6 things to do when you don’t believe someone’s story by Travis Sharpe

We have all heard about them. People who present themselves to be in desperate need but are really just trying to separate you from your money.

Scam artists. Unfortunately they do exist.

Here’s my story.

 

A long time ago, while sitting on a park bench in Augusta, GA I was approached by a man who had a big story. He explained to me that the heater hose on his 1989 Ford Topaz had busted. He really needed to get his car fixed and the hose would cost twenty bucks.

He was asking me for the money.

I am always glad to help out when I can but I didn’t have any cash on me at the time. So I offered to take him to the auto parts store where I could buy the hose with my debit card. He hesitated a moment but then said that would be great.

I was a little unsure of the situation. The way he was acting and his haste to get twenty dollars seemed strange to me. But I decided to help anyway.

We went to three different stores before we could find the right hose. I bought the hose and we headed to his car…or so I thought. When we got to the place, there was no car. Come to find out, he had been lying the whole time, the who story was fake.

I learned a lot about what to do when you have that “gut” feeling that something just doesn’t add up. That’s what I want to share with you today, What to do when you’re just not sure.

1. Slow down. One of the best things you can do when you have doubts about someone’s story is to simply slow down a little.

If you are like me, you want to solve problems as quickly as possible. But sometimes that does more harm than good.

Sometimes it is okay to tell the person they will have to wait until tomorrow for an answer. Many times someone who is out to tell a story and pull a fast one won’t wait that long. They will move on.

2. Have them fill out information. A wise thing for every church to implement is the use of a benevolence form like this one.

 

Tell them that the church has a policy for benevolent request and the form must be filled out and that the benevolence committee must make a decision. If they don’t want to go through the hassle, maybe their need in not genuine.

This will also give you the time and the platform to pry a little into their situation.

Make sure they show you their ID and write all of that information down. If they do not have an ID, tell them that you will take them to the sheriff’s office so that they can get a clearance paper.

Most sheriff’s offices will run someone for warrants based on their SS number and then write on a paper that the person has no wants or warrants. That’s what most shelter’s require if the person has no ID. Usually, if they have nothing to hide, they will do this.

3. Collaborate stories. Every police office does this. If you are approached by a couple, do your best to ask a lot of questions and look for discrepancies in the stories.

If the husband says they just came from Florida but the wife says they just came from Maine, well, you get the picture.

To be sure, lots of people have well crafted stories. Ask yourself if it seems genuine or rehearsed. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to tell.

4. Pay attention to body language. The guy who tricked me into buying a heater hose had all the signs, I just didn’t know what to look for.

He was sweating profusely. He couldn’t sit or stand still. He spoke very fast and in fact he never shut up!

He was a drug addict coming down from a high and in desperate need of another. (I know this because I met him again six months later and he confessed it to me).

If they are acting very weird, it is more than likely due to some type of substance abuse. And substance abuse will cause you to do whatever it takes to get a quick dollar.

5. Help in a way that won’t hurt you or them. Sometimes if I am unsure, I will still help. But it is not going to be help with something that I will feel bad about if the person turns out to be a fraud.

For example, I might buy a meal instead of a night in a motel. I might give them a ride somewhere instead of giving them gas money that they might abuse.

Ask yourself what you would do for them even if you knew they were not being truthful and do that.

6. Remember that you WILL be taken advantage of. If you are going to be compassionate and help people, sooner or later it will happen. It just comes with the territory. It’s part of this life.

The real test is how we deal with it. Personally, I am willing to be taken advantage of for the sake of Christ. We are commanded to love and help people. If you can’t deal with the fact that in every walk of life there are some bad apples then you need to read your Bible again!

Don’t let an occasional scam artist keep you from loving broken people. And really, their not taking advantage of you as much as they are trampling upon the very grace and mercy of God.

They will have much more to answer for than what they lied to you about!

Question: Has something like this ever happened to you? Did you get mad or did you forgive them?

Comments

  1. Thank you for the practical advice! I have been wondering how to deal with this — feeling convicted about not helping because of past experiences but trying to figure out a way to know if they are real — I think you are definitely right about letting them take advantage to have the opportunity to reach them for Christ! It is soooo easy to be jaded and tell yourself they are all just scam artists when there are really genuine needs and a genuine opportunity to share Jesus’ Love!!!

    • Tonia you are right that it’s easy to be jaded and suspicious of everyone. I try to start with each person new. In other words I try not to judge someone according to the last person I dealt with. The tough part is letting our experiences guide us but not define us.

  2. Angela Tanner says:

    Love it! You are a blessing! Thank you for your service unto the Lord.
    Angela

  3. Angela Tanner says:

    I watch on Nashville, Tn. Corners, Atlanta, Ga. and Murfressboro, Tn. Etc. As different persons stand with “help me” signs and hundreds if not thousands never look their way.
    I just never knew or know how many God is desiring that “we help” and how to help etc.
    So I just keep a pack of waters, some cheese crackers etc., and at times a small Gideon bible. I just try to hand a little plastic bag with some goodies inside, out of the car window and say God bless you or God loves you etc. I often think, if these are some that are standing, as our “test” ..uhm we are failing miserably. (sorta Lol and sigh). I also think of “we entertain angels unaware”. I just give as unto the Lord in this way. This is “safe”, I consider for me, as I never want to pass up, a helping hand or giving encouragement from the Lord, if I am able. And PS. My 22 yr. old now heading to classes and back these days, is also giving to the homeless, .50 cent or a snack out of her back pack. Smile and Amen.

Speak Your Mind

*