Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Don't Fall For Every Song And Dance

I received a single sentence message from a friend of mine today that read, "I think I got scammed." I asked her to elaborate. What happened. When? Where? Who? She was hesitant to answer back. She was embarrassed. This was her reply...

"There was a young lady standing beside of an old, beaten car at Walmart. I parked beside of her. The lady was holding out a Christmas stocking. Another lady, much older than her, was with her. She was in a wheelchair. To those who would listen, she pleaded for assistance. She was taking care of her mother, the woman in the wheelchair, and the medical bills were piling up. She had kids at home that she couldn't afford to buy Christmas gifts for. The refrigerator and cupboards were bare.

I dropped a $20 in the stocking before heading into Walmart. An hour later, both of the women were in the car sipping Dunkin Donuts iced coffee and smoking cigarettes. They were counting the money from the stocking."

My friend went on and described how crushed she was. Both her and her husband live on a fixed income and they don't have money to throw around. That $20 was a lot for them, but my friend felt bad for the lady and her mom.

As I read the story, I took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I understood completely.

Both Lisa and I have big hearts. Over the years, we've helped many people in need. Family. Friends. People we didn't know. As the saying goes, "You live. You learn."

In other words, we've been burned on many occasions.

A couple of years ago, Lisa and I were heading home from running a few errands. We took our exit off the highway. At the end of the ramp, there was a man and a dog standing there with a sign pleading for money. They were homeless.

Two minutes later, after arriving home, Lisa and I jumped into action. I grabbed bags of biscuits and a few bags of dog food. Lisa filled a couple of bags with bottled water, crackers, peanut butter singles, and other snacks.

On the way back to where the man and his dog were, we stopped at a fast food place to pick up burgers, fries, juice, and milk.

The entire process took 10 minutes tops, however, when we arrived back at the end of the highway ramp, the man and his dog were gone.

We searched for him. It didn't take us long to find him.

He was leaning up against the passengers side of a car. With one hand he held the dog on a leash. With the other hand, he was smoking a cigarette. Sitting in the passengers seat was his girlfriend. She was counting the money.

He spotted us seconds before I overheard their conversation and saw the contents in the car.

They were excited about how much money they had made.

The floor of the passengers seat was filled with empty beer cans and Dunkin Donuts iced coffee cups. The ashtray was overflowing.

My heart sank to the ground.

It was too late to back out of giving them what we had collected from home and had purchased for them to eat.

I had to bite my tongue. I was pissed. Lisa and I budget our money carefully so we can do what we do and help those out in need. We're not financially rich. We don't have money trees growing in the backyard. We work hard for the money we earn, budget, and use to help people and pups out.

I knew exactly how my friend felt.

Her story hasn't been the first I've heard over the holiday season about people using handicap relatives, their kids, and pups to ramp up the guilt factor so people will donate.

I'm both disgusted and amazed at the lengths people will go to and how low they'll stoop.

It's situations like this, and others, that have burned Lisa and I. We're more cautious. We no longer give cash donations to anyone. If someone is in need of pet food or human food, we buy it ourselves and then donate. On occasion, when we launch a little fundraiser or start a collection, we make sure the person and their situation is legit.

About 95% of the time we know the person or they're a friend of a friend. 

I hate having to be so cautious and leery of people, but in this day and age, people will scam you without giving a second thought. They'll give you the biggest sob story and take your cash without thinking twice.

It's a crazy world we're living in.

Be careful and be cautious.

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