

Panhandler Scammer

Possible Options for Dealing with Panhandlers

I frequently took bagged sandwiches and chips to pass out to panhandlers. Many are alcoholics and eat very poorly. These were accepted with grace and I felt I had no moral stain for providing a panhandler with a substance bad for them.

Also, in the hot sun, particularly, a boxed juice or water bottle is a good alternative.

Of course, many panhandlers are clearly needy or disabled and can use the cash. Many also provide entertainment by playing an instrument, which may be worth a reward to you. Such "street musicians" are often starving artists, truly in need of any resource a listener will provide.

Please comment if you have further ideas!

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Comments 21 comments

RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

There is certainly no easy answer. We are often hit in the parking lot, and were approached several times by a panhandler with a heart-rending story about having to leave his son at a motel and go by bus to beg for money for their room. When we asked which motel, and offered to take him and his son to a hostel or shelter, the story changed, raising our suspicions - the son wasn't there, but waiting at the bus terminal. When we again offered a ride to pick up the son and take them both to a hostel, the story changed again, and we were certain we were being played. This same fellow stopped us in a neighboring parking lot a few days later, and when we asked if his son was still waiting at the motel, he quickly apologized and left. He must have moved on to better pickings as we didn't see him there again - at least, not with that story.

We usually offer food. I have a friend who will take folks to a restaurant and buy them food, but I am not so brave. I did often share my lunch, though.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

Food does seem like a sure thing. Or information about nearby shelters (there are many in Denver, in particular). These shelters do not permit drunks and druggies to come in, though.


Brandon Martin profile image

Brandon Martin 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

This is an amazing hub that I stumbled across! My family and I are always giving to the needy, but it is those people who don't need it that ruin it for the ones who really do. I am also desperate for a job, but I have legs and arms and I have a functional brain enough to get off my butt to find money in a more respectful manner than the rich people who want extra cash for 'little Timmy's new X-Box'.

My mom and grandparents always told me that as long as I am alive, there should be no reason to beg anyone. I feel sorry for the less fortunate, because I know when I was down and out, I needed help.

Giving a pan-handler a food or drink item is one of the best things to do.

A desperate person without money knows what they need to do, however, a desperate person with money spends it like a rich man.- Brandon Jared Martin


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

Thanks!

Also directing them to local resources can help. There was a time I also was homeless (living in car), so I can relate to the needy.

But I never "flew a sign". I found help through non-profit agencies.


Brandon Martin profile image

Brandon Martin 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

Very true! that is an awesome way to help the needy, that way if they are fake, they won't qualify for the help anyways, and therefore no wasted money (well intentions weren't wasted), I hope you know what I mean. I remembered that after I turned off the computer

Aww. I'm Sorry. I hope things are allot better now. I am glad you got help.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

I was OK. Free meals at a women's day shelter. Then I waited for a full-blown shelter to pick me up.

I was popular because I had the vehicle there!

Many years ago.


Brandon Martin profile image

Brandon Martin 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

Oh wow.

:)

Oh I see.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

The video is a real eye-opener, huh?


Brandon Martin profile image

Brandon Martin 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

VERY eye-opening. Nobody knew, and yet she was pan-handling from people who needed help themselves. The Pitty Game. Using it as a living while living with parents... sad. And yet the real people who needed help weren't standing at that corner with her,

I don't see why this wasn't an issue to the mom. Making money like instead of a real job, banking it and living with her... the mom had to be getting part of it in my opinion.

Very Eye-Opening Video!


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

It's kind of hard to believe, isn't it?

I have known much poorer people who would never do it.

Yet, providing entertainment on a mall, or something at least a person does provide a service worth paying for, sometimes.


Bella DonnaDonna profile image

Bella DonnaDonna 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

That lady (in video) is nothing but disgusting!


Brandon Martin profile image

Brandon Martin 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

Ya. I would give something to someone providing a service. Music is my thing, so I would probably give in...

Lady in the video really is...


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

Thanks Bella DonnaDonna and Brandon.

This woman is taking from the true homeless. Although you do see that some of the true homeless would rather have substances than get out of their bad situations...


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 4 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Very interesting Laura, I've always had this inkling about alot of these folks, whether stories or not your heart goes out to them. I've heard rumors about performers going back and fourth north to south panhandling here then living a beach life somewhere else.

BTW thank you for all your warm comments, I've been very busy building a public sculpture in Stevens Point, WI and buying my first house that I have scant time to reply, please forgive me that.

I enjoy your sandwhich idea, kudos you're a kind soul.

Ben


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

Thanks, Ben, you are up to a lot of things at the moment! Good luck with the artwork and house.

I like your take on these freeloaders as "performers", which they are. The woman does not look dirty enough to truly live on the street. Man of the others choose liquor over a place to stay, many to their peril.


Martha 4 years ago

Churches are very good resources, also., for the truly needy.

At one, there was a guy screening for both citizenry and probably to smell alcohol on the breath.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

I agree churches are great especially for food banks, which are overrun by the bad economy lately. It would be hard to sell food for alcohol.


John  Lakewood profile image

John Lakewood 4 years ago from Lakewood, CO

It's sad when people take advantage of others' kindness. Giving to foodbanks is definitily a better idea.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

Plus it's amazing how arrogant some of them can be. Where I work, one guy just goes up and taps on customer's cars begging (until the management runs him off!).


Bella DonnaDonna profile image

Bella DonnaDonna 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

This sure makes me wonder why I get up and goto work each day.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

Pride of self, for one thing!

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