As a public service to my loyal readership, I offer you this warning, just in time for Christmas. It concerns a confidence scam that surfaced last year, and by all accounts, will be even more popular this year. It is being dubbed The Christmas Shoes Scam.
This is how it works:
The scam usually is pulled at a busy department store or mall, usually at times when there are large crowds mingling. A young child (usually, could be a trust-inspiring early teenager too) will linger around the checkout, holding an item of clothing he makes obvious he wishes to purchase. While the item is usually a pair of womens shoes (hence the scam's name), it can be anything really. The main characteristic is that the item is NOT something the child would purchase for his own wardrobe. While holding the item, the child will look sad. This is done to lure in the victim.
It is an inactive scam, meaning that the child will wait until approached. Once approached by a concerned (meaning: vulnerable and/or Christian) adult, the scam artist will begin with the waterworks, crying softly at first, moreso as the situation demands. When asked what's wrong, the child will lay the base of the scam. Usually the child will say something to the effect that a family member (usually a Mother) is very ill, and is in fact about to die. Perhaps even this very night.
If the victim bites, then the scam artist will continue on with a story that usually implies how he'd love the dying family member to wear the article of clothing that he is buying. He may say that, when well, the dying family member expressed delight regarding that specific piece of clothing. Unfortunately, the child doesn't have enough money.
If the victim has stayed this long, it is pretty much a certainty that the victim will offer to pay outright for the article of clothing. Tearfully, the scam artist accepts the generosity and allows the transaction to occur. With purchased item in hand, the scam artist thanks the victim, then runs off to, he says, his dying family memeber.
A day later, the child (or, if part of a Christmas Shoes gang, it's usually the 'guardian' who) returns to the store and receives a full cash refund for the item.
In a busy mall at the height of Christmas shopping a good Christmas Shoes scam artist can rake in a thousand dollars a day.
Read this testimonial for an actual account from a victim:
It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line, tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood. Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously, pacing 'round like little boys do, and in his hands he held a pair of shoes. His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe. And when it came his time to pay, I couldn't believe what I heard him say.
“Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please. It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size. Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time. You see she's been sick for quite a while, and I know these shoes would make her smile. And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”
He counted pennies for what seemed like years, then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here".
He searched his pockets frantically, then he turned and he looked at me.
He said “Mama made Christmas good at our house, though most years she just did without. Tell me Sir, what am I going to do? Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes.”
So I laid the money down. I just had to help him out. I'll never forget the look on his face when he said “Mama's gonna look so great.” I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love, as he thanked me and ran out. I knew that God had sent that little boy to remind me just what Christmas is all about.
This guy was sucked in big time. Let it be an example to you. So, as a warning, please be careful this Christmas when approached for money. It could be a scam.